Sarajevo siege survivors tell their stories

Twenty years after the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, survivors have told of the horror of being held captive by Serb forces for almost four years. Kristina Kukolja reports.

More than 11,000 people lost their lives and two million were displaced in the most horrific conflict Europe has seen since the Second World War.

For many who survived the ordeal, aspects of it are still too difficult to talk about.

Marko Ivakovic escaped the city after being shot by a sniper.

"The reason why we stayed in the city is because I figured out if the war is going to break out in Bosnia it's going to be as bloody as possible," Mr Ivakovic told SBS Radio.

"And I couldn't believe something like that could happen in 1992. However, it can happen, that's exactly what happened. As bloody as you can get. Just shooting at people for no particular reason, all the time, most of the time. But perhaps it was to be expected to happen sooner or later."

Alma Milos fled Sarajevo with only an infant son in her arms.

"We'd burn anything we could," Ms Milos told SBS.

"First we started with the things we really didn't need and then we'd burn the things we needed, the things we loved. People would burn the books they loved, shoes, furniture, ... We just threw everything into the fire, first of all so we could cook ourselves something to eat, then to stay warm.

"It was mere survival, nothing else... Just mere survival."

For almost four years Serb forces held the city captive - cutting off water, food and electricity supplies.

Ms Milos says the stress of living in a city under siege for months on end took a physical and emotional toll on residents.

"We all lost weight, we changed, we all had fear in our eyes, but we managed to smile sometimes, and to sing.

"And on those nights when we sat there and listened to the shooting, we talked about things that didn't concern the war, and that's what I love about Sarajevo."

Twenty years on, the pain and anger is still raw.

"There will always be anger," says Ms Milos. "There will always be a sense of dissatisfaction: why did this happen to us?"

"I mourn because this happened to us and ruined all of our lives...I sometimes live in my dreams...wondering what would life be like now, had the war not happened."

For the full story go to the SBS Radio website or listen to this podcast.

Source SBS Radio

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