Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jun 6, 2015 / 10:11 am America/Denver (CNA).
A Croat, a Bosniak and a Serb who each survived detention camps during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war said they feel no hate over the matter, and they do not blame any ethnic community, as responsibility is an individual matter.
The war, which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, killed around 100,000 combatants and civilians and displaced a million more people. The fighting split largely along ethnic lines, among the predominantly Orthodox Serbs, the predominantly Catholic Croats, and the predominantly Muslim Bosniaks.
“I do not hate any ethnic group, nor men as a category in itself. I know that what I suffered cannot be attributed to a whole people,” Janko Samolikovic, who is from Visegrad, 70 miles east of Sarajevo, told CNA June 5.
Samolikovic is part of a Caritas-run project named “Pro Future.” The project aims at path of healing for those who have suffered the atrocities of war. Testimonies are the final part of the project, which also involves psychological support for victims.
Samolikovic spoke together with Amir Omerspahic, a Bosniak, and Zdenko Suplikovic. Though they come from different ethnicities, they emphasized that “when we speak together, we understand that we suffered for the same things, we were victims in the same way.”
Samolikovic was 23 when he was seized and transferred to one of the 677 alleged detention centers set up throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.
“Before the war, in Vinograd, Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats used to live together in peace. We never had conflict. Then the war broke, and everything changed” he recounted.
Samolikovic was imprisoned in a gymnasium. “We were fed with bread and 2 or 3 liters of water per day. There were seven of us, and we also had to save water, for if someone were to swoon because of the lack of food, we had to help him recover.”
He stressed that “he felt feelings a man should never feel. Once, a soldier came with a loaded rifle, and told us he could kill us any moment, waving the rifle in the air. We feared that he would shoot, but we were also hopeful because dying meant putting an end to our sufferings.”
Omerspahic, from Sarajevo, recounted a similar experience. “I was captured Aug. 2, 1993. I was trying to escape through forests as the violence raged in the village in which I was living, and I was caught. One of my fingers was wounded, and a soldier started hitting me on the head.”
Omerspahic said he remained bleeding for days, and in the end a doctor saved his life. “He was a Serb doctor whom I also met again. I do not hate Serbs. Serbs imprisoned me, but a Serb saved my life. It is not the ethnic group – it is the way you behave.”
The same words were told by Suplikovic, who is now married and the father of two. When the war started, he decided to enrol in the army to defend his village.
“At the beginning, we were allied with Bosniaks. Then on June 24, 1993, while we were defending our position with the Serb army in front of us and two wings of the Bosniak army around us, we found out via radio that Bosnia and Croatia were at war. We decided to surrender, and so we were detained by the Bosniaks,” he recounted.
“That’s the worst condition, starting a war with one enemy and finding yourself with two,” Suplikovic said. He added that he was forced to work, and was fed very meagerly.
Their stories are the common memory of Sarajevo.
“We really don’t hate any other ethnic group. We are of different ethnic groups, but our stories are common,” they concluded.