Vahidin Omanović

". . . I did not want to sit down with Serbs because I believed I would feel hate. When I interacted with Serbs, they had a darkness in them I cannot explain. I thought I would feel hate. I was so afraid of my reaction. But as soon as I sat down and looked at them, they looked so miserable, I felt, “God, I don’t hate them. I feel sorry for them.” And I was glad I was a victim, rather than a victimizer. I realized that I could live with nightmares of being chased or killed, but what victims have to go through isn’t as shameful as what perpetrators have to go through. Perpetrators have to face the fact that they have caused tremendous suffering. They have to do this without hardening their hearts in self-defense against the victims’ hatred and accusation of them. Healing is harder for perpetrators than for victims. Victims merely have to tell their own truth."

Milka Marinković

If we could dissuade the next generation from war then we might be able to restore integrity and authenticity. If I could regain my integrity, I would be able look to the future with more hope. I would feel that anything is possible. I still haven’t fully recuperated from the fear. I don’t think anyone has really recuperated. I am not sure what the trauma and the continued tension has done to people’s hearts, but individually and collectively we need to take care that the norms of civilization are truly normal. We need to help others during their healing processes and not let evil spread.

Sabiha Husić

"Wartime showed us that it’s very important to be human. I don’t pay attention to who practices what religion, Catholic, Muslim or whatever. I always just look at people and find something good in everyone. God helped my family, and I remain open to Him. He helped me understand we would all return to Him. I have a feeling that we’re here under observation, as if we’re at a life exam. I believe one should work hard to pass this exam. My feeling is that people who have genocide in their history need to help themselves first. Then they need to help other people. Peace is a long process. Forgiveness is important. For some people, it is very difficult. But forgiveness opens the door for our soul."

Senka Jakupović

Devotion to family...
Devotion to family
"The love of my children and my husband has been the organizing principle in my life. It is my foundation. Living for others and providing an example for them has sustained me . . . Now I can come back to Prijedor, and nothing makes me too sad, although I still have not found my husband. That uncertainty is a heavy burden. I keep thinking about what a good person he was and how it is not fair. I think my children have the same thoughts. We can really hardly cope with it. In the face of such awful circumstances, you need reasons to go on living.

For me, my husband was always proud of me for looking nice. So I keep investing in my appearance. . . Of course sometimes I feel depressed and tired. It’s not easy. But it keeps me going to think of him saying, “You look so nice.” It keeps up my sense of pride."

Salih Rasavać

How did I survive? I’m not religious, so it wasn’t my religion that kept me going, although religion has helped a lot of my clients. From time to time I suggest to clients that they might try to use religion in their lives because people can find answers there, but what kept me going is that I’m an optimist. I believe in people. I saw people in need all around me, and I arranged with the municipality to get a building so that the refugees on the street had a place to stay. They gave me the key to a school sports facility. I met with some colleagues, and we organized and began doing humanitarian work. The work helped me. I wasn’t as concerned about myself anymore because I was taking care of others. It gave my life meaning and purpose.

Marijana Senjak

You had to preserve your own internal values, and you also had to survive. The question was, how much would you do in the name of survival and still respect yourself and keep your values? The difficulty came when you were in an extreme situation, your life was in danger or you didn’t have enough food for your child. Then you started grappling with inner dilemmas: Should I preserve my three-day food ration just for my baby, or should I try to preserve some for the other children as well? Every day during the war there were questions like that. Different people behaved in different ways.

Jakob Finci

During the war we organized a total of eleven evacuations. We helped 2500 people leave. About 1000 Jews and 1500 other people who were not of Jewish origin left. We mostly got people out without any problem. I think we were able to do that because of how we are accepted and treated by all three sides. At first it was unclear to me why we were able to get people out, but then I thought perhaps it was because we were helping everyone on a humanitarian basis, and they knew it, so people in town lined up to help us in return.

. . . I did it because it was my duty.

Vjekoslav Saje

Since my grandmother was a Jew, the Jewish community could have put us on a flight. But when someone from the Jewish community called and told us we should confirm the flight, I couldn’t do it. Bosnia and its people are so beautiful. The beauty is one reason I’ve stayed here, and I think this juxtaposition of destruction and beauty can happen anywhere. No one is protected from this. I am glad we stayed, but I am not sure I’d be glad about it if someone from my family had been killed.