SREBRENICA IN 1993, RUNNING FROM DEATH
Bosnian Refugee Describes Horrible Year Running From Death
The Southeast Missourian, p.3A
22 March 1993.
[two years before the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide]
TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina – As others fought to get on the U.N. trucks leaving besieged Srebrenica, Sabira Bosancic wa screaming to stay. But foreign relief workers didn’t understand her words: “Don’t tear me away from my family!”
Many fellow refugees from the town on Sunday savored their first day in nearly a year in which they did not have to fear dying of starvation or Serb shelling. But Mrs. Bosancic, among the 673 hustled by U.N. personnel into trucks and driven to Tuzla Saturday, wept while thinking of the two children she had been forced to leave behind.
Mrs. Bosancic said during the confused evacuation she couldn’t find anyone who understood her protest.
“I was crying and screaming,” the sunken-cheecked woman sobbed. “The foreigners didn’t understand me.”
The pain of the separation hurt the 37-year-old woman as much as her grossly swollen and discolored left leg. A Serb mortar shell shredded it in Februrary.
Back then she watched as a doctor in a field hospital picked out pieces of shrapnel and bone. There was no anesthesia,and she fainted in pain.
Mrs. Bosancic, who weighed nearly 200 pounds a year ago, said she was half that now. She said her 17-year-old daughter had carried her to the washroom in her last days in Srebrenica.
As Mrs. Bosancic told her horrible story, other women with leg wounds in hospital beds next to her sobbed over memories of their own suffering.
Ramzija Kladovic stared at her right leg, hit by shrapnel from a mortar 16 days ago in Srebrenica’s main marketplace. The leg was puffed to twice its normal size and gangrenous.
“How can this be?” asked the woman, 63 but looking 20 years older. The leg was amputated later in the day.
Mrs. Bosancic said she lost word of her husband and two other children last March, a day before armed Serbs came to her village of Nova Kasaba. They had gone to a doctor’s appointment and never came back.
The Serbs drove the villagers from the town. No one was hurt, although threats were made.
“They said we will kill you and push your bodies into the river,” Mrs. Bosancic recalled.
The village folk sought refuge in a forest, where they stayed for a month, slipping into neighboring villages to beg for food when it appeared safe.
“Sometimes we spent a week without a piece of bread,” Mrs. Bosancic said. “If we found something we gave it to the children and held our stomachs in pain as we watched them wolf it down.”
Her group fo hundreds of people – mostly women and children – played hide and seek with Serb gunners. Once Serb infantryman opened fire, killing about 50 people, she said.
In May, the group moved into Cerska, which fell to the Serbs three weeks ago. Though the town was incessantly pounded by Serb gunners even back then, the longing for shelter was irresistible.
As more refugees came, bombed-out houses, storage sheds and stables began to overflow with people. By autumn, some were living in tents made of blankets and branches.
“During the days we stayed inside,” said Mrs. Bosancic. “At night we begged for food, ready to dive for shelter in case shelling resumed.”
Serb barrages increased as fall turned to winter. “Sometimes 60 to 65 people died daily, others were crippled,” she said.
The mortar round that wounded her and two children on Feb. 8 killed two other women, she said. She was carried by stretcher to a field hospital in Hrncici near Konjevic Polje, also under Serb attack. There, she and others slept on concrete floors in an unheated room.