Bosnia – Srebrenica Massacre Victims’ Personal Items Help Keep Memories Alive
Date: February 13, 2020
Dzejma Pasic holds a letter and photos of her children; her two sons were killed in what was ruled by a UN international court to have been genocide.
By Midhat Poturovic – February 7, 2020
Multiple sentimental personal items are being donated by many of the loved ones of the more than 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica massacre — nearly all of them Bosniaks — to the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.
Hundreds of items have been collected for the exhibit in the center’s museum, which lies next to a cemetery made for most of the thousands of victims of the genocidal massacre carried out by Serbian forces.
In addition to the personal objects of those killed, the collection also includes items found along sections of the so-called “Death Road” that was hurriedly trekked by hundreds of boys and men during the genocide. Some of them managed to reach freedom but many were killed and others have never been found.
Donating the items to the museum is difficult for many relatives, who often have nothing else to remind them of their slain family members. But they hope that by giving the personal belongings they can forever preserve the memory of those killed in the worst mass killing on European soil since World War II.
The memorial complex was built in the eastern Bosnian village of Potocari in 2003 to commemorate the victims of the genocide at Srebrenica.
Both sons of Dzejma Pasic were killed in the massacre. From the older son they found only two legs, and from the younger one nearly his entire skeleton. The elder son, Muhamed, was about to turn 19 when he was killed and the younger son, Muamer, was only 17 years old.
Begajeta Nukic has preserved these pants for 25 years since her husband, Sead, was killed. This is the only thing left from Sead, who tried to escape by fleeing through the forest from Srebrenica to Tuzla. Sead’s corpse has still not been found, though Begajeta and her two children are still hopeful it will be some day.
Rabija Avdic found her brother, Dzevad, in this sweater in a mass grave near Zvornik. This is the only memento left from the 23-year-old, who was captured at the beginning of the war and killed in the gymnasium of the Vuk Karadzic Elementary School, which had been turned into a place of internment.
Almost all of Ahmed Hrustanovic’s male family members were killed at Srebrenica. His father, together with two uncles, were killed in Kravice. Only parts of their bodies, found in three secondary mass graves, were buried at the Potocari cemetery. The only objects left from his father are some photos and about 100 letters that are, for Ahmed, the most important mementos.
The curator of the museum in Potocari, Azir Osmanovic, noted: “These letters and photographs are, to me, the most important thing in the world that I have. When I read these letters they bring me back to my childhood, bringing me back to the moments when I knew I had a father. Many, many emotions are there…. Every time when I start to read these letters it awakes strong emotions in me…. Even when I talk about it now my eyes are full of tears. This is something priceless that I have. Every word that my dad wrote, every greeting and every question of ‘how are you?’ and ‘what are you doing?’…somehow brings him back here with me to be, to live, to feel that he is here, that he was not some imaginary personality that I do not remember. Sometimes a man, in these fears and emotions, asks himself, ‘Did I really have a father?’ But then, when I see a letter, when I see a photo, I feel relieved. I decided to donate these letters and some of the photos to the museum. I have already given some originals and I will give some copies [of others].”