Back to Bosnia

View Segments Segment :

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
Successfully saved clip
Find all your clips in My Lists
Failed to save clip
  • Transcript
  • Transcript

    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:01

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Croatia, Bosnia border, July 2003.]

    • 00:20

      SPEAKER 1: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH][Between 1992 and 1995, Bosnia was involved in a vicious warthat claimed thousands of lives and forced millionsinto exile.]

    • 00:40

      SABINA VAJRACA: So now we're crossing out of Croatiainto Bosnia.

    • 00:51


    • 00:59

      SPEAKER 3: It is recording.

    • 01:02

      SABINA VAJRACA: I remember, just, youknow, waking up one morning and goingto school under barricades.You walk down the street and there were Serbian soldiersall over the place.And there was like, some sort of a curfew that was passed.And, um, there was a rumor that girls were being raped--[Sabina Vajraca]

    • 01:20

      SABINA VAJRACA: --on the streets of Banja Luka,or in their houses--and especially Muslim girls of my age.I was 14 at the time.

    • 01:29

      EMIR VAJRACA: When it all started,the connection between Banja Luka and Belgradewas still functioning.[Emir Vajraca]That's when my wife and I decidedto send our daughter, Sabina, to our family in Zagreb.

    • 01:53

      SABINA VAJRACA: That's where the airport is.That's how I left the city.

    • 01:57

      SPEAKER 1: Yeah.

    • 02:01

      AIDA VAJRACA: I remember she came home from school.there were about ten days left in the school year.[Aida Vajraca]There were about ten days left in the school year,and she had a math test the next day.I had bought her the ticket already, but she didn't know.

    • 02:23

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: She said, "I'm waiting for dad, so he can helpme study for the math test."I told her, "leave that be.Pack your things, you're leaving."She was surprised."Why do I have to?"I had a feeling that she should get out.

    • 02:49

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: Ten days later, the planes stopped flying.You could no longer leave Banja Luka.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 03:04

      AIDA VAJRACA: And then a friend of mine told me,"I'm leaving tomorrow.If you want, if you can, if you can trust me,I will take your son Tarik."

    • 03:24

      EMIR VAJRACA: We couldn't even see him off.In the morning we simply put his backpack on.He was only six-years-old.Just a kid.I was deeply convinced that I would never see them again.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 03:45

      SABINA VAJRACA: I think, in those nine months of--even though I lived with my aunt,it wasn't my mom, and my parents.I think I kind of went from 14 to 40 in nine months.And I know that by the time my mom gotthere, I was not a kid anymore.

    • 04:01

      AIDA VAJRACA: I was in Zagreb for nearly a year and a half.I kept hoping that the madness would pass.That it would stop.And then I decided to take my kids and go.To start a new life.

    • 04:25

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: And so I started off, and ended up in Florida.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 05:07

      SPEAKER 4: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]We have no problems.We live, all together, Muslims, Croatian, Serbian.

    • 05:24

      SABINA VAJRACA: We didn't really know before the war--like, I never knew that I would be considered a Bosnian Muslim,and that my two best friends-- well, one was a Serband one was a Croat, or Catholic.Because we didn't divide that way.We didn't know.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 05:44

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: [Bijana Vajraca-- Sabrina'sAunt]

    • 05:46

      BILJANA VAJRACA: I was never a communist.I was never for communism.But during Tito, life was bordering on ideal.Everyone had a job.You could travel wherever you wanted.Everyone had the means.We would even go to Zagreb, whichis 150 km from Banja Luka, just for a cup of coffee.Life was really good.However, someone was bothered by it.

    • 06:08

      BILJANA VAJRACA [continued]: Someone didn't like it being so good, I guess.

    • 06:19


    • 06:23


    • 06:29

      SABINA VAJRACA: That's from Tarika, for my dad.It says, my dear dad, I love you very much.And please come if you can to Zagreb.Say hi to grandpas and grandmas.

    • 06:43

      EMIR VAJRACA: And then one evening in September,I was on my way home from work and my downstairs neighbor,a wonder man-- a Serb--said, "military officials were here.For the last two days they've been looking for you."So I got up in the morning.It was 5:15 am, barely dawn.

    • 07:05

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: I went out on the balcony, looked down,and I see two of them coming, armed in full military gear.And I figured, these are here for me.So they come to the door.I open it.I recognize one of them-- the infamous Majkic.

    • 07:26

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: I think all of Banja Luka knows him.He used to beat people within an inch of their lives.The second man I had never seen before.He introduced himself as some sort of army official.He says, "I'm here to exchange your apartment."It's 5:30 in the morning.They're armed.

    • 07:46

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: And he says, "or we can talk different."I had expected something worse.They tossed me out of that apartment in two days.I left with only a suitcase.I left with only a small suitcasein which I had thrown all my photographs,

    • 08:07

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: letters, and things.

    • 08:21

      SABINA VAJRACA: 16Th of September, '92.So I think this is right after I realized I wasn't going back.And it says, my dear mom and dad,I just finished reading your letterso I want to answer immediately.I'll try not to think about the factthat I might never see my and your Banjaluku.

    • 08:43

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: This is sad.I don't want to read this.It says, 20 years from now or so,I'm going to bring my kids--

    • 09:05

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: I'm going to bring my kids to the placewhere Banja Luka used to stand.There's going to be a city there, still,and I won't recognize it.It's going to be foreign.And then, full of pride, I'm going to tell them,"look here, my dear kids.

    • 09:26

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: There was a city here once--a city that used to have a heart, and a soul.A city in which your grandparentswere born, in which I was born, and where I lived until--[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

    • 09:47

      EMIR VAJRACA: Enemies.

    • 09:48

      SABINA VAJRACA: Until the enemies came.

    • 09:50

      EMIR VAJRACA: I was in Croatia at first.And when it was over, I was in Croatia at first.And when it was over, I decided to join my family in America.I was very happy to see my family,but very unhappy that I no longer had my country.I believe I lost it then.

    • 10:25

      INTERVIEWER: And now what?You are going back this summer, to reclaim that apartment?

    • 10:32

      AIDA VAJRACA: I don't know if we'll be able to reclaim it,or if that man is still there-- if they are stillin the apartment.I don't know.We'll see.

    • 10:49

      SABINA VAJRACA: How are you doing, mom?

    • 10:51

      AIDA VAJRACA: Good.

    • 10:52

      SABINA VAJRACA: Are you happy that you are coming backwith me and dad?

    • 10:54

      AIDA VAJRACA: Yes I am.

    • 10:55

      SABINA VAJRACA: Look at us.It's as if we're coming back from a weekend trip to Zagreb.

    • 11:01

      EMIR VAJRACA: A bit of a long weekend.

    • 11:10


    • 11:14

      SABINA VAJRACA: This is the street my mom grew up on.This is my elementary school to the left.And my grandmother's house--my grandparents house.That's where we stayed.

    • 12:33

      SPEAKER 5: Hello.Hello.

    • 12:40

      EMIR VAJRACA: Lilko.Look how old your are!Look how big you are!

    • 12:46

      LILI VAJRACA: Me?No, look at you![LAUGHTER]

    • 12:51


    • 12:54

      LILI VAJRACA: It's sad, I haven'tseen Emir in nine years.It's going to be nine years in October.Nor you.[Lili Vajraca, Emir's Brother]That's it, life passes by.That's something we don't have anymore--something we lost, that can never be returned.We'll never be a family again.We'll be one on paper, but in the heart, never again.

    • 13:18


    • 13:21

      LILI VAJRACA: The structure is the only thing that's changed.It used to be muscle.Now it's fat.But the weight's the same.[LAUGHTER]

    • 13:28

      AIDA VAJRACA: How are the kids?

    • 13:30

      LILI VAJRACA: I'll tell you about it.

    • 13:32

      SPEAKER 4: Sit down.Sit down.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 14:02

      EMIR VAJRACA: Those days it was the end of June.Summer had already started, and I raninto the Imam of our mosque.He asked me to please come to Merhamet,that there was something I could help them with.They wanted to form an office which would help people

    • 14:25

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: up there at Manjaca and Omarska, even though back then,we didn't know much about those camps yet.We would also take in refugees.The office would be separate from Merhamet,in its own building.

    • 14:48

      EMIR VAJRACA: This was a small warehouse that we had in here.It was all renovated very nicely.And over here was the door.First they went through that doorand stole whatever they could find.Then they broke through here, where there were stairsleading up to the second floor.

    • 15:13

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: And then finally, they broke through here.This was my office in here.

    • 15:30

      EMIR VAJRACA: We would usually get notes from family members--parents, sisters, brother, and such,to find out where they were.We would then go through many different channels,and were able to find out what happened to most of them.For some we did not find anything.

    • 15:58

      EMIR VAJRACA: These were all killed.

    • 16:10

      EMIR VAJRACA: Look here.20th of July in '92.This is a witness testimony that was given to me by the threepeople who survived.It's their recollection of peoplewho were killed that day--their neighbors and cousins.

    • 16:29

      SABINA VAJRACA: Did everyone write this down, or just you?

    • 16:32

      EMIR VAJRACA: No.Well, you didn't dare.I mean, even I--I knew much more than this.Because I didn't dare write everything down.I always expected a raid to come through.And had they found this on me, I wouldn't be here anymore.

    • 16:53

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: But most important is that we have the names of almost allthe war criminals who committed crimesin most of the area of Prijedor, Sanski Most, Banja Luka.

    • 17:09

      SABINA VAJRACA: It wasn't until my dadcame out and was in America already that my momsort of told him what he did.And he hinted at what he did.But he's not told everything until now.Like now I'm asking all these questionsand he's opening up, eight years later.

    • 17:37

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: [Prijedor, Bosnia][MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 17:57

      EMIR VAJRACA: They did horrible crimes here.See, over there is the red buildingI was telling you about.They went through the building and whoeverthey found that was Muslim, they took to the roof,grabbed them by their arms and legs,and threw them off, to see how they fly.

    • 18:23

      EMIR VAJRACA: Banja Luka was a big city.So they couldn't have a complete massacre.Maybe in smaller doses, which they did, by scaring people.However, it was enough to do it in Prijedor.In Prijedor they had to because that city was mostly Muslim,

    • 18:44

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: and they had to cleanse it.And they consciously went to Prijedor to cleanse it,to kill as many people as possible--to make concentration camps in orderto incite panic amongst Croats and Muslims in Banja Luka.

    • 19:07

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: And a lot of Serbs who disagreed,who did not want to be a part of it left the city.

    • 19:15

      SABINA VAJRACA: What is that?

    • 19:17

      EMIR VAJRACA: This is Omarska.[Omarsk, Bosnia]["Welcome"]

    • 19:28

      EMIR VAJRACA: This is where they were killing them.

    • 19:31

      SABINA VAJRACA: Where, in the middle?

    • 19:32

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes, in this passageway.

    • 19:34

      SABINA VAJRACA: So, you sit there,and you wait-- you listen to the others being killed?

    • 19:37

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.Yes.

    • 19:39

      SABINA VAJRACA: Separated only by barbed wire?

    • 19:40

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.

    • 19:50

      SABINA VAJRACA: Did this look the same?It's just a mining facility?

    • 19:53

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.It is for iron.Except there was barbed wire everywhere.

    • 20:06

      SABINA VAJRACA: Is this a Serb village?

    • 20:08

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes it is.Purely Serb.

    • 20:10

      SABINA VAJRACA: Purely Serb.

    • 20:10

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.This is where the men came from who worked at the campas guards.

    • 20:23

      SABINA VAJRACA: Should we ask this man about it?

    • 20:25

      EMIR VAJRACA: Come on, are you crazy?

    • 20:30

      SABINA VAJRACA: How many people were in Omarska?

    • 20:33

      EMIR VAJRACA: About 2,500, 3,000 people.I mean, you could never really--

    • 20:37

      SABINA VAJRACA: Because they kept changing?

    • 20:39

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.They would kill them, throw them out, and bring more people in.

    • 20:53

      SABINA VAJRACA: Four "C."

    • 20:55

      EMIR VAJRACA: Four "C" is all over the place.

    • 20:59

      SABINA VAJRACA: What does "four C's" mean?It's like a Swastika."Every Serb Saves His Own."Is that what it means?Or is that just what they came up with?

    • 21:12

      EMIR VAJRACA: That's what they came up with,but it's not really what it means.They came up with that translation.

    • 21:17

      SPEAKER 5: "Only Unity Can Save the Serbs."But it has nothing to do with that.It's actually a Tocilo.

    • 21:23

      SABINA VAJRACA: What is that?

    • 21:24

      SPEAKER 5: Tocilo, it's a symbol of a cross.Those are not really four C's.It's just a symbol.[Tmopolje, Bosnia]

    • 21:37

      EMIR VAJRACA: They were here as well, enclosed by wire.Over there, in that house.So they would pull people out of here,whenever they felt like it.

    • 21:58

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: They'd come from up there.The infamous group, Valavula.

    • 22:05

      SABINA VAJRACA: Who was group Valavula?

    • 22:07

      EMIR VAJRACA: They were Zoran Valavula, known as Zuna,and his brother.I don't know his name.As well as Novo Zdjelar, Luka Petrovic, Dudo Loncar,and Mrkalj.They were all one group from Gomji Petrov Gaj.Pays That's the name of their village.They took eight people from the concentration camp

    • 22:28

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: in the beginning of July, and they tied them togetherby piercing their tongues with wire.The reason why this moved me so much-- these were two brother.And they out four sets of two brothers each.They were only looking for brothers.First they forced them to dig out their own graves,

    • 22:54

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: and then they slit their throats.

    • 22:58

      SABINA VAJRACA: So that's them.

    • 22:60

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.

    • 23:00

      SABINA VAJRACA: And where are they now?

    • 23:01

      EMIR VAJRACA: In their village, farming, drinking in pubs.

    • 23:11

      EMIR VAJRACA: There, "To the soldierswho poured their lives into the foundation of RepublikaSrpska."And nothing about the people theykilled around here, the concentration camp they made,and the slaughter.

    • 23:31

      LILI VAJRACA: Once Keraterm and Omarska got fullthey opened up a camp in Manjaca.That concentration camp was exactly25 km outside of Banja Luka.In one part of that military basewere barns, in which they usuallykept sheep, since this is a farming community.In those barns is where they formed the camp

    • 23:52

      LILI VAJRACA [continued]: where they put the first 1,000 to 2,000 prisoners.Later the number rose to 5,000.

    • 23:60

      EMIR VAJRACA: So we at Merhamet gotourselves organized, and would bring a truck of foodup there once a week, just to make it a little better.We would collect monetary donations amongst ourselves,and we would usually buy one cow,different vegetables, pasta.We insisted on pasta, because they could fill up quickly.

    • 24:30

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: It was not here exactly.This is where their armory was.Over there to the right was the concentration camp.But we can't go through the base.Aha.Put it down a sec.We can say we're going to the lake.

    • 24:53

      EMIR VAJRACA: Good afternoon.

    • 24:54

      SPEAKER 6: Good afternoon.

    • 24:55

      EMIR VAJRACA: I saw a sign sayingthere was some sort of a lake?

    • 24:57

      SPEAKER 6: Yes.Yes there is.

    • 24:58

      EMIR VAJRACA: Can we go through?

    • 24:58

      SPEAKER 6: Sure.

    • 24:59

      EMIR VAJRACA: Do you need my ID?

    • 25:00

      SPEAKER 6: Only your name.

    • 25:01

      EMIR VAJRACA: Emir Vajraca.How is it?Can you go fishing?

    • 25:10

      SPEAKER 6: Yes.There is someone there who can tell you more.

    • 25:13

      EMIR VAJRACA: Oh, great.Thanks very much.

    • 25:34

      SABINA VAJRACA: Be careful, Damir, so no one sees you.

    • 25:39

      EMIR VAJRACA: And then with my friend Fugo,I went up there to take them food.And when we were getting ready to leave,I was told we would be bringing back a group of prisoners.When we got up there, it was all surrounded,military police everywhere.I saw a line of people coming towards me, two by two,

    • 25:60

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: hands on their backs, running in small steps,heads down, looking two meters in front of them.It was as if someone hit me with a fist.Those are our people.They are not animals.We watched stuff like that in the movies.

    • 26:22

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: Those were our neighbors.We were the same.

    • 26:36

      EMIR VAJRACA: At point, the military officialsin Banja Luka decided to release from the camp, everyone youngerthan 17, and older than 65, and the very sick--a total of 105 people.We put them up in the mosque, Gazinferija, in Banja Luka.

    • 26:59

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: Location of Gazinferija Mosque, Banja Luka, Bosnia

    • 27:04

      EMIR VAJRACA: Over here is where people washed themselvesbefore prayer.And over here was a room in which they slept.And here on the other side was a small kitchen and tablewhere they could eat.

    • 27:24

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: And over here was the actual mosque.

    • 27:27

      EMIR VAJRACA: And then the local policeshowed up, my friends amongst them.My old neighbor, Zeka.His nickname Zeka-- last name Zec.My old neighbor who pretended he didn't know me,said that he wants to kill them all.I said, "You can kill them.

    • 27:48

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: First you have to kill me, then you can kill them."Then the determination was born in me--determination, desire, to help those peopleup there as much as I can.

    • 28:07

      SABINA VAJRACA: When I found out that he stayed in Bosniaduring that whole time because he wanted to help other people,I understood why.And it was hard for us to live for three years without him.And it was specifically hard for my mom.But it would have been harder for all those peoplewho didn't get out.

    • 28:26

      EMIR VAJRACA: There was no food in the city.So, with the help of a Croatian humanitarian organization,we organized convoys to Zagreb.

    • 28:33

      LILI VAJRACA: It was a big job to organize one convoy.From this paper to that paper, various permissionslips and clearance forms.We had to get over 20 permission slips from civilian police,to UNPROFOR police, from one checkpoint to another.You have to pass through three countries to get to Zagreb.

    • 28:54

      LILI VAJRACA [continued]: We had to go through all that, haveall those papers in perfect order,so someone wouldn't send us back.And while I worked on that, until my departurefrom Banja Luka in October of '94, it functioned well.We managed to have about 40 to 50 convoys.That's 600 to 700 trucks altogether.We brought tons and tons of food into Banja Luka,which was distributed to civilians

    • 29:15

      LILI VAJRACA [continued]: at various pick-up points.[Waterfront Studenac.Banja Luka, Bosnia]

    • 29:30

      SPEAKER 7: Emir!

    • 29:32

      EMIR VAJRACA: Oh, look at Pop!

    • 29:36

      SPEAKER 7: I got myself in shape!

    • 29:37

      EMIR VAJRACA: Look at you, like a young man!

    • 29:41

      SPEAKER 7: When did you get here?

    • 29:43

      EMIR VAJRACA: Two nights ago.

    • 29:45

      SPEAKER 7: Are you going to join us?Are you going to stay for awhile?

    • 29:48

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes, yes.I'm just going to take my wife on the boat for a bit.All right, see you.

    • 29:53


    • 29:55

      ZELJKO KOPANJA: In general, all of us in Banja Lukadid not know what was going on at night, during the policecurfew.We did not know what was going on around us.Zeljko Kopanja.Editor-in-chief, Nezavisne Novine.But it was different.At that point it was a city of darkness.A city that was taken into the hands of mediocre people.People who lacked the intelligence

    • 30:16

      ZELJKO KOPANJA [continued]: to run a city such as Banja Luka.Everything changed and hysteria took over.

    • 30:35

      BILJANA VAJRACA: I mean, maybe some oblivious people did notfeel it, but it was really indescribable.You'd be walking down the street and keepchecking if someone was coming towards you.Because they had the right to do whateverthey wanted-- to arrest you, to harass you.

    • 30:57

      SPEAKER 8: This is the famous beach Studenac.Where always, at anytime, day or night,old buddies would get together, friends acquaintances.This was a place where you always had drink, food,and various gatherings.Hearts.

    • 31:17

      SPEAKER 8 [continued]: And enjoyed yourself.

    • 31:28

      SABINA VAJRACA: Were you here the whole time?

    • 31:30

      SPEAKER 9: The whole time, yes.

    • 31:33

      SABINA VAJRACA: How was it?A man has to survive, right?

    • 31:37

      SPEAKER 9: I am the one who knows how it was.I am the one who knows how it was,and want to keep it that way.

    • 31:50

      EMIR VAJRACA: Then the Republika Srpska started to fall apart.The Croatian army started advancing.Our own Bosnian army became more active.Serb refugees flooded Banja Luka.And that is when true lawlessness really took over.People would be walking down the street,and there would always be some informant with them,

    • 32:11

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: telling them, "this is a Muslim house.This is a Muslim apartment."They would just come in to your house, fully armed,and say, "get out."You couldn't even take a pair of socks with you.Only a little bag and, "Get out!""This is now mine, not yours."[Emir's Friend's House, Recently Reclaimed]

    • 32:29

      EMIR VAJRACA: This looks so different.

    • 32:31

      SPEAKER 10: See how it is, Emir.We just got here.The people got out of Aljo's house the other day.Suha got hers as well.

    • 32:39

      EMIR VAJRACA: Oh, she did.

    • 32:39

      SPEAKER 10: Yes.Now everyone-- the entire house is back.

    • 32:43

      EMIR VAJRACA: Let's go take a look.

    • 32:46

      SPEAKER 11: Come on.Come on.

    • 32:55

      EMIR VAJRACA: Just to take a look.

    • 32:56

      SPEAKER 11: Here, look around.You can start from here.Down there, the parquet.This was all ruined.

    • 33:07

      EMIR VAJRACA: Mmm hmm.

    • 33:13

      SPEAKER 11: They took everything.It happened to everyone.It's the same with Aljo downstairs.It's all the's unbelievable.He even met with the occupant, and she said she would leave.But when he arrived, she had come in the daybefore, and taken all his things.

    • 33:39

      SPEAKER 11 [continued]: I got my house back last year.So I renovated it already as much as I could.

    • 33:42

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.Yes.

    • 33:48

      SABINA VAJRACA: So, do you think that Banja Luka will go backto the way it was?

    • 33:53

      SPEAKER 11: Never.It will never go back.

    • 33:55

      SABINA VAJRACA: The new citizens--

    • 33:57

      SPEAKER 12: Simply because--you are familiar with the fact that Banja Lukawas a multi-ethnic city.However, what happened, happened in a matter of a few months,that 16 mosques were wiped off the face of the earth.

    • 34:13

      SPEAKER 11: Yes.

    • 34:15

      SPEAKER 12: And Banja Luka's famous Ferhadija mosque wasdestroyed.

    • 34:19

      EMIR VAJRACA: It was the middle of the night.I was up there in the apartment when somethingexploded-- woke me up.I said to myself, "there goes one of the mosques."And in the morning, I was walking to work, to the office,and I ran into a woman who worked for Merhamet.Her name escapes me no.

    • 34:41

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: She was crying and said, "Have you seen what they did to us?"I said, "they destroyed Armaudija,such a beautiful mosque."She said, "not only Arnaudija, Ferhaija is gone as well."When I got there, they were not letting anyone near.I said, "I have to go in, our offices are in there.

    • 35:03

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: I work for Merhamet."FERHADIJA MOSQUE.Built 1579, Destroyed 1993.

    • 35:35


    • 35:54

      EMIR VAJRACA: What I miss most--my father-in-law bought some land outsideof Banja Luka, an old apple orchard, four acres altogether.And we built a house there--a country house.I really loved it there.

    • 36:20

      SPEAKER 13: [SPEAKING NON-ENGLISH][Sabina's Grandfather's Country House, Occupied]

    • 36:29

      EMIR VAJRACA: Good afternoon.

    • 36:31

      SPEAKER 14: Good afternoon.Can I help you?

    • 36:32

      EMIR VAJRACA: I'm sorry, this is my house.It belongs to my wife and my father-in-law.

    • 36:38

      SPEAKER 14: Good afternoon.

    • 36:39

      SPEAKER 15: Good afternoon.Please sit down.

    • 36:42

      EMIR VAJRACA: We'd like to go and take a look around and seesome trees that I planted.

    • 36:46

      SPEAKER 14: It's fine.No problem.

    • 36:53

      EMIR VAJRACA: So Sabina, the idea here wasfrom your first New Year on, we would always buy a live pinetree, and then after the New Yearwe'd bring it here and plant it.As you would get bigger, so would

    • 37:15

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: each of these white pines.Here, I think is the first one.

    • 37:32

      SABINA VAJRACA: My mom was telling usthe story behind this is that they just moved in because, youknow, they just moved in.It was an empty house and they just took it over.And they told my grandfather-- well, it's ours now.You can't make us leave.You can't have it.And he's afraid that if he forces him to leave,

    • 37:53

      SABINA VAJRACA [continued]: that they'll destroy everything--burn everything to the ground.[CHICKENS CLUCKING]

    • 38:09

      EMIR VAJRACA: Why is this separated like this?

    • 38:11

      SPEAKER 16: We're planting down there,so we don't want the chickens to get to it.

    • 38:14

      EMIR VAJRACA: We had a garden down there as well.

    • 38:16

      SPEAKER 16: SPEAKER: 16: : We don't want the chickens to getthere.

    • 38:19

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yeah.Yeah.

    • 38:43

      SPEAKER 16: I don't live here.I live in Laktasi.

    • 38:46

      SABINA VAJRACA: In Laktasi?

    • 38:48

      SPEAKER: Yes.My in-laws live here.

    • 38:50

      SABINA VAJRACA: Uh huh.

    • 38:52

      SPEAKER 16: So we come to visit.

    • 38:53

      SABINA VAJRACA: For the weekend?

    • 38:54

      SPEAKER 16: Yeah, with the kids.It's beautiful here.

    • 39:06

      SABINA VAJRACA: Good afternoon.

    • 39:08


    • 39:21

      EMIR VAJRACA: Thank you very much.

    • 39:22

      SPEAKER 16: You should have stayed for a drink.

    • 39:23

      EMIR VAJRACA: No, thank you.We still have a lot to see.Thank you.

    • 39:27

      SPEAKER 16: It's OK.[CHICKEN CLUCKING]Goodbye.

    • 39:46

      SABINA VAJRACA: So what did you say, Mom?Is this theirs?Did Grandpa give it to them?

    • 39:50

      AIDA VAJRACA: It still belongs to Grandpa.

    • 39:52

      EMIR VAJRACA: The court gave it back to him.But he let them stay there, so they can take care of it.But you saw how they are taking care of it.

    • 40:04

      SABINA VAJRACA: Did you ask the man about it?

    • 40:06

      EMIR VAJRACA: Well, he said that he cleared out the frontso they can walk around.For the rest he said, "it's not mine.I don't want to take care of it."

    • 40:26

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 40:59

      EMIR VAJRACA: Due to circumstances,when the Serb officials caught me in 1995,[Banka Luka Cemetery]I had to go to work duty up at the cemetery, as a gravedigger.In the end I was really happy to have it.

    • 41:22

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: I could discover where the unknown bodies were buried,and I saw a lot of things.

    • 41:32

      SABINA VAJRACA: Mustafa.

    • 41:33

      EMIR VAJRACA: Uh huh.See, '95 was the first.The first morning that I came to the cemetery for work dutythey sent me over here.I didn't even know--I wouldn't of been at his funeral.But here I was, due to the circumstances.He was a barber from when I was a kid,

    • 41:55

      EMIR VAJRACA [continued]: and for years to come he cut our hair.May he rest in peace.Do you want to see where the unknown bodies are buried?

    • 42:12


    • 42:13

      EMIR VAJRACA: OK.Let's go this way.

    • 42:33

      SABINA VAJRACA: Excuse me.What's going on here?

    • 42:35

      SPEAKER 17: Excuse me, but who are you?[LAUGHTER]

    • 42:37

      SABINA VAJRACA: Who are we, who are you?

    • 42:39

      SPEAKER 17: This is the Federal Commission for Missing People.And I am the representative for Republika Srpska.

    • 42:46

      EMIR VAJRACA: I am Emir Vajraca.Coincidentally, I know who these people are.

    • 42:51

      SPEAKER 18: They are no longer here.

    • 42:54

      EMIR VAJRACA: They were taken out, all of them?

    • 42:55

      SPEAKER 18: About a year and a half ago we took all of themout, except for one.

    • 42:58

      EMIR VAJRACA: Who are you looking for?Who is still here?Cmi?

    • 43:01

      SPEAKER 18: No, Cmi was dug up.

    • 43:03


    • 43:20

      JASMIN ODOBASIC: This case is particular becauseof the following.Jasmin Odobasic, Deputy Head, Commission for Missing PeopleEight civilians from Prijedor weretaken to the concentration camp Manjaca, locatedon the military base of the former Yugoslavian NationalArmy in the region of Banja Luka.A local commander of the camp did not allow them to enter,so the Serb militia executed them, and threw them

    • 43:43

      JASMIN ODOBASIC [continued]: into the river Vrbas.They floated down the river Vrbas,until they reached Banja Luka, wherethey were pulled out by Serb officials and hidden up here.

    • 44:39


    • 44:43

      SABINA VAJRACA: Are the rest of these people your family,or did you come here alone?

    • 44:47

      SPEAKER 20: No, this is my brother and my sisterand another brother up there.

    • 44:51

      SABINA VAJRACA: How do you know this could be your father?

    • 44:54

      SPEAKER 20: We'll see soon if we're right.

    • 45:44

      JASMIN ODOBASIC: The second case is specific to the timewhen the Serbs occupied the city of Kotor Varos.This man was taken to a hospital in Banja Luka,and under unexplained circumstances was found dead.Whether he died or was killed willbe established by our doctors once they perform an autopsy.His family requested this.

    • 46:09

      EMIR VAJRACA: In Sanski Most thereare 600 exhumed bodies prepared for DNA analysis and such.So, what do you think about changingour plans a little bit so we can go there and shoot, and see it?

    • 46:26

      SABINA VAJRACA: Sure.[Identification Hall, Sanski Most, Bosnia]

    • 47:27

      EMIR VAJRACA: We were at the exhumation in Banja Lukayesterday.We were pulling this one out, and theysaid that we can shoot inside.I was looking for Mr. Sljivar, but I couldn't find him.

    • 47:38

      SPEAKER 21: I don't know.He's probably at his house.Did you go there?

    • 47:41

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes, we called him at home, but he wasn't home.So, could we just go in?

    • 47:45

      SPEAKER 21: Well, he told me specifically notto let anyone in without him here.

    • 47:57

      EMIR VAJRACA: If you think about it, Sabina,those were all people--had their own hopes, their wishes, their kids, wives,their mothers.

    • 48:15

      SABINA VAJRACA: Are you from around here?

    • 48:16

      SPEAKER 21: Yes, from Sanski Most.

    • 48:19

      SABINA VAJRACA: Did you lose anyone?

    • 48:21

      SPEAKER 21: Yes, my brother.Same way as this.He was killed just before the liberation.He was a civilian.By Arkan's men.There was a trial in the Hague, just four or five days go.

    • 48:37

      SABINA VAJRACA: Who's trial?

    • 48:39

      SPEAKER 21: Milosevic's.One of them survived, from Kijuc.They showed a photo of my brother.Thirteen of them died, in Trn, a village up there, in a garage.They were slaughtered.Same as this.It's all the same.

    • 49:02

      SPEAKER 22: Can I ask you please, is there any way for meto go only up to that door?That's all I need.

    • 49:08

      SPEAKER 21: I know what you want,but you need to understand my position as well.

    • 49:11

      SPEAKER 22: No, no, I completely understand your position.But I'm just asking if there's any chance--I'm not going to go inside.

    • 49:15

      EMIR VAJRACA: He's not going to go inside.

    • 49:16

      SPEAKER 22: Only up to that door.Please.Please.

    • 49:19

      SPEAKER 21: All right, but just for a minute.

    • 50:13

      EMIR VAJRACA: All right.I think this is enough.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 50:37

      SABINA VAJRACA: I left in such circumstancesthat I never said goodbye.You know, I never said goodbye to the city.I never left thinking I wasn't going to come back.And-- and in all this time, livingin Croatia and in America, I don't want to go live there.But it's the thought-- that was my roots, my home.You know, the ultimate home with a capital H is there.

    • 51:05

      EMIR VAJRACA: Are we going in to together?Aida, don't be getting too excited now.There's no reason.

    • 51:12

      SABINA VAJRACA: What's wrong, mom?Are you nervous?

    • 51:14


    • 51:15

      EMIR VAJRACA: Here, this is ours.Number six.[Vajraca Family Apartment, Occupied]

    • 51:28

      SABINA VAJRACA: Mom, what's wrong?[KNOCKING]

    • 51:35

      EMIR VAJRACA: Good afternoon.

    • 51:37

      AIDA VAJRACA: Good afternoon.

    • 51:37

      EMIR VAJRACA: Excuse us.How are you?

    • 51:40

      RADE: Good I'm Rade.

    • 51:41

      EMIR VAJRACA: Don't you remember me?I'm Emir Vajraca.

    • 51:45

      RADE: Oh, now I remember.Good, good.Welcome, come on in.

    • 51:49

      EMIR VAJRACA: This is my wife.

    • 51:50

      AIDA VAJRACA: Nice to meet you.I'm Aida.

    • 51:51

      EMIR VAJRACA: My daughter, my brother, some of our friends.We just came to take a look.

    • 52:01

      LILI VAJRACA: We're sorry to bother you.Good afternoon.

    • 52:08

      EMIR VAJRACA: Our lamp.And the picture.[INTERPOSING VOICES]

    • 52:31

      RADE: This is Emir.

    • 52:34

      EMIR VAJRACA: So that's how it is, you know.As I told you before, all my things were left in my housesand now they are gone.

    • 52:40

      SABINA VAJRACA: Where did you come from?

    • 52:41

      RADE: Bosanka Krupa.

    • 52:43

      SABINA VAJRACA: And you cannot go back?

    • 52:46

      RADE: Little girl, anyone can go back to anywhere they want.But it's not the same.

    • 52:50

      SABINA VAJRACA: Yeah, it's the same for us.

    • 52:52

      RADE: C'mon, these are old-wives tales, all of that.What can you do?There is no work anywhere.

    • 53:04

      AIDA VAJRACA: Do you remember when I replaced the tiles?

    • 53:07

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes.Yes of course.

    • 53:09

      AIDA VAJRACA: You were away on a business trip,and I smashed it all and changed it.My god, how much strength I used to have, and enthusiasm.And love.

    • 53:27

      EMIR VAJRACA: Do you remember these little birds?

    • 53:29

      AIDA VAJRACA: Yeah.Holy

    • 53:32

      EMIR VAJRACA: Look at it, please-- our pitcher.[CHILDREN LAUGHING]

    • 54:04

      SABINA VAJRACA: Was there any of my stuff left?Cause I didn't take anything.I don't know if dad sent anything.

    • 54:11

      SPEAKER 23: I don't know.There might be some books there.I don't know.

    • 54:24

      SABINA VAJRACA: So when did you get out?

    • 54:26

      SPEAKER 23: In '95.

    • 54:28

      SABINA VAJRACA: And you came straight to Banja Luka?

    • 54:30

      SPEAKER 23: Yes.Yes.

    • 54:33

      SABINA VAJRACA: And what are you going to do now?Since, you know, we are looking to reclaim this apartment?

    • 54:39

      SPEAKER 23: I understand.

    • 54:40

      SABINA VAJRACA: Do you have any plans?

    • 54:42

      SPEAKER 23: We'll sort it out.Not in front of the cameras.

    • 54:44

      SABINA VAJRACA: OK.OK.No problem.

    • 54:49

      SPEAKER 23: I mean, of course we have plans.Everyone has them.

    • 54:52

      SABINA VAJRACA: Of course.Of course.Did you go to college?Cause I think we're the same age.

    • 54:58

      SPEAKER 23: I was born in '77.

    • 54:59

      SABINA VAJRACA: Yeah, me too.

    • 55:00

      SPEAKER 23: I graduated in economics about a year ago.And you?

    • 55:06

      SABINA VAJRACA: Directing.I'm a director, in America.

    • 55:14

      SPEAKER 23: Great.

    • 55:15

      SABINA VAJRACA: OK, let's go sit down.This was ours as well.We kept our slippers in here.

    • 55:26

      EMIR VAJRACA: If we decide to sell,and my wife and I agree to do that,you'll be the first to know.

    • 55:33

      RADE: You and I arranged this in the most human way possible,the most correct way, under the circumstances.

    • 55:41

      EMIR VAJRACA: The most correct way that was possible, yes.

    • 55:45

      RADE: Circumstances were no normal.The circumstances were not normal.

    • 55:48

      SPEAKER 23: Can you please turn this off?Because I came out at 5:30 in the morning.

    • 55:53

      SABINA VAJRACA: I don't understand

    • 55:55

      SPEAKER 23: Could you please switch off?

    • 55:57


    • 55:58

      SPEAKER 23: You can't?

    • 55:59

      AIDA VAJRACA: Emir, can you ask her?

    • 56:00

      EMIR VAJRACA: What is the problem?

    • 56:01

      SPEAKER 23: I don't think that conversations such as thisshould be recorded.

    • 56:06

      EMIR VAJRACA: Why?This is our-- no one is lying.

    • 56:09

      SPEAKER 23: Fine

    • 56:13

      EMIR VAJRACA: You dad was fair.

    • 56:14

      SPEAKER 23: Fine.

    • 56:15

      EMIR VAJRACA: And I would never--

    • 56:16

      SPEAKER 23: Fine.

    • 56:18

      RADE: It's no problem.No problem.

    • 56:20

      SPEAKER 23: Fine.

    • 56:23

      RADE: He was honest towards me and Iwill be honest towards him.We're in a bit of an uncomfortable situation.

    • 56:31

      EMIR VAJRACA: It's not uncomfortable.You know how it is, with the current law.Everything that was done here, all the arrangementsare now invalid-- legally invalid.And I would gladly sell this, if Iwasn't connected, for example, to my table, my rug.

    • 56:49

      SPEAKER 24: But those are all pretty worthless thingsin the end.I mean, they are valuable emotionally,but in a materialistic sense--

    • 56:58

      AIDA VAJRACA: Materialistic value is not as important to usas our emotions, our heart.And you probably have your own.To Something that was your first.

    • 57:11

      SPEAKER 24: I do, mom but I'm--

    • 57:12

      AIDA VAJRACA: Do you feel connected to it?

    • 57:13

      SPEAKER 24: Yes, but--

    • 57:14

      AIDA VAJRACA: Do you want it back?Your memories, your emotions?

    • 57:17

      SPEAKER 24: Of course.

    • 57:18

      AIDA VAJRACA: That's what it's all about.You should find a motive to go yourself.I didn't come here to--

    • 57:28

      SPEAKER 23: Ma'am we have a motive.Believe me, we are perfectly motivated.I think we are just as motivated as you.I don't see any difference.Isn't that right?

    • 57:41

      EMIR VAJRACA: Yes, but I didn't throw anyone outof their own house.Young lady, I didn't move into anyone's-- do you understand?

    • 57:47

      SPEAKER 23: Yes, I understand.

    • 57:48

      EMIR VAJRACA: I had to buy it all again.

    • 57:51

      AIDA VAJRACA: I didn't take anyone's, nor am I sittingon anyone's.

    • 57:56

      SPEAKER 23: Yes.

    • 57:58

      RADE: Well, I was just on my way out.

    • 57:60

      EMIR VAJRACA: Sure, sure, we need to get going as well.Thank you very much.You really received us nicely.

    • 58:05

      RADE: Don't mention it.

    • 58:12

      SPEAKER 23: This camera is really getting on my nerves.

    • 58:18

      RADE: OK, are we going to wrap it up?

    • 58:19

      AIDA VAJRACA: We're going.We're going.

    • 58:21

      SPEAKER 23: I think the cameras are really stupid.It's nice that you stopped by, but the cameras are reallystarting to irritate me.

    • 58:30

      SABINA VAJRACA: I mean, we are shooting--

    • 58:32

      SPEAKER 23: I don't care.I really don't care.

    • 58:36

      SABINA VAJRACA: I understand that you don't care,but if you went back to your home and cried.

    • 58:40

      SPEAKER 23: I did go.You don't have to explain any of that to me.I already know all about that, you understand?But I didn't go there with cameras, you understand.

    • 58:47

      SABINA VAJRACA: OK, but this is my profession.

    • 58:50

      SPEAKER 23: I don't care about that.

    • 58:51

      SABINA VAJRACA: Well, I do.

    • 58:52

      SPEAKER 23: So I could go and do my profession.

    • 58:56

      SABINA VAJRACA: Sure, you could do whatever you want.

    • 58:59

      SPEAKER 23: No I can't.

    • 58:60

      SABINA VAJRACA: This is my profession.You can do yours wherever you want.

    • 59:04

      SPEAKER 23: What is your profession?For you to come here and--

    • 59:07

      SABINA VAJRACA: This is my apartment.

    • 59:09

      SPEAKER 23: No, it's not.

    • 59:10

      RADE: Alex, Alex, why are you--

    • 59:11

      SPEAKER 23: This is my apartment.

    • 59:12

      SABINA VAJRACA: We did not see the apartment.I can come into my own apartment and do my profession.

    • 59:18

      SPEAKER 23: No you can't because this is not your apartment yet.Do you understand?

    • 59:23

      SABINA VAJRACA: I don't want to argue with you.

    • 59:25

      SPEAKER 23: I don't want to either.

    • 59:26

      SABINA VAJRACA: But there was no timethat this was not my apartment.For the last ten years, this was still our apartment.

    • 59:32

      RADE: Alex.

    • 59:33

      SPEAKER 23: That's not true.

    • 59:34

      RADE: Alex.

    • 59:34

      SABINA VAJRACA: Then who's is it?Yours?

    • 59:36

      RADE: Alex, Alex, why are you getting yourself involved?

    • 59:38

      SPEAKER 24: I mean, kids, this has nothing to do with you.Their emotions run a little higher.

    • 59:44

      AIDA VAJRACA: Yes.

    • 59:44

      SABINA VAJRACA: It belongs to my mo and dad.

    • 59:48

      SPEAKER 23: And my mom and dad.

    • 59:50

      SABINA VAJRACA: Did they give a penny for this apartment?

    • 59:53

      SPEAKER 23: And did your parents?

    • 59:54

      RADE: Alex.Alex, stop it.

    • 59:56

      SPEAKER 23: I don't want to get into thisin front of my parents.[CRYING]

    • 01:00:28

      SPEAKER 23 [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 01:00:51

      SPEAKER 23 [continued]: [Court House, Banja Luka, Bosnia]

    • 01:01:11

      AIDA VAJRACA: Here,this is what we got.Look.Order from the court and it says, "in the building,to be returned on the second floor, a space of 70square meters, in the type 4 building, free of people

    • 01:01:31

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: and their things, within 30 days from the day of this decision,all under the threat of forced eviction."

    • 01:03:26

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 01:03:51

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 01:04:20

      AIDA VAJRACA: Banja Luka is in my heart,and it will always be there.When I say, "Banja Luka," I feel like I could cry.But I couldn't live there anymore.If if could be the way it was, happily.But this isn't it.This is no longer it.

    • 01:04:44

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 01:05:05

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING][Directed by Sabina Vajraca][Produced by Ali Hanson and Sabina Vajraca][Associate Producer Loren Bevans][Director of Photography Damir Okanovic]

    • 01:05:27

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: [Sound by Mark Huang][Edited by Ali Hanson][Story consultant Fernanda Rossi][Original music by Jon Crider][Cinematographer Florida Bill McClane,Additional Camera Bosina Loren Bevans, Alison Hanson][Mascott David Konschnik, Interns Sean Stanciott,

    • 01:05:49

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: Renee Reyerson, Elizabeth Schroeder][Original Photographs by Ron Haviv VII, Archival Footageprovided by JRTVSBIH, Translated by Sabina Vajraca and AdrianSulemanpasic][Final song, "S vrha Sehitluka" performed by Almir Lucevicand Jon Crider][Major funding provided by Visa / MSN Ideas Happen 2003.Thank you to all our friends, and friends of friends,for voting for us!Distribution Support Provided by New York State Councilon the Arts, Electronic Media and Film Program][The producers would like to thank the followingindividuals, without whose help and support, this filmcould not have been made.Academy of BiH, Alma Premeri Zoki, Aladin Telealagic,Andrew Walker, Bill Stone, Bill and Susan Valentine,Bruce and Jeanne Lubin, Clair McAuliffe, Diana DeVegh,Don Reese, Emir and Aida Vajraca, Esed and Ajsa Vajraca,Greg Oviatt, Hello World Comm, Jasmina Kavazovic, Jeff Rabb,

    • 01:06:09

      AIDA VAJRACA [continued]: Joanne Smith, Katherin Coventry, Kemal Alibegovic, Liki Vajraca,Maggie Tauranac, Merry Conway, Mike Ferrari, Nikolo Zoko,Nizama Korajkic, Paul Hanson, Predrag Vekic, Robert Kruljiac,Robert Riger, Ruth Larson, Sara Terry,Sibyl Hanson,Ted Schillinger.And to all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina who contributedtheir stories to the making of this film.]

Back to Bosnia

View Segments Segment :


Eight years after the war in Bosnia, a family of refugees returns to reclaim their stolen property and face the loss of their homeland. The father, Emir, stayed in Bosnia for three years to help refugees and people in concentration camps. Together they visit sites where mosques were destroyed and Bosnian Muslims were buried anonymously.

Back to Bosnia

Eight years after the war in Bosnia, a family of refugees returns to reclaim their stolen property and face the loss of their homeland. The father, Emir, stayed in Bosnia for three years to help refugees and people in concentration camps. Together they visit sites where mosques were destroyed and Bosnian Muslims were buried anonymously.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website

Back to Top