For the Record: a dream of a better life

Author: Erna Mackic, Sarajevo
Uploaded: Monday, 03 March, 2008

Article from BIRN's Justice Report on how one victim of unbearably harrowing wartime experiences in Foca is rebuilding her life

J.F. is a 27-year-old woman who has lived in Hadzici, on the outskirts of Sarajevo, with her mother and six brothers and sisters since 1993. The family first came to Hadzici in 1992, after being deported from Foca. They spent many days in detention centres located in eastern Bosnia, controlled by the former RS forces.

The story told by J.F. is so much more painful than many other war stories, as the then 11-year-old girl, who attended the fifth grade of elementary school, was brutally raped a number of times. She does not know who her attackers were, but she is still living with the consequences of what they did to her.

Due to the rapes, J cannot have her own children. She believes that nothing worse than what she has already survived can ever happen to her. Her dream is to complete secondary school, find a job, and start a new life that will be, at least, somewhat similar to the life of her peers. As a civilian victim of war, she receives monthly support in the amount of KM 500 (about 250 euro).

J describes what she survived with courage and with almost no tears at all. Despite everything, she told her story to Justice Report with great optimism, adding that she is now ready for a better future.

A Girl with a Green Sweater

J said: ‘Armed soldiers started coming to our village and we used to run away to a nearby forest. They usually pillaged our houses and set them on fire. One day, five or six soldiers suddenly came to our house. They asked where our money was, where the army was. Then, they took my father away. They came back at dusk on that same day and ordered us to go with them. We met our father near our house. I could not recognise him, as he had been beaten so heavily that his face was deformed.

‘The soldiers ordered us to get on a truck and they took us to the police station in Miljevina. My youngest sister, who was eight months old at the time, did not even have a soother. She cried all the way to Miljevina.

‘When we came to the police station, a man asked my father if one of our neighbours was alive and where he was. When my father said he did not know, the man started hitting him. I could not watch that, but there was nothing we could do. I saw the man extinguish a cigarette on my father's forehead.

‘My father stayed in the police station, while we were loaded onto the truck again and driven to the Partizan sports hall. When we got there, we saw some clothes scattered on the floor and we slept on it. We stayed there for ten days. There was no electricity and they did not give us any food during those ten days.

‘One of the guards told us we could go out and buy some food if we had money, but we didn't have any. Other women went out and bought bread. I collected breadcrumbs and water, which we had, and we fed my little sister with it. On the second day of our stay in Partizan a soldier came and said: "You, the one wearing a green sweater, you should come with me, I need you to clean my apartment." I was the one wearing the green sweater. When we came to the apartment, he ordered me to bathe.

‘I washed myself with cold water, as there was no hot water. When I came out of the bathroom, he started approaching me and I ran towards the window. I wanted to jump down, but he caught me and prevented me from doing it. Then he raped me. I lost consciousness while he was doing it. When I woke up, he told me to go back to where I came from.

‘I did not dare to. There were many soldiers outside. The following morning, he took me back to Partizan where I met my mother. She did not ask me anything. She knew what had happened to me.

‘The first soldier who raped me was armed and had a different accent. I do not think he was a Bosnian. I do not know his name.

‘The following night the same soldier came and took my mother and me out. He told the guard that we would not stay for long and that we would just clean up something. We came to some apartment and he ordered us to take a bath. When we did it, he raped me in front of my mother and then raped her in front of me.

‘I shall never forget that scene. We cried, but we could not talk. When he finished it all, he told us to go, but we did not dare to. He took us back to Partizan the morning after.

‘Following that night, he took me with him seven nights in a row. Whenever he came to take me, my brothers and sisters - who were all younger than me - used to say: "Little sister, you should go." They did not know what he was doing to me. I had a short haircut at the time and I looked like a boy, but it did not prevent him from singling me out of that large group of people.

‘One day they came and said we were going to be exchanged in Kalinovik. Yet they took us to a school building full of prisoners. A man approached us, turned to my mother and told her he would take me away. My mother thought that he would also rape me. She started crying, but he still took me away.

‘While we were walking, he told me not to be afraid and said he knew my father and he then took me to his house. His wife and sister were there. He told them to find some clothes for me so that I could change. He had to go to the frontline that night, but he told me not to go out until the next morning. He also said I should go back to the school building in the morning.

‘When I returned, my mother did not ask me anything. Much later, when we were released, I told her what had happened that night and that this man had actually helped me.

‘We stayed in the school building in Kalinovik for ten days. They gave us food and we slept on mattresses. One day they came and told us again that we were going to be exchanged. They took us to Jazici village near Kalinovik and detained us in a warehouse in which tanks were parked. It was very cold in there. We slept on palettes and did our needs into a bucket. Nobody beat me or took me out while we were there.

‘Finally, seven days later, a Serbian man came and asked for my mother. At first, she kept quiet as she thought they were going to rape her again. After he called her name several times, she decided to let him know she was there. He told her to go and get her children. He then took her and an old man and woman out, and told us we were going to be exchanged. And they let us go to that exchange. We walked in a column. The old man was heading the column and he had to carry a white flag.

‘The man who took us out of the sports hall told us that we had two hours to cross Mount Rogoj. If we were one minute late they would start shooting and kill us all.

‘We started walking. I was carrying my youngest sister and my mother had my youngest brother. The others had to walk. At some point we realized we were walking through a minefield and saw a dead m

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