Bearing Witness

Bearing Witness

I was almost fourteen years old when things became a mess. My school was half Serbian, half Muslim, but no one recognized the difference, and we were all together. My best friend was a Serbian girl named Boriana. One day, she told me as we were coming back from school, “Lejla, fill buckets or whatever you have in the house with water. If you have food, put it in the house.” I said, “Why?” She said, “I cannot tell you.” But she knew it, they knew it, that it was going to start. Serbians knew it, but we didn’t. I didn’t see Boriana again after that day.

In the beginning they were shooting, shooting, shooting, but they hadn’t begun to kill yet. They were only in the sky, and it was like that for two or three days. My sister and I went to my aunt’s house, and one night we heard people outside the buildings. It was Serbs who called themselves “White Eagles.” They were the worst, they were not like regular soldiers, They walked around the building cursing as they called for us to “come outside!” We waited in the house. I was scared. I moved from window to window. I just wanted to find a place to hide.

My aunt’s husband didn’t have a gun, nothing, no weapon. Because there were three of us girls, he said, “If they come inside”-they didn’t, thank God-”If they come in, I have only gasoline, and I will use it to burn all three of you.” He knew that they would rape us, and he said he don’t want to watch them doing that to us.

As the war went on there was food, then no food. The electricity was gone, there was no gas, and no water. We were happy when we had bread, but we had nothing to put on it. We received beans, rice, and sometimes cheese, but that wasn’t enough, and it was dangerous to bring food in. When we finally got some potatoes and canned beef from the humanitarian aid, we prepared a special lunch. I said, “Thanks to God, I’m going to eat now.” But just as we sat down to eat, I heard someone screaming from the street, “Oh, Mother, Mother!” I went to the window and saw a man picking up his leg that had been blown off. I saw others coming to drag him away from the snipers. But we called from the window, “Please don’t go yet, stay there,” because the snipers always tried to get the first one, then they would wait for people to come and save him, and then they would send another shot. Finally they removed him and put him in an ambulance. I couldn’t eat lunch after that.

It’s disgusting, you know, war is disgusting. At night it’s dark, it’s so dark, and you just feel something bad in the air coming at you.