Bosnian Trail of Tears

Pt.1 - The Past Through the Eyes of a Child
By Mensur Ganibegovic
Freelance writer, journalist – Bosnia - U.S

Sipovo, Bosnia - All of the elementary class students stood up, all awaiting a man dressed in black robes shortly making his way into the class. His eye brows appeared sharp and thick, his beard was black and quite lengthy. From his neck, and close to his chest hung a big cross. He organized himself as he looked at us in a rather mean manner. Thereafter he informs all of the students in our class that they should stand up, and make the sign of the cross along with him before he begins to preach. All of the students stood up, all of them Christian, all but me; I being the only Muslim kid left in the whole entire Bosnian Elementary School of the town of Sipovo. They began crossing themselves, as I was positioned in the last row of the class; I calmly stood up, and sneaked my way out of the class. Finding my little found freedom, I sprinted home like a rabbit across the hills overlooking my house about 2 kilometers away from the school. I felt confused, nervous and scared, for this type of religious preaching was something newly introduced to the school as the ethnic crisis kept intensifying in the country.

Talk of War

That was me, Mensur Ganibegovic, some eighteen years ago in the midst of the troubled country of Bosnia. I am now twenty-four years old, nevertheless I recall nearly everything that occurred, remembering it all too well as if it was almost yesterday. I was born January 1st, 1985 in a small town of Sipovo, Bosnia, surrounded by beautiful green mountains, rivers and beautiful climates of all sorts. I was born into a Muslim family, even though my family rarely ever practicing Islam, they were to some or other extent nevertheless aware of Islam and some of its tenets, especially my grandparents who lived in the villages surrounding Sipovo. We lived in the city, and our house was stationed at a beautiful neighborhood composed both of Christians and Muslims alike; all seemingly cooperative people disregarding their differences. Our family had nearly everything - my dad had finished military service, and thereafter graduated from a technical school and soon afterwards found a job at a local mall. At the mall he had a high position, and thus the pay was always good. My mother on the other hand, worked at a clothing company, being satisfied with her work, she always enjoyed her position there along with other Muslim women. My bigger brother at that time was like me, a simple school kid experiencing the ‘big world’ as a child normally would. We had nearly everything a structured family would wish for; a nice four story house, several cars, a weekend house, and a fair deal of wealth and provision. This life of ours was prior to the war, a good life, especially for me, a six year old kid at that time enjoying my childhood years to the fullest.


My childhood friends were nearly all Christians, I being a Muslim amongst them. During the war we became enemies, but before the war we were friends. We were kids; we did not know anything about life, let alone religion, so we really never engaged in such talk. Rather, we had fun together from sunrise to sunset. Nobody ever bothered us, life was wonderful for us, and our future was bright.

In my early years I attended kindergarten like other kids, after that I began to attended the local elementary school, full of children, both Muslim and non Muslim alike. I remember crying as a little boy because I did not want to begin school, I did not like school much at that time, however nevertheless my parents obviously enrolled me therein. Soon it became normal for me, whereby I found many students and colleagues as myself with whom I spent a great deal of time with learning and reading. Those years were good to us, and our future seemed bright, so at least we thought. However in 1991, the trouble destined to be begin began as the socialist government slowly crumbled, thereof splitting former Yugoslav states such as Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Bosnia apart from each other. This led to each state forming its own republic based upon political, ethnic and at times religious movements that started to spread wide and far across the Balkans.

At that time I was only seven years old and had almost finishing my elementary school. My family kept tuning into the news every now and then as political words formed into ideas, and ideas into an out break of war amongst the Yugoslav ethnic peoples. The masses in general could not believe it, nobody thought it would get this far, nobody though the political leaders would take it this deep. However they did, and especially the Serb politicians who began to abuse Socialist power for the benefit of the ideology of a “Greater Serbia.” The socialist parliament kept dissolving as Radovan Karadzic, a Serbian radical politician, kept adding fire to fire instead of water by announcing to Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Muslim president at the time, live on public TV the following message:


“Do not think that you cannot take Bosnia to Hell and maybe its people to possible extinction! Because Muslim peoples do not have the means to defend themselves if war is to occur...”


These words to some extent became a reality; Bosnia began tasting the hell of this world. Ethnic majorities and minorities kept dying frequently and rapidly as the war progressed, Muslims started suffering at the hands of the aggressors. Serbs and Croats kept attacking the Muslims; it was easy for them to do so because they possessed the best of weapons that once belonged to the Socialist Yugoslav Peoples Army. The aggressors, Bosnian Serbs and Croats alike began using such weapons against each other and especially against Muslims within Bosnian cities such as Sarajevo, Zenica, Travnik, Novi Travnik, Tuzla, Jajce, Banjaluka, Visoko and so on thereby carelessly killing and burning Muslim cities, towns, villages and as well as Muslim holy sites, all which began to lift themselves up in flames.


Mensur Ganibegovic is a Bosnian freelance writer and journalist based in the U.S.

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