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January 31, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 123
A Testemony from Sarajevo

A Swine In Turkey

July 30, 1993

Dear Madam,

I'm asking you to forgive me for not knowing your name. I am Natasa's friend from Sarajevo. My friend Boza and I used to come to your place. There is only one thing I would like to ask you and that is to answer this letter. I would first ask you to tell me where Natasa is. I have heard from a friend that she is in Prague with Zorica. I wrote to her at her Czech address some time ago, but I have not received an answer. May she be angry with me? Or, is she perhaps refusing to write to me because I'm a Muslim? Believe me, that I have distanced myself from my ``own'' nation. I hope you understand. Will you write me and tell me where she is so I could write to her? If she is in Belgrade be so kind to ask her to write to me, I beg you. I would really like to be in touch with her. Trust me I love her like a sister and respect her as much. I don't want anything bad to happen to her. I don't know what else I could tell you. I sincerely hope I won't offend you with this letter. Your answer will prove it.

Would you please write down your name and family name.

Best regards, Bakir

August 17, 1993

Dear Madam,

I'm short of words to thank you for your reply. I was so happy I can't describe it. I framed those two pictures immediately. I cannot fall asleep now. It's 1.15 a.m. I wish I could see you all. Even for a half an hour. I am glad that Natasa and Zorica are far away form our ugly reality. I feel much better now that I know that you are well. You have been in my thoughts all day. I am really happy when I know that someone is thinking about me.

I don't know what I could write about myself. I could write you only about ugly things. There are so few nice things, almost none. I intimately believe that you are not interested in ``that'' and it's not polite to write about ugly things anyway.

Write me where you went to the sea, to our sea or someplace else. I don't know how to thank you. I had lost all hope I would hear from you.

I am very disappointed. No one looks you up until they need you. I have been left alone. I have no one I could talk to about the past or about the future. Everybody is talking about the present.

I can't write about that. Sadness.

So much for now. I'm eagerly awaiting your and Natasa's letter.

Regards and love, Bakir

September 9, 1993

Dear Madam,

I have received your and Natasa's letter today. I was so happy. I'm fine and I wish you the same. Boza wrote to me that he had spoken with Natasa. I wish I had spoken with her too. He told me that you are supposed to come here and try to get me out. I don't know what to do. I wish I could leave, but then again... I don't know. I don't dare.

Will you please send this letter for Natasa from Belgrade. It would not reach her from here. Someone would have opened it out of curiosity.

I am psychologically tired and a little weak, so I'm asking you to excuse my handwriting, but the contents as well.

I'll write to you again. I love you a lot, Bakir

September 21, 1993

Hello Natasa,

I don't know what could I write to you, and there is so much to say. I wish I could talk to you only for a couple of minutes. When Boza arrives I'll see to it that I go to the phone with him, that is if I have courage. A soldier stopped by today and said I must join a work squad. I shouldn't do it because the condition of my leg is bad. My brother has been with the work squad since July 1992. He dug trenches at first and then was transferred to the graveyard.

It was yesterday when he lowered 129th person to the grave, including soldiers, women and elderly people. He was beaten several times, they wanted to shoot him, one soldier even wanted to kill him with a chainsaw. And then he had a nervous breakdown and was ill afterwards. As far as I am concerned one friend reloaded a gun against my head and wanted to kill me.

I was really afraid. It's most difficult for me when someone calls me a ``balija'' (derrogatory for Muslims). Boza is my only true friend. He comes over whenever he has time. I visit him sometimes (but only with him, I don't dare go alone).

Sometimes I get drunk. That's the only time I'm not sad. Otherwise, I feel outcast, unnecessary, as if I were a leper.

She said in the letter it's horrible there and that it's best to be at home. If you only knew how horrible it can be at home. I am afraid I may go crazy.

Once an old man was hit in the stomach by a sniper. I ran trying to drag him into a shelter. Then the sniper shot at me, several times. The neighbours saw me and reported that I was able to run and so could join the work squad.

I'm on tranquilizers now. I dream about the war coming to an end. I would immediately leave to some wilderness, alone, without friends, neighbours, parents, grenades, cannon, girls or anybody. Alone in a forest, that's what I'm dreaming about. The life without radios, television sets, without the prefix Serb, Croat, Muslim, good, bad. That would be a life, I'm convinced.

I keep thinking, ``Why should she write to me? Who am I to her?'' Then your letter arrived and you asked me to write to you. I thought it was not normal. Whatever has been normal until now is no longer normal and vice versa. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

I feel as if I were a swine in Turkey. Everybody has the right to spit on me, beat me and even kill me without being held responsible for it. Please forgive me if something has offended you or if I've written something ugly. There is nothing pleasant to write about, as no such things are happening. Plenty regards to my blonde dove, Bakir

(no date)

Dear Madam,

I am asking you to forgive me for not being able to write to you. I somehow don't seem to be able to do it, I lack the strength and the words to tell you anything. Please, forgive me for this. I don't feel well. I am psychologically shattered and not able to write to you.

Please, write to me. Best regards and love, Bakir

October 15, 1993

I received your letter two days ago and was very happy. You don't realize what you're offering me. My closest family wouldn't do it for me. I not sure now that it would work. I have began to work for civilian protection recently. Some neighbour reported me. I worked before like a garbage man, bricklayer, woodcutter... I have been transferred to the work squad. I don't think it is appropriate to write about what I have experienced, seen and heard. The only thing I can tell you is that when one goes to work there's no certainty that he would return alive. In a body bag, yes. I worked in the trenches for two days. I dug them. Muslim trenches are only 10 meters away. 26 people from the work squad have died there so far. Everybody got a bullet either in their head or in their neck. My fear is enormous. They beat us and take our clothes off... But, I'll tell you about that if we see each other and if you are interested to hear.

It is 9.50 a.m. now. We have to go to Mount Igman at 2.30 p.m. We are supposed to dig something, I don't know what. They let us get ready.

I don't know when I'll be back but if I return I'll write to you immediately and tell you what it was like. I hope everything will be all right. I am very afraid. I always suffer a lot because I'm tall and have broad shoulders. Everybody is picking on me, not individually, one to one, but 5,7,14 or 10 to one. I wish you all the best. Best regards to Natasa. Love, Bakir

October 26, 1993, 11.00 p.m.

Dear Madam,

I'm well and I wish you are well, too. My job is more difficult now. I am on the front all the time. Two days ago Muslim grenades killed yet another three men, wounding several others. I am afraid. I am afraid to go to work because the odds are high that I will not return. The only things I'm not afraid of are dead bodies. I just walk over them.

It would be much more easier for me if I could only overcome the fear. I don't tell anything to my mother since she would be even more afraid. Fortunately, there are only ten bad people to one hundred good people. Imagine if it was the opposite. These bad people listen what the Muslims do to the Serbs on the other side, so they do the same thing to us. When we work with good people they treat us with cigarettes, let us rest... But, good people don't dare say anything to bad guys since they would suffer then.

Muslim soldiers know that we are Muslims and Croats but they still shoot at us and shell our positions. I had an opportunity to talk with the Serbs who crossed over to this side and were in their work squads. I can easily say that this is a holiday as compared with their work. But, everybody thinks their own problem is the biggest. I don't feel better even when I know that there are people who have it worse.

I wish this would end soon.

Please, write to me about Natasa. Is she coming to Belgrade for a winter holiday or any time soon. Please, write to me about everything. These letters are the only nice thing for me in this war.

Would you please send me one of Natasa's pictures. Write to me about that man Micunovic (is his first name Dobrica or is it somebody else) and how he could get me out. Write to me whether Natasa has received my letter and if she wrote to me. Please, have her write to me through you. You could put the letter in a different envelope because everybody would open it out of curiosity when they saw it's coming from abroad. Best regards to all, Bakir

November 2, 1993

Dear Madam,

We have received your package. I don't know what to say. On my way to work at five o'clock this morning I had a feeling I would get mail. When I returned at 6.30 p.m. I saw my mother crying. I thought something bad had happened. And she was crying because of a package. You spent a lot of money on us. If I'm not killed and if I survive this war I will work for you for ten years. We owe you forever.

I must confess something to you.

I have got two audio tapes where my telephone conversations with Natasa are recorded. When I'm overcome by nervousness and some sickness and we happen to have electricity I take the tapes and listen to them. That calms me down. I know all conversations by heart. I don't think Natasa knows that the conversations were recorded. That's why I like listening to them even better.

When I have to do a difficult job (and I do it constantly) I only have to think of the prospect of getting a letter from Natasa, and I immediately become stronger and tell myself: the sniper won't hit me in spite of everything. A shell must not blow me apart. I'll endure all the beating and humiliations. Only to be there to receive her letter and answer it. It would not be nice for a girl to be the last one to write to somebody.

I wish I could see her and hold her in my arms. I want that. I must do it. I promise you that I shall meet with Natasa again.

Thank you very, very much for everything you have done and are doing for us. Best regards and love, Bakir and the family

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