My name is Mirza Demirović, I am from Sanica, Bosnia and Herzegovina where I was born and reside today. When I was 14 years old the Bosnian war had started and the Serbian army was quick to secure my town, I have been living in occupation for 1 year, through brutal laws enforced unto us and people getting pushed into concentration camps.

The massacre in my region would eventually be known as the Biljani Massacre, where a lot of my friends were even killed. My Great Grandfather unfortunently had no luck, he was taken to the Manjača Concentration camp where he was unfortunently killed, while me and my family mamaged to narrowly escape out of the town and by foot made it to Bihać, a city that was being besieged by the Serbian army. My father joined the protection battalion there while me, my mother, grandmother and grandfather had to live in the city as refugees for almost 2 years.

Then Operation Storm came and the siege of Bihać was lifted. A huge liberation operation called "Operation Sana" was innitiated and almost all of western Bosnia was liberated, including the town we lived in. We returned to the town just before the war ended, our house in particular was used as a base for some Serbian soldiers, from the inside it was damaged badly and apmost everything was destroyed, but in about a year we renovated our house entirely. My great grandfather as I said, had no luck as he was killed in the Manjača Concentration camp.

In the link you will find the picture of my great grandfather's hat he always used to wear, including a picture of him in front of your yard in the winter of 1991. Feel free to ask me anything about what I went through.

The Pictures

Edit: Here is more proof, with me standing in front of a little memorial with graves of some of the civillians killed here the proof

Edit 2: I am going to sleep currently, when I wake up I will make Edit 3 to announce I am awake for more questions!

Edit 3: I have woken up to go to the bathroom and found a lot more questions than I expected in these few hours, so unfortunently I will be closing down question answers, for I did not expect my post to become this popular and explode. I want to thank you all for listening to my story, remember, if we do not learn from history, it is bound to repeat itself.

Comments: 1944 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

Henlein_Kosh1886 karma

In the town I lived in at the time there was a married couple who were refugees from the conflict. He was a Bosniak and she was a Serb, and they said that they would never be able to return to their home because both sides wanted to kill them. How bad is the situation today, would such a couple be able to return today, and if so how much stigma would there be towards them?

Lespacer1765 karma

The situation here is bad, Bosnia today is like a ticking time bomb that could embroil the nation into a conflict again. After the genocide that had happend many Bosniaks view Serbs negatively because of what they have done. On the other hand some Serbs despise Bosniaks because of tje sentiment implemented towards them during the war, so depending on the region they live in, they may get stigma from one ethnic group, or none at all

lllleeeellll732 karma

Hey mate, Serb here. Firstly, I'd like to say sorry that you had to go through all that. My parents made it to Australia and have since stayed since 1991 so they avoided all the bad things that were happening (dad was from Ilijas and mum was from Serbia). I can't speak about what it's like over there between the two but I know when I went to visit my grandma and grandpas grave in Ilijas, I was yelled at from passing cars.

Growing up raised amongst Serbs, not once was hate mentioned against Bosnia or the Cros. But when I started mingling in with kids my age they all carried their pride. I immediately removed myself from the group because our parents were fortunate enough to escape the brutal frontlines where we were lucky to not have been affected personally but yet they want to involve themselves? not to mention, our parents never spoke about the dreadful things so why should we? Didn't sit right with me.

We've copped it to, we were killed bombed massacres the lot, so did the Cros. Everyone copped it left right and centre and I'm sure if we sat victims in seperate rooms (1 Serb, 1 Bosnian, 1 Cro) they'd all have similar stories of how they've lost friends, family homes etc.

In any war, or genocide massacre etc I feel no one should carry the hate or boast about what the other side's done if they haven't been affected personally. Again, I'm sorry for what happen and I hope that eventually, there is atleast somewhat peace.

Lespacer392 karma

I agree with you entirely, thank you for explaining that

blackjackgabbiani707 karma

Why do you think that this was almost immediately forgotten on the world stage? That always seemed bizarre to me.

6112115651 karma

Every Serbian I have asked about this, claims that they were defending themselves.

Lespacer523 karma

Yep exactly

Lespacer293 karma

The Bosnian genocide is mainly forgotten because it wasn't really reported that much around the world, despite taking place in the centre of Europe. Most genocides today go unnoticed, which is extremely sad for me. It is also relatively unspoken of because there is always oke claiming the other. The Serbs when faced with the genocides, they always say "It mever happend!" Or "We were just fighting Islamic Extremists!" So in order to not piss them off they mostly don't report it, I am not exactly sure why it is that forgotten, but I believe that is one of the key reasons why

Lytre482 karma

In your opinion, what is the effect of the incident to people of your country in short and long terms?

Lespacer682 karma

It has effected every civillian. Everyone lost at least one of their loved ones, if they were not in a city or town getting besieged and have to hear gunfire ever day, they were under Serbian occupation where you either got killed or sent to a concentration camp, or if you are one of the lucky ones, managed to escape to Bosnian held territory. People are still scarred of the events that unfolded here many years ago, and can't continue normal life from what they have witnessed.

Lytre143 karma

That was unfortunate.

Is it possible for the wounds of this incident to be healed somewhere down the line?

Lespacer414 karma

The Serbs today are big nationalists, some deny it and some even support it. I remember once going to Srebrenica and seeing people cleaning a graffiti on one of the memorials that said "There will be another one" and all of that. Until the Serbs calm down, apologize for everything they did, the scars will still be there forever. We have a saying here "We forgive, but we will never forget"

Dahvtator155 karma

I have to say that not all Serbs think this way. I lived in Belgrade for a while and many of the younger Serbs aren't like this. But on the other hand many others suffered family and friend deaths from Croat or Bosnians who invaded/ occupied their towns in Bosnia. And they still feel resentment from the horrors they suffered there too. A few are afraid to return to their old homes as that town is now void of any Serbians living there or they have no homes that remain standing.

While the Bosniaks might have gotten the worst of it they were not the only ones who suffered.

Sorry for all your losses and experiences. I love the Balkans and all the friends I have there. It's sad to see how recent the troubles are that have happened there.

Lespacer239 karma

I perfeclty know and understand that not all Serbs are like that, I myself still have some Serb friends whether online or real life. I am mainly talking about the remaining nationalists here who actually denny or support it. Especially the ones who are in the government like Milorad Dodik

Djoka3-8 karma

And on the bosnian side there are no extremists? In my view you‘re only trying to put serbs in the worst light by picking some statements of those (nationalists) that are actually on all three sides. But you only see one as bad.

Lespacer6 karma

Never claimed Bosnia didn't have it's own fair share of Extremists

ErubiPrime15 karma

Hmmm as a Bosnian myself with a father that was also drafted (and wounded) and family that has lost many loved ones I’m just gonna say that op comes of as very resentful against Serbians and provides tons of misinformation.

Of course many people may still be traumatised but it really isn’t as bad as op describes. I can’t even remember when they talked last about the war or were disturbed by it. It seems like they’ve healed and most as well.

Granted I’m 5 years younger than op.

Lespacer14 karma

The war and events that have unfolded was not the same on every part of the country. Some places weren't that much affected by it and haven't went through that much damage. Some on the other hand have gone through different soldiers who were a lot stricter and who inflicted worse things than in other regions. My region unfortunently, was one of those.

ChewDrebby237 karma

What did your father do while he was in battlefield? Did you talk about it?

Lespacer350 karma

My father was in the 501st Famous Mountain Brigade. He was trained a s a rifle man when he joined the brigade when we got to Bihać. He was mainly on the front outside the city, guarding it so no surprise attack could be made, he also took part in some raids against abandoned bases by the Serbs. When operation sana started he pushed with the brigade against the Serbs, then merged into the 5. Corps command which proceeded to push towards Banja Luka. After 2 months when the war ended he came back from the army to join us again

radeonalex78 karma

My father (British Army) was based out of Banja Luka, or at least worked there. He thought Bosnia was a really nice/interesting place if you looked at it without a war.

I have good memories that he used to visit somewhere nick named by British Army CD/Seedy Alley. It was a slightly run down area where you could get anything pirated. He used to bring home catalogues of games/movies/music, we kids marked what we wanted and 6 months later he would come home with them on CD 😀.

My first holiday when I was 17 was to Croatia and Bosnia. We took a train from a place called Metkovic to Sarajevo. Then traveled onwards to Mostar. I really found it an interesting country.

Lespacer106 karma

I can confirm you, Bosnia has no piracy laws at all, even today. I have pirated sooo many games and music that I am like no longer in need of buying them for my PC lmao. Bosnia is a safe haven for those who seek to pirate

ChewDrebby50 karma

Did he tell about the combat, how many he has killed and did he have any PTSD or nightmares?

Lespacer189 karma

He did talk about the combat sometimes, it wasn't teally that bad since it was quiet mostly. But there were offensive tries into the city he and his brigade halted, he said from the defense he has 3 confirmed kills. And when he merged with the 5. Corpus, with Operation Sana towards Banja Luka he has 11. He hasn't showed any signs of PTSD or nightmares, the combat wasn't that traumatizing. The combat was mostly taking cover in the grass or bushes, throwing grenades and shooting once you pop up and move forward when the enemy is dead.

Dedushka_shubin169 karma

At the time when Tito was alive, I know that there was hate and there were occasional shootings, but there was no war. How do you think, how Tito administration managed to hold the situation under control?

Lespacer253 karma

Tito had an extremely good Militia and a very well trained Secret Police. If you showed any signs of Nationalism or basically do anything, you would be sentenced to jail immediately. The secret police worked tirelessly, finding out who said what and what they are. That is how his administration had everything under control, a very good law and secret police. When he died the secret police started to decline in terms of training and ability, were a bit un-organized so Nationalism started to grow.

mydickcuresAIDS130 karma

Do you happen to have friends/family in St. Louis? Apparently we have the second biggest Bosnian population in the world due to refugees following the genocide.

Lespacer92 karma

Not that I probably know of. I may have some couzins or distant relatives there but probably do not know them. There are a few peple from Sanica in St.Louis so there is a high chance I have some family there

cheerstothe90s121 karma

It's difficult to understand the current government structure, with 3 separate presidents and from what I gathered all look out for their own and between Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks there is segregation to very high levels. I remember in Mostar the Croats had basically their side of the city, Bosniaks the other, to the point where the Croats had built a road around the Bosniak side so they could bypass it. I had to convince the bus driver to take me across the bridge (coming from Croatia) to the Muslim side as they had built their own bus terminal and tried saying it was the last stop (even though my ticket specified the East terminal). Anyway, do you see the division only spreading, or what are signs of gaps closing and people coming together? How do you think the government situation will be for the next couple decades?

Lespacer140 karma

The hard segregation is a true and unfortunate fact in Bosnia. There is 1 school that jas 3 sides for the 3 ethnicities, which is overall a very bad idea. Students and others are protesting against the ethnic segregations in the nation, which our government just ignores wanting more segregation thinking it would stabilize the region. The people don't want it but the government does, and the government is the one in control

StarChild7000113 karma

Do you feel like any countries are on the same path, or are all the protests such as in Barcelona, Hong Kong, Colombia, and such might just be short lived?

Lespacer228 karma

I wouldn't say that for Colombia or Barcelona. But for Hong Kong definitely, it's only a matter of time until the Chinese government pulls the "Kill Switch" like they did before on the student protestors. Syria is very well already there, we Bosniaks sympathize with the refugees because we know how war is like, how it feels like to be hunted and are trying to escape the hunt.

crystalclearbuffon92 karma

Forgive my ignorance, but I recently learnt about this. Can you explain the life functioned? How did you all have basic utilities? How did the supplies enter the city? Was education still available or halted? How did you even roam the streets or get out if basically the cities were hostage?

Lespacer298 karma

Life was very hard under Serbian occupation, you could not go out of your house at all, only rarely could people go out in the streets, put of their yard. Muslims had to wear white armbands pm their arms, so soldiers were aware that they were Muslims and not Serbs (Read about the Prijedor massacre to know more) like the star of David in Nazi Germany. Supplies were very limited, people had to live with what they already have spared or have. The stores did not serve Muslims and we could only get like 2 pieces of Crackers which was not enough, while the Serbs and soldiers got all the good supplies and food. Muslims were forbidden from going to the doctor's too, so if someone got sick you cannot take him for a check up. We mostly lived from the sheep or cows we had in our barns, sometimes secretly giving our neigbors meat from a cow or sheep we slaughtered. After 7 PM it was completely lights out, anyone who had a single piece of light in their house after 7 PM would be killed. Morning inspections at 7 AM were mandatory, every male muslim was obligated to stand in front of their house to be inspected, 2-5 males were sent to the Manjača concentration camp daily, and no one knew who would be next. We managed to escape barely during the night, evading all the Serbian soldiers and sneaking past them while they weren't looking, there is a hill like 25 meters from here, and right above it was safety, you escaped. Because we had that hill so close to our home we managed to escape, if it wasn't for it we wouldn't have made it

fugensnot62 karma

A friend's husband was a refugee from Bosnia. His family ended up in Germany and then America.

What are your thoughts about how something like this could happen in the 90s and with much more attention in the world stage, now and the 90s? What are your parents thoughts on the oppressors now?

Lespacer80 karma

I am really honestly not surprised that a Genocide like that happend in the 90's. Pretty sure many Europeans would kill each other if another country goes to war, that is something every single human has deep down in their hearts and can never let go of. As for my parents they feel sympathy for anyone who is trying to escape a conflict and find safety for their families, we ourselves experienced opression and extermination so we know well how it feels like. They hate anyone who opresses other people or wants a genocide on anyone for anything, having experienced how they operate first hand

jjspacecat1052 karma

What did you do during the siege?

Lespacer97 karma

While I was at Bihać, conditions weren't exactly good, there were many people from other town there that have been conquered by the Serbs, too. We had a small apartment in the centre of the city, we would mostly stay indoors and I had a ball I would play with inside, going outside was risky because of possible artillery strikes. My grandmother usually went out to get food from the refugee centre near our apartment. I would rarely see my father, as I said, he was a member of the defence battalion in the city halting the Serbian lines. It was relatively really boring with almost nothing to do, but at least we didn't fear for our lives

partyofwalrus46 karma

In your opinion, what is the best way to teach future children about atrocities and crimes against humanity like this one, who may not have an opportunity to meet or speak to a survivor? A fear of mine is that these situations won’t be felt as “real” in the future without survivor contact or will be shrugged off as being so far in the past we can’t learn anything from it anymore. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Lespacer110 karma

Best way to teach children about it, is having a subject of it in history class, or children generally finding out for themselves waht happend. Currently in Bosnia it is forbidden to talk about the genocides because of the Dayton Peace Agreement. And your fear of it not being real is actually real, Serbs are teaching theur children that the genocide was not real and that they were only fighting "Islamic Extremists" and claiming it is all anti serbian propaganda. The current Serb president denies the genocide ever happend, sadly. And some western children experience that Serbian propaganda and claim the same things, so we need to teach children what happend really, who did it and what they did, if we are not able to teach them history, it is bound to repeat again

elhooper42 karma

Hi! I hope I’m not too late here. Your post is so interesting, thank you for your time!

I am going on my honeymoon to Slovenia and Croatia next August, and on our drive from Split to Zagreb we were thinking about stopping in Bihač only for two hours or so for lunch and a beer on the River Una. We are two Americans in our 20s. What can we expect? Should we go? I’ve received answers from both sides. Yes and no. I really want to visit.

Lespacer56 karma

Hi there! I've been to Bihać many times after the war, and I can tell you it is magnificent. The architecture and sitting by the river, drinking beer or just eating is one of the most beautiful things ever. If you decide to go I highly recommend the restaurant Čardak

threewhiteroses42 karma

What is your life like today?

Lespacer91 karma

My life today is not bad, but also not easy. We organized ourselves again and life just continues to be normal like usual. But people are immigrating slowly to Germany or Switzerland, the economy is really bad in this town. My mother serves as a Teacher in the elementary school and her payment is 3 months late, unfortunently in order to be successfull I have to move somewhere from Sanica

Dr_Snophalhoffagus34 karma

since anti-muslim sentiments played a huge role in the genocide, has the practice of islam changed in BiH because of the war? i know plenty of people in diaspora from ex-yugoslavia and while most croats and serbs seem to be very christian, no bosnian i know is religious at all. is that the same inside bosnia? zahvaliti

Lespacer45 karma

Bosniaks have started to become less religious becuase of the secularism implemented by Communist Yugoslavia. And no, the practice of Islam hasn't exactly changed much, most people I know here in my town are pretty religious except the younger generation who aren't interested in religion yet claim they are religuous. And I am sure the same situation is all over the country.

skipjac30 karma

I was part of the NATO forces that did the food drops in 93 and 94. I have always wondered if the people on the ground thought they were useful or a waste of resources?

Lespacer57 karma

I have witnessed some food droppings when I was in Bihać, but most of the meat that was dropped down was Pork, which we Musliks had to abstain from eating. This became a big joke in Bosnia, and a joke monument was even built in Sarajevo of the pork food sent down

Sk-yline130 karma

I know after the war, the country was broken up in two and one half was broken into ten smaller pieces to separate the ethnic groups. Do you feel that separation will end, and should it?

Lespacer84 karma

Personally I am against the Dayton peace agreement. The segregation that is going on between the ethnic groups is dangerous. I do believe in the future the country will centralize into one nation, and why it should? Seperating ethnicities can have a psychological impact on them and leave them more open to propaganda by parents, hate towards another ethnicity etc. The USA started to become a better place when the segregation between blacks and whites was abolished, and I believe it would be good for Bosnia, as well

Nethrielth29 karma

Hej Mirza, kako si ti?

I’ve only recently been exposed to your culture recently, is there a large difference in sentiment between generations? Is there much pull to reform?

Lespacer33 karma

There is a big difference between sentiments, yes. Many generations are affected differently by their parents through their propaganda spread to the children. Segregation makes it harder for the ethnicities to cooperate together and leaves them more open to propagandw by their parents, there should be a reform to abolish this segregation as soon as possible

nneriac23 karma

Are there cultural/religious traditions that were unable to be practiced during occupation? If so are you now allowed to practice them?

Lespacer44 karma

Oh yes definitely today you are free to practice your religious traditions anywhere you want. While under occupation you could only pray in private in your home, since the Mosque was demolished completely when the Serbs occuppied the town. Anything cultural that was not Serbian was strictly forbidden, you could even get executed for trying to practice it.

jakemg21 karma

I work with a Bosnian woman whose family fled the genocide and came to Chicago in the 90s as refugees. A couple of years ago she asked me to come to this art installation and it really had a deep impact on me and my understanding of what happened.

Two questions:

How do you feel about art installations like this one that bring awareness to this atrocity?

What are other ways more people can know about this? It was such a horrible event and here in the US, it’s not fully understood the depth of what happened.

Lespacer17 karma

  1. I feel like they are useful and should educate the public on what has happend there, so the people are aware. Raising more awareness among the people, they will reckognize genocides and make sure that they don't happen to any person or religion.

  2. Other ways of knowing about it is through reading articles and reading interviews with some of the people who have survived it. There many different ways of finding out more, but you just gotta know the correct one

betterdays8917 karma

[deleted]

Lespacer44 karma

I do not hate Serbs in general, I am perfectly aware that there are good Serbs put there, not all of them are bad. I personally have some Serbian friends online. I also forgive the Serbs for what they have done, forgivness is possible but you just need to find the right human for it. In tomes like these forgivness is the most powerful weapon of all, but I keep repeating to myself...Always forgive but never forget

pete172916 karma

This was a tragedy and I am sorry for your struggle and loss. You survived. I admire your strength. Through all of this what sort of things sustained you and gave you hope? Was there any cultural thing that gave you strength? Was there any art, music, or literature that elevated your spirit?

Lespacer28 karma

I was a history freak back then. I was taught in secret by my parents on who we were, the Bosniaks, since in school it was forbidden to talk about Bosniaks or the history. So when the war started I felt patriotism to finally break free from the 500 years we and our culture were supressed, made believeing we were someone else. That is what made me go on, knowing that they will and never shall win and supress us again. As our first president said "I swear by the great and Holy God, slaves we will never be again"

xlez12 karma

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but how was the condition in the camps? Food-wise and environment-wise?

Lespacer20 karma

The conditions were a lot better than under Serbian occupation, I can tell you that. We had a little apartment where we resided and daily got some food from the stores and the camps themselves. The environment was not perfect, there were dangers of being hit by artillery strikes but it was still a lot better than fearing for our lives back in Sanica

two-years-glop11 karma

What is your opinion on the trial of Ratko Mladic in the Hague?

Lespacer17 karma

I am happy and thankful that he got convincted for all the attrocities he had commited, he has been on the run for so many years, and everyone who experienced the war and lost a loved one let out a sigh of relief, like a trauma went away from their heart, with justice being given.

MIGFirestorm10 karma

How prevelent was sexual assualts/rapes from serbians? I read about sex slave brothels made with bosnian women in the war and im wondering if you have any experience hearing about something like that.

Lespacer16 karma

While I was still in Sanica I heard about some sexual assaults on the women, but never have seen them with my own eyes. But after we returned to Sanica after it was liberated, we started cleaning up some destoryed or burned down houses to retrieve some precious goids that were still intact, my mother told me that in one house that had burned down, 2 naked women were found dead tied to a bed, they were suppsoedly burned alive in the house when the Serbs were retreating

WinchesterSipps9 karma

I've read horror stories about how a powerful hallucinogen called "BZ" was used on civilians by the serbs during their flight from srebrenica

https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/bosniacw/Bosni98o-03.htm#P374_77950

have you heard anything about that?

Lespacer12 karma

That is an interesting story that I have never heard of actually. I will read that article later, seems really interesting. Thank you for linking it to me

x0N37 karma

How were the years after the war? When did your nations reconciliate and how

Lespacer32 karma

Years after the war weren't exactly easy, either. We had to re-organize ourselves and fix all the damages the Serbs have done, cleaning up bodies, renovating houses, and all that. You can still see burned down houses in my town today that were left alone. As for how Bosnia reconciliated relations is a tricky question that I believe am unable to answer.

HooShKab00sh6 karma

My dad participated in this conflict , although I could not tell you to what degree. He has never talked about it. He was with the US Army 1st Calvary Division.

Did you see American troops on a regular basis? What were your thoughts of them?

Lespacer5 karma

I don't remember seeing any US Soldiers, both times when I was in Sanica and Bihać. Although I have seen a couple of UN Peacekeepers every now and then, don't recall seeing any or reckognizing any US Soldiers

Kens_Bone6 karma

Did you see the UN Forces first hand and, if so, how did you feel about them when they didn't intervene (as their mandate was to observe), even when atrocities were occurring in front of them?

I served as part of SFOR in 98 and saw the result of a country devastated by war first hand.

Lespacer13 karma

While I was in Bihać I have seen some UN Peacekeepers here and there, but rarely saw them. As for how I felt, at that time I considered them as heroes who would do anything to protect us against genocide, I was not aware of their failure in Srebrenica and Sarajevo until I got back to Sanica. Not many attrocities have been commited i front of them in Bihać, some mortar strikes were here and there but not that often. I would say I was a bit neutral but just a bit more leaning towards them being heroes, then when I heard of their failure I just consideres them as useless

willsketch5 karma

What is your happiest memory from this period? (I do not want to minimize the attrocities anyone went through)

Lespacer9 karma

The happiest memory from this period is the unity that brought us together as people to fight the opressors, that was the very first time I saw unity between the 3 people (Yes Serbs win the Bosnian army, too) so that is a very good thing we came out united as one to beat them

LuminaL_IV4 karma

First of all Im so sorry you had to go through this. We can only hope for a peaceful future.

My question is can you remember as kid what was your strongest emotions and thaughts the day it started and until it got to the worst part?

Lespacer16 karma

Before the war I was just a normal kid like everyone else, played with my friends, went outside, was cycling, basically what a normal human child would do. When the town was occupied, my emotions flipped. I was no longer happy and cheerful, I was sad and scared for my life, scared waht they would do to me and my family, even after we escaped our town those emptions were still sticking with me, I always closed my eyes begging for me to wake up and let it just be a dream, but it was reality...

littlebrightside2 karma

Were you ever in contact with the UN Peacekeeping force? If so, what were they like?

Lespacer2 karma

First time I saw the UN Peacekeepers was when we managed to get to Bihać. I generally had no contact with them at all, rarely seeing them actually since I was mostly in the apartment and almost never went outside. But when I did, I saw some of them a couple of times but never had any interactions