Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Winter 1999. My crazy ass friend, Damir asked me one weekend. "Dude. what are you doing this Saturday?" I replied "Nothing man, but I planned to shovel my driveway" (which was packed with snow). "Why dont you follow me?" he said. "Where to?" I asked. "Sarajevo". The city I lived was Zagreb, Croatia and it's about 6 hours drive to Sarajevo.

A bit of history lesson here. Republica Sprska and Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina are 2 different political entities that made up Bosnia Herzegovina. You know the rest.

At that time, peace is still fragile and war in the Balkans could erupted again anytime. What the heck, I thought, I always wanted to go to Sarajevo.

So I said to Damir “Do you actually realize that you are a Croat and I am a Muslim?" He dismissed my concern right away and replied jokingly. “Yeah, yeah, I hate you and the Serbs, you hate me and the Serbs and the Serbs hate us both” I replied “Just making sure you are sane, man”. (To clarify, I dont hate Damir and Serbians)

Packing a few things, foodstuff in case we are going to be stranded, warm clothes since it’s winter we took off in his old Audi. I was concerned about our safety, since it was only just five years ago Serbs, Croats and Bosnian were at each others throat. But whatever worries I have I kept it to myself.

Luckily, nothing happened during the journey. I was overwhelmed to be in Sarajevo. Saw a lot of half standing buildings forever engraved with bullet holes. Damir drove us to his uncle’s place, a house that was already past its glory. “This is my uncle, and the wife is Serbian”. They invited us in and we were served local delicacies including the famous burek. I asked Damir if they lived by themselves. “2 sons were killed during the war, and a daughter migrated to Australia” I didnt know what to say to them and offered my condolences.

The next morning, Damir took me to Sniper’s Alley where running civilians were singled out and killed by snipers, the open air market where 66 Muslims and Serbs were killed by a shell and wounded 200 more while shopping for their daily groceries and the Holiday Inn Sarajevo where journalists camped and covered the war.

I met Serbians, Bosnian and Croats and every single one of them have stories to tell about the war. Translated by Damir, I just listened intently without saying anything.

On our way back to Zagreb, I told Damir that I couldn’t tell the difference between Serbian, Bosnians and Croat by looking at their faces. Damir sighed and said “Before the war, I can’t either” .

I was lost in my thought and felt overwhelmed by the experience. How could it be, here in Sarajevo, people of the same race, with the same physical appearances, speaking the same language, though differed in their religion mercilessly slaughter each other ?

I remembered being grateful that I am a Malaysian.

However, I also remembered thinking, if this happened in Malaysia with its 3 different major races, with contrasting physical appearances, and with each races practicing different religion, Sarajevo will definately be pale in comparison.


rudi said...

A good post dude. Hope to hear more. Probably some day I will share mine. How about Saddam and I...

Mr Hobo said...

same bangsa ... different religion .... killing each other, what does that tell u?

Desparil said...

people like to focus more on the differences rather than what we have in common.. what to do?

Mya said...

At one time even the Malays who are of the same religon n speaks the same language but from different states don't see eye to eye. 'Semangat kenegerian' they call a certain extent ISA make sense.

akula said...

mya: ah yes. and still going on until today.