Grandmother was serving the table. The dinner plate, then the soup plate on top of it. I was never too happy to see the soup plate, as that always meant there was soup on the menu and I'm going to have to eat it.. I disliked the green leaves swimming in it, and my grandmother cared little for it. The knives, the forks, the spoons... All were carefully put on the appropriate side of the plate by grandmother's husband. Grandmother and grandfather divorced a long time ago, and no one ever found out why. Late afternoon was a tired one. The sun didn't get to hide too early, behind the mountains surrounding Sarajevo, this time of the year. It was going to be my birthday soon. On May 31st, I was to turn 9. We heard a loud explosion. And the cutlery and the plates stared creating a noise of a full restaurant. The ground started shaking. Grandmother shook her head and continued pouring the soup into our plates. Mother grabbed her purse in one hand and my hand in the other, stood with the strong intention of moving - but didn't.
Father entered the room singing, his hands still wet from washing and sat down at the table, as if hadn't heard anything. Grandmother's husband, though, decided to address the tension in the dining room, the bomb created.
"Alisa," he called Mother.
"I would advise you to put, like my mother did back in World War II, all the jewelry and money into socks. Because if they see you holding you purse so tightly, They're going to know you're carrying something valuable."
This was the wrong thing to say.
"Who? Who are they? What are you saying?" Mother cried.
Grandmother sat down at the table with my father.
"They will not make me run and hide in the basement like they did 50 years ago. Also, the soup is getting cold."
No one said a word. And we all slowly realized, eating the dinner in silence, the war had begun.
I was lucky enough to have managed to escape Sarajevo, thanks to my mother, but many others stayed. They stayed, imprisoned in the besieged city, for four years. Without electricity and heating, they had to run from snipers to get food and water.
I lived outside of my country for ten years, Ljubljana for a bit, and then New York City. A journey in search of my identity took me back to my hometown in 2001. And I decided to stay. My generation is scattered all over the world. It is the generation of the "uprooted" - those that stayed in Sarajevo during the war, are now thinking of leaving, troubled by political instability of the country, fearing it will never be the way it was...
Winter was coming. Very soon all this will be covered by a thick layer of perfect particles of crystallized ice. Kids will be out in numbers and colors of their hats and scarves will bounce back from the snow. Chimneys will start churning away again and hot soups will be on the menu every day. Only people regretting the winter ahead would be the pensioners. Their frail bodies and fragile bones are not well equipped for improvised ice rings and sloppy streets of hilly parts of Sarajevo. They will curse in their most foul language everything under the Sun as we the kids will giggle seeing them slide helplessly down the frozen streets.
I have never seen so much of it before. I was only 12 at a time and my knowledge of anything was limited but to see so much coal in one place was strangely impressive. It was almost two stories high. Girls took no notice; it had to be a boy thing. That day we would not play our ritual after class football game behind our school. Instead of football pitch we got ourselves a ragged hill of locally produced black shit. So we took the next best thing and tried to claim this black, dirty monstrosity. It was hard and dangerous, as I found myself constantly loosing grip and sliding back. Larger pieces would simply hit you straight on - few boys ever made it to the top. Not sure who was the winner of that silly game but by the time the lunch break was over all my posies and I were as dirty as miners - white smiles shining through. We quickly washed ourselves before the class started again switching back to our angel faces.
That day after lunch break we had geography lesson on the second floor of our primary school. Classroom was overlooking the pitch what used to be our football grounds. The class started in time and soon all was forgotten about the world outside. I always loved geography. Our ancient teacher looked and sounded as if she has personally visited all the places she was talking about. As a child I often found myself daydreaming about visiting those places myself. These were times before PCs and Macs, mobiles and internet. There was no broadband or YouTube to click the world. Instead we had an obscure picture of a mountaintop telling us that this was K-2.
Class monotony was disturbed suddenly and loudly by a pupil known for creating disturbances. He started screaming and shouting how he had enough and how the time has come for him to end all this. It took few seconds for all of us to gather what was going on by which time our boy was already on the top of tables opening one of the widows. By now our teacher petrified of sudden escalation of events started shouting back very loudly. Calling him, ordering him to sit back at his place, but to no avail, she was too late. "Preko vode do slobode braco tifusari", he shouted as he jumped, recreating to us a well know moment in one of our IIWW classics (Let us cross the water my ill brothers to regain our freedom) . A long and painful screech from our poor teacher followed him through. She was frozen at her desk unable to move and see the rest of the story. Shock of what has just happened took over her body and mind. Who knows what went through her head over next few seconds.
What brought her back were our giggles coming from windows. She joined us to see what she has never noticed or has simply forgot was there. That same mountain of coal was just beneath the visible part of the widow. Our disturbance prone friend was just a practical joker never an idiot. His well-acted jump was not more than 50 centimeters deep. As he was turning the corner running home she cursed back at him from that same window like an old witch. I never heard such a foul language coming from our geography teacher.
Class ended soon after that and we all continued with our day, talking and laughing at what has just happened. The next day our friend was back at school and we all promptly congratulated him on his daring comedy act. The coal was now being loaded into belie of our primary and as far as I know there was no disciplinary action taken against anyone. The best thing for all was to say nothing and then nothing will be of what has happened.
Even though I was very young at the time, I remember spending most of my time with my mom and sister (my dad was in the army) in the shelter with rest of the neighborhood since it was impossible to leave the house due to daily bombings and sniper fire. Then, of course us kids had to create something to keep us occupied.
I remember playing and "acting" in the shelter under candle light and charging our parents entrance. :) To participate in the show audience had to bring something. Usually, it was clothes that we could use for our next show or some candy from the humanitarian aid that we occasionally received if ever. I remember having theme nights and our parents as audience. Usually the theme for the "shows" we created were "contacting" the spirits, and I remember the most usual questions we were asked from the audience were; "Please ask the spirit when is Dad coming home or when is the electricity coming back or how about food from the humanitarian aid etc."
When interrupted by the heavy bomb shelling during our performances I remember singing all together very loudly "Soldier of Fortune" (at that time very popular song) and trying to keep the audience but we usually failed. :)
I was born in Banja Luka, in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the 21st of October in 1984. My mother had me early, at the end of the 8th month of her pregnancy. Restless is how I have been ever since then.
My mother is Serbian. She was a piano performer and choir singer at the time; she was also a graduate in phonetics. My father is Macedonian, a textile engineer. My older brother, who is now a journalist, was born in Croatia. Just when you realize, you can meet all of Yugoslavia at my house, in my family.
I was just a child when the war started. We traveled back and forth from Bosnia to Macedonia all the time. I remember once, I was playing at my grandparents' backyard in Macedonia, when my brother arrived; it was just a couple of days before the borders to Bosnia were closed... I couldn't understand what the grown-ups were saying, but I did hear my parents saying that we might never be able to go back home.
I was not aware of the situation, so I kept playing and waiting for the fall, when I would go to visit my other grandparents, back in Bosnia. The fall came, but it was different this time. We heard the situation was really bad back home, and we didn't know what was happening with the rest of our family in Sanski Most, in Sarajevo.... We never heard again from my grandmother, who lived there.
When I look back, I only remember flashes and images; seeing my mother break after receiving the news about my grandmother's death, crying and repeating only one question: "Why did this happen?" The most vivid memories I have from the war are those seen though my mother's eyes, for every loss of a family member...
We were not in the direct epicenter of pain and suffering in Bosnia, but the trails of grief still lag behind all of us. As I grew up, things got much clearer for me. Whenever I saw my mother drowned in thoughts, with that inevitable feeling of guilt that she was not along with her family in those hard times back in Banja Luka, I tried to make her laugh, to bring a little peace in her eyes by sharing with her my restless dream of becoming a great artist one day, and make her very proud.
After the nightmare of the war in Bosnia ended, it was difficult to recover all of the family ties. Even until today, not all of my family members have managed to get back in touch, to understand if they survived the war, and if they managed to escape the horror at the time. My grandfather, as everyone else, struggled to move forward with his life...
Everyone had to continue their life stories, and I directed mine being inspired by a film projection I saw one night, when I was still a child; and I wished to become what I am today.
I graduated at the Faculty of Drama Arts in Skopje in 2007, and I have been working at the Macedonian National Theater ever since. I have been part of 20 theater plays, four feature films, one short film and four successful seasons as the hostess of a TV show for automobiles and lifestyle.
At the moment, I am also dedicated to my Master studies in Culture and Globalization, a new theater play Family Stories by Biljana Srbljanovic, and I continue to believe that the events of year 1992 will never be repeated. I keep dreaming with my eyes opened, and I want to remain courageous and strong for every new challenge in front of me, and I know and I believe that everything will be all right.... "Believe" is the word Jelena Jovanova thinks of first, every time she awakes in the morning, and every time she goes to sleep at night.
"....the most loud silence..every day, every night.
she is there, I hear her scream, I hear her ache and I try to touch her, I want to hold her but I can't.
I can hardly wait for that.
They took her away. We took everything away from us, we aloud that.
And we know we are all the same...we smell the same,we all love and we all hate.. But someone is
more thirsty for profit and someone for true love.They increase there profit,we increase our loss,the dearest one...
I feel sorry for there insatiability, the question is-are they're feeling sorry for our lost?"
I was born on May 12th, 1979 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I think I can say I had a normal and happy childhood in post-Tito Yugoslavia. I was 13 years old when war in Bosnia started. My life became hectic by all means. I was becoming a teenager with agitating hormones forcing me into introversion. But extreme circumstances around me compelled me to confront the outside world and face the reality. I did not have time to think about pimples because I had to get water. Electricity, water, things I used to take for granted, became luxury.
My family and I were spending most of our time in a basement of a building we lived in because it was not safe to sleep in a flat. My older brother was a soldier in the Bosnian army, so he wasn't around much. We have never talked about the details of the battles he had been in, until I asked him for help while preparing for this film. Although I play a small role I wanted to somehow dedicate this character to him. That is why I was very happy Angelina liked the idea that I wear his uniform in the film. It felt special to work in his patched camouflage pants.
During four years of the siege, approximately 360 shells were fired on Sarajevo daily. I guess I was one of the lucky ones to greet the peace with no family members killed or wounded.
Although often cold, hungry and desperate, like most of Sarajevo's citizens, I never accepted a role of a victim. Being so close to death all the time I recall that period as living life to the fullest. I learned to appreciate power of human spirit, nobility, humor. That was the period I discovered theatre and art in general as a place of escapism, cognition, and catharsis. I will never forget the effect theatre performances during the war had on me. Actors played their roles as a necessity, evidence of resistance. Acting was not just mirroring life but becoming life itself. That is when I wished to become part of that family, that world.
War left a lot of scars, but it also determined my sense of justice, courage, freedom, my calling and career, the way I consume and do art. I don't like to recall on it and I think it is going to take me some time to understand it and put it in a right place.
I was barely six years old and scarcely remember the day of Your birth. The only thing I remember that day is that I was happy because my dad bought me Ninja Turtles cards I was collecting at that time. No, sorry... other thing I remember also... my mother's tears and dad's fear because You were born.
I don't belive that those tears and that fear were an actual product of happiness.
Nobody knew for what reason You were born, but one thing we all do know is what were the consequences of Your birth. Mothers were crying, children were killed, women raped, men died of their first neighbors' bullets they once played cards and chess with, drank beer and laughed the jokes... my generation and I grew up hiding... In Your time a lot of new children were born who still carry that burden of Yours, a lot of innocent people were killed even though they didn't want to have anything to do with Your life and atrocities, a lot of people were forcefully taken, imprisoned to be killed for Your life... people ate žaru, snails, lentils, out of date Ikar cans, cookies from the Vietnamese war period, rise, peanut butter and everything that was considered by lunch packages... there was no water, people were dying in a race for a drop of survival... electricity and gas were luxury dreams... You built concentration camps where You played with lives, just like newborns do... ribs protruded human skin made You laugh... people prayed to someone up there to save them from that horror, they whipped, they cried, moaned, were terrified and left all alone in this world, losing their sense, an essence of the existence, while You... You continued to grow, knitting a barbed wire, making Your parents proud.
We all missed... I missed a lot of things because of You, even though I was a child and understood everything like some game, serious game, but still a game, yet I felt very threatened... I felt that fear... not for life, since being only six I couldn't possibly know anything about life, but there somewhere a fear existed... fear that penetrated your skin, bones, pores,... your everything. The fear in other people's eyes was, in fact, the best mirror of your horrid soul.
And now, You left me and my generation in fear, as well as all people that once survived You and still do. When torpedo explodes for the New Year's Eve, I think: "...there, it started again.", chills go up my spine. I simply can't get rid of the thought: "There is going to be war again", which nailes me and everyone like me to the place with no prosperity.
You grew up fast, and started to spread Your seeds where ever You could. You demanded blood, no matter whose, as long as You could laugh and enjoy by Your fireplace, in the coziest chair that suits only the worst evil, having a portion of a child's brain, freshly squeezed from the Markale market, where one of the massacres occurred. While having Your precious wine You observed and simply didn't give a shit!
People are stronger, the will is stronger and we are no longer going to be slaves of yours... we will not forget You, but won't serve You either.
Now dear War, I kindly ask You to GET THE FUCK OUT OF OUR LIVES!
Fedja Stukan was born 1974 in Sarajevo. He was a a professional billiard player in Montenegro from 1990 to 1992, when he joined the special units of the Bosnian army. As an atheist he realized that he didn't want to give and take life in a religious war, and after two years in heavy combat, he left the army by faking a mental disorder. He stayed in a mental health hospital for a year. It was during this period that Stukan decided to become an actor, and to study stage arts. In the last year of war, he escaped to germany, playing and singing in the bars, working on construction sites, and eventually living as a homeless drug addict. Stukan eventually returned to Sarajevo to continue his studies. He quit drugs and became a skydiver and paragliding pilot. During this time, he opeed a small firm for panoramic flights above Sarajevo. Stukan now counts film producer as one of his many talents. 15 month ago, he become a father of a beautiful daughter, Aya.
As a child I was amazed by stories of great heroes who killed man enemies and died with dignity in battle . One day it was my turn to go to war. I realized there is nothing heroic in killing other human beings, and there is no dignity in dying on the battlefield.
Let the sunshine in.
Born in Sarajevo. Grew up and finished Actor's Academy there. Father was Serb, mother a Muslim. Proud of their love more than ever. He left Sarajevo while under siege during the war. All his books, photos, memories .... all his "shortcuts" to the past burned with his flat during the bombing. His grandfather asked him before he died, "Who are we now?"Lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia since '93. Tries not divide people into "us and them"–would rather see it like "Beatles and Stones".
My name is Ornela Bery. I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the city of Sarajevo. Until recently, I used to work between Sarajevo and Zagreb. I live in Sarajevo and I work in the "Chamber Theater 55". I've played hundred roles (on film, in theater, television, radio). For my work I have won several prices, acknowledges and diplomas.
I was born in a middle class family with my three sisters. I remember how every Sunday morning we used to sit down with our mother, listening to some radio drama. Mother used to take us afterwards to the theater performance for children, or to the cinema. This is how my love for arts was born. As a little girl I used to play ballet and that helped me a lot later, when I worked in some cabarets and musicals.
I was five when I first came across acting. My older sister (who is also an actress) organized a puppet show in an abandoned roost. Since I was very elastic, she invited me to do some acrobatic numbers in her play. Even today, as a joke, I call myself "actress from the roost".
I am also a mother. My son's name is Vuk and he also is an actor.
I am vegetarian. I inherited a love for animals and love for arts from my parents. I am pacifist. I stand strongly for human rights and against wars and arming. I divide people as good and bad ones and I respect differences. My family is multinational composed from Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Hungarians and Swedish people. In my opinion, neither parents, nor the place of birth must necessarily define or determine someone.
A war is the worst thing that can happen to some people. The war separated my family on several sides. One part of the family left for Sweden as refugees and they are spread in several towns in Sweden. I managed to get out of the city, taking the last convoy (after we crossed the bridge, it was destroyed). My son was with me, forced to grow up over night, as were all the war children anyway. Finally we arrived to Zagreb and stayed there for a while. Another part of my family stayed in Sarajevo the whole time. I used to work as journalist, so I managed, through Unprofor, to go in and out of Sarajevo.
The war was, for all of us, very difficult and painful experience that left consequences to everyone. We must not ever forget some things, but we need to learn how to forget so that we can go on with our lives, in peace.
Jasna Ornela Bery