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I believe every person has a heart and if you can reach it, you can make a difference.” - Uli Derickson
MY HEART IS IN SREBRENICA
Autor: Suzana Vukić
Objavljeno: 16. Jul 2011. 08:07:33
By Suzana VUKIĆ: In 1993, the visiting U.N. General Philippe Morillon promised safety to the people of Srebrenica: this town became a demilitarized U.N. safe zone. But on July 11, 1995, the day that Srebrenica fell into the hands of Mladic’s forces, Senahid (who was 23) was convinced he’d perish if he remained in Srebrenica. Town elders suggested they all collectively present themselves at the U.N. base to seek safety. But Senahid and his peers felt all “capable” men of fighting age would be better off escaping through the woods and mountains to reach free Bosnian-held territory, rather than to depend on the mercy of the U.N. and Serb forces.
My heart is in Srebrenica, but I can’t physically be there - not this summer. Yet it’s still possible to connect with the victims and survivors of the Srebrenica Genocide, to hear their voices and stories.

New Yorker Senahid Halilovic, a man who survived Srebrenica, told me his story. His triumph is overshadowed by loss: Senahid’s father and three brothers were killed in this genocide. He lost a total of 70 relatives in Srebrenica.

Senahid has returned to Srebrenica three times since settling in the U.S. in 2002. His father and three brothers are buried at the cemetery and memorial centre in Srebrenica-Potocari. But this summer, Senahid will be participating in the Peace March for the first time ever. It’s a march (also alternately known as the death march, or march to freedom) that commemorates the route that Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men from Srebrenica took in July, 1995 in an attempt to escape certain death when Bosnian Serb forces, led by Ratko Mladic, overtook the U.N.-protected enclave. It precedes the July 11th commemoration and communal burial.

In 1993, the visiting U.N. General Philippe Morillon promised safety to the people of Srebrenica: this town became a demilitarized U.N. safe zone. But on July 11, 1995, the day that Srebrenica fell into the hands of Mladic’s forces, Senahid (who was 23) was convinced he’d perish if he remained in Srebrenica. Town elders suggested they all collectively present themselves at the U.N. base to seek safety. But Senahid and his peers felt all “capable” men of fighting age would be better off escaping through the woods and mountains to reach free Bosnian-held territory, rather than to depend on the mercy of the U.N. and Serb forces. “….This way, I could give myself a 50% chance of survival. By going to the U.N. base, I figured I could give myself a 1% chance for survival…..In the end, sadly, we all know what happened to them (men who went to the U.N. seeking safety)….”, he explains.

What followed was a harrowing venture through difficult terrain and circumstances. Senahid estimates that a total of 15,000 people left Srebrenica that night under the cover of darkness, including some older people, women and girls, all seeking survival. People were hungry, terrified and desperate. They formed a column and were directed by guides and leaders who had knowledge of the terrain and sought out the best paths to take in order to ensure the survival of the greatest number of people.

They went through forests, mountains, and ruined and abandoned Bosniak villages that had been overtaken by Serb forces in 1992. They often came under attack by Serb forces during their trek; they were shot at or had bombs and grenades thrown in their direction.

Senahid made it to safe, Bosnian-held territory somewhere on the night of the 16 (going into the 17) of July. He estimates that roughly 3000 people trickled through in the following days. But many were captured and killed before they could reach freedom.

While on the run, his survival instincts had taken over. Once he reached freedom, however, all of the horrible images of what he’d lived through came flooding back to him. Senahid found his mother at a refugee tent at the Tuzla airport, but his father and three brothers would never be seen alive again. His grief-stricken mother cried incessantly. To escape the horrors of the past, Senahid signed up for university courses and earned a degree in chemical engineering by 2001. That year, Senahid went to Croatia. By 2002, he resettled in the United States, where he lives today with his wife and three children.

What are Senahid’s expectations for the Peace March, after so many years since his narrow escape from death? He expects it to be a difficult, emotional experience. On the other hand, Senahid is glad to have the opportunity to revisit the path to freedom that he took so many years ago.
“…I consider it (the Peace March) to be an obligation, not only for myself, but an obligation belonging to all people who carry within themselves a sense of humanity”, explains Senahid.

With this reminder of obligation, I renew my personal commitment to one day visit the cemetery and memorial centre at Srebrenica-Potocari and to participate in the Peace March.

Suzana Vukic is a freelance journalist, who reports extensively on the Balkans and Member of the International Expert Team of the Institute for Research of Genocide of Canada. Questions or comments: [email protected]

hudsongazette.com



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