(4/4) “Years later, we found out, through a reconstruction based on stories from different people, that Sadif was seen carrying Enesa through the forest while she was already dead. People had told him to leave her body behind. Sadif had told them that he wouldn’t leave Enesa alone. Remains of Sadif’s body were only found in 2015. After finding out about Enesa’s death, my mother still took good care of the set of bedsheets. I could see there was something my mom was still struggling with. It took her years to finally tell me that, just before leaving Srebrenica, Enesa had told her that she was pregnant. My mother passed away in 2016. All those years she kept the set of sheets under her bed. Before finding out about Enesa’s death, the set symbolized hope. After they found her body, the set became a part of my sister that my mother carried with her. The big sheet I kept for my family. I have two daughters. I want them to know who their aunt was. They love seeing the sheet. One day I will pass it on to them and they will share the story of Enesa with their children. I decided to donate the pillowcases to the Srebrenica Memorial Center and the War Childhood Museum. If I kept them to myself, only my family would know about what happened to Enesa. This way, thewholeworldwillknow.”
(3/4) “Years went by without any information about what happened to Enesa and Sadif. My mom had put the set of bed sheets in a plastic cover under her bed. Once in a while, she would take them out of the cover to wash them. Sometimes she would sew a flower on it. After washing the sheets, she would carefully iron and fold them and then put them back into the plastic cover. We still had hope until we received a phone call from the Missing Persons Institute in 2002. They had found a body in the forest and, based on our DNA, it was a match. My mother and I had to come to the mortuary to identify. When we arrived, a staff member suggested it might be better if my mother didn’t go inside, so I went in by myself. They had found all her bones and, on a table, there was a red piece of cloth and some leather fabric. The doctor asked me if those were the clothes Enesa was wearing the day she left Srebrenica. I told him that I couldn’t know because I hadn’t seen Enesa in years. I went outside and asked my mother what Enesa wore the day she left. My mother said: ‘A red dress and a leather jacket.’ I said: ‘Mom, It’s Enesa’. She started crying. Until the last moment, my mother had remained hopeful. “
(2/4) ”Days went by and we didn’t hear from Enesa and Sadif. Every day new refugees came in from Srebrenica. My mother and I would go to the refugee camps and ask people if they had seen Enesa and Sadif. We would show them pictures but nobody recognized them. Every day, my mother would pray. While praying she would raise her hands and say: ‘Dear god, please show me where to look. Please let me understand what has happened to Enesa and Sadif.’ After one month of searching, we finally got some news. Someone told us that my sister was part of a group of people who tried to escape through the forest. She was seen resting with a wound in her belly. Later this was confirmed. People had seen Sadif carrying her through the forest. We kept searching for more information but found nothing. After 5 months we registered Enesa as a missing person. They took some blood samples and said they would let us know if there was any news.”
(1/4) ”Because of my father’s medical condition, we decided to try to go from Srebrenica to the city of Tuzla. My father and I managed to get on a truck. Unfortunately, my mother and sister could not get on a truck and had to stay in Srebrenica. However, my father’s condition didn’t improve in Tuzla. One year later he passed away. By that time, Srebrenica was surrounded by the Serb forces and my mother and sister couldn’t leave to attend my father’s funeral. Through the Red Cross, I managed to send them a letter to let them know dad had passed away. I was sixteen and I had to bury my father alone. A year later, on the 16th of July 1995, my mother finally managed to get to Tuzla. In the meantime, my sister got engaged. She wanted to stay with her fiancé Sadif. She promised my mother she would meet us in Tuzla. The first thing my mother did, when she arrived in Tuzla, was to buy my sister Enesa a beautiful set of baby blue bed sheets and pillowcases. Once Enesa and Sadif arrived, she would give it to them as an engagement gift.”
I wanted to create this series because I believe that what happened 25 years ago in Srebrenica is part of Dutch history. Yet, before coming to Bosnia, I knew very little about what had happened. To be able to hear these stories, first hands from survivors was painful but necessary. As a storyteller, I regularly ask myself the question: what is the value of writing these stories down? How does the person sharing and reading benefit from this?
I created this series together with the
from Sarajevo. Our approach to this series was to cover stories of people who’s childhoods are marked by the genocide. I’m aware that Srebrenica is a sensitive topic for many people. I received messages of people saying that we are only sharing one side of the story. By sharing these stories, we are not delegitimizing your story or pain. Stories can exist side by side. I genuinely believe that’s the power of storytelling. Only if we listen to each other, can we begin to understand, heal, and work towards a better future.
I want to encourage you to investigate this topic more. Yesterday, I finished watching the three-part series of Coen Verbraak called: ‘Srebrenica – De machtelozemissie van Dutchbat.’ (Translated: Srebrenica – the powerless mission of the Dutchbat) which I recommend watching (Unfortunately It’s only in Dutch). This series is an extremely valuable document which adds an extra dimension to this story.
Last but not least, I would like to ask you to sign this petition, which pleads that Srebrenica must be included in the Dutch education system. A group of four young women called ‘Bosnian girl’ leads this initiative, so far they already collected 15.846 signatures but they need 40.000 signatures in total. Let’s help them out!
We hope you learned more about the Srebrenica genocide through the personal perspective of these courageous survivors. Thank you all for being so involved with this series.
3/3 ”When we arrived, another aunt who lived there picked us up and brought us to an apartment. I remember finally having access again to electricity, bread, hot water, and food. In the following weeks, we dreaded waiting for somebody to bring news if my father was alive or not. There were rumours that men were being killed. I was only ten, yet I realized very well that there was a chance that my father wouldn’t come back. We waited for seven days when suddenly we got a phone call. My sister and I couldn’t understand what was being said on the other side of the line, but when we saw our mother smile, we knew that my father had made it. When my father arrived, we were all very emotional, it’s difficult to put it into words. He lost a lot of weight, he was hungry and tired, but when he saw us, he smiled. After I hugged him, he pulled out of his pocket a magnifying glass that I had given him during our separation. We kept waiting for my uncle to come back, but he didn’t. His remains have not been found as yet. We still have these knitting needles he made. To this day, I have not been back to Srebrenica. My father invited me to walk the same route through the forest as he did 25 years ago, but I am not ready.”