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Nidzara Ahmetasevic
Nidzara Ahmetasevic

My family is from Vratnik. The oldest Sarajevo families come from there. Both my mother and father were born there. I lived there until I was five. Then we moved to Dzidikovac, but my grandparents and all my family were there. I used to spend weekends there. It was a real Sarajevo mahala.

For me that means it was a big backyard. People did not lock their doors so kids could go into all the homes and gardens. All the older women and men were called teta or ciko, ie. , aunty or uncle. There is one old lady up there whom I only realised during the war was not my aunt. We all lived as a big family and were very close. It was always 95% Muslim.

My mother was a journalist for the daily paper Oslobodjenje and my father was the mayor's driver. He drove all the mayors of Sarajevo until he was wounded in 1992.

Dzidikovac is a 100% "communistic" area. It is just above the park, which lies in front of the presidency building in the centre of town.

The grandmother of our next-door neighbour was one of the founders of the anti-fascist women's council during the war. She was a partisan. The area was middle class but there were many such high-ranking communists, for example Dzemal Bijedic and Branko Mikulic, both presidents of Bosnia and Yugoslav premiers. Radovan Karadzic also lived there. It was very mixed.

In 1989 I began secondary school. My family is religious but they said religion was personal and not to go and show it off. It was between us and God. So, I went around with friends who very mixed. One of them Sasa Karadzic, the son of Radovan, because I went to both primary and secondary school with him.

In 1990 I was a punk. I dressed completely in black, with safety pins and the lot. Then it was rock 'n' roll. I went to the Sarajevo underground scene. It was a kind of culture, it was important to belong to it. Of course I argued with my parents, but nothing serious.

On 2 May 1992 there was the first big shelling of the city. We spent two days in the basement. I had many good friends and we were very close then, as we still are today. Of course I understood something was going on but after May 2 we thought that was the war! Now it would be over. So, for the next few weeks, while we were aware of the shooting of course, it was a time of fun really. There was no school and we spent a lot of the time in the basement. To tell you the truth… I never had so much fun in my life. Nobody cared what we were doing!

Then, on May 28, I was wounded. It was the night Mladic had said; "burn it all!" It was quiet and we had electricity. I was outside, sitting with my friends. It was destiny. I went in the house with my family. All the others stayed outside. A rocket hit the balcony. I was behind the glass doors. I still have two pieces of shrapnel covered with blood in my home. Because there was shooting we could not get to the hospital. My father was also injured. I was given first aid. Only next day did I get to hospital.

I was 17. It was strange. They asked how old I was and when I told them they said they would not cut my leg off because I was too young. They cleaned the wound in my leg everyday but the flesh was burned. It was horrible and so painful. I remember once I had ten people around me, holding me down. In the first week in hospital I lost 22 kilos and more in the next few months. I could not walk.

In December I managed to get out alone. I went and stayed in Split with distant family who lived there. Then, three or four months later, I was expelled again because of the war between Bosniak and Croat forces. I got to Zagreb and lived with some friends and then I got to Italy where I was looked after by an Italian family in Florence.

But, I just wanted to come back. My only goal was to get back because my life was here. My father's friend, the former mayor, was now Bosnian ambassador to Italy. He helped me get a place on a UN flight. Nobody was coming back at that point but I was just the happiest person.

Since then I have worked as a journalist, here and in Prague and I went on a fellowship to the US.

Of course Sarajevo is different now, but for me I still have the same friends I grew up with. Some have gone but many have not. Many are from mixed families. We are very close. We are like a family. My friends mean so much to me. They would run through the city to visit me in hospital, so I was never alone. We understand each other. In fact we have developed a Dzidikovac myth. Some of my friends who married people from other areas – they don't understand.

I love this city but Dzidikovac is my life. In the park we still have 'our' trees. They were not cut down because they provided cover from shelling. We have 'our' benches in the park. During the war we grew vegetables there.

My friends and I imagined we would create a Republic of Dzidikovac and not care what happened outside it. In 1992, for eight months, from May to December we were in basements. We cooked together, ate together and slept together – in the same bed like sardines! Now we have a blog and songs about it. We live in the Kingdom of Dzidikovac. We are so close. For us it is so important. That is my Sarajevo.

For me the best film about the war is this short ten-minute one. This is what it was really like. You can watch it here:

January 2007
Tim Judah

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15 January 2007, 00:00