MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the Bosnian War. It followed, by two weeks, a referendum when residents of the small Balkan country voted to secede from Yugoslavia.
WCCO’s Chris Simon reported from Sarajevo from 1993 through its conclusion and the deployment of American troops in Tuzla Bosnia. He spoke with several refugees who now call the Twin Cities home.
Ana Temim, of Mostar, who now lives and works in Minneapolis with her husband and children, was like thousands of other Bosnians who could not believe their country was at war.
“We really didn’t. We were naïve, you know. We were all friends and could not believe we would turn on each other,” she told WCCO. Temim is a Bosnian Serb; her husband is a Bosnian Moslem, or Bosniak. He was thrown into a concentration camp run by local Bosnian Croats when he refused to pick up arms and fight against his countrymen.
“That is when we knew we had to leave,” said Ana.
Ana is grateful to her adopted country, but longs for home.
“We were able to get our lives back together here and raise our children here, but then there will always be a part of me that is there,” she said.
Goran Andic, from Sarajevo, fled the country in 1995 at the tail end of the war. Today he works for Lutheran Social Services in Minneapolis and recalls the bad old days in Sarajevo, waiting for his kids to return from school.
“We would be listening to the radio every day at 3 when they would announce the names of children who were shot by snipers and would not be returning home that day. When we would not hear our kids name we would sigh in relief,” he said.
It is hard, says Goran, to explain to people here in Minneapolis how he had to cross the street using a small U.N. personnel carrier to protect himself from snipers.
“We would typically shield ourselves from the snipers by hunching down and crawling across the street from one side to the other, making sure the little tanks were protecting us,” said Andic.
Sladjana Dedus Maalouf, a former TV anchor in Sarajevo, says even now life is surreal in their homeland.
“I talk to friends of mine who are still there, and they say, ‘You are lucky to be out of here. It is such a circus here,'” she said.
All three refugees are happy for the second chance at life they have been given here in the Twin Cities, and look back sadly on this ominous occasion realizing fully that even though the guns are silent, life will never be the same.
“I seldom visit because it makes me sad,” said Dedus Maalouf. “My father still lives there. I consider myself fortunate to have a chance to raise my daughter here in peace. Hopefully she will never know what we had to go through.”