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Our village is Prhovo, Kljuc county. I married there, I came from my native village near Sana. I was sixteen, my husband was a carpenter and worked in Velenje, in Slovenia. My dad was a peasant, there was no school when I was born and by the time there was I'd already grown up already and they didn't send me to school, so I'm illiterate.
I had six kids, five girls and a son, and I had all of them schooled. My daughter finished nursing school and my son finished a vocational school for mechanics, they went to elementary school in Sokolovo and secondary school in Kljuc, we had them schooled so they could come here to Slovenia and work, that's what we thought, but it didn't turn out that way. The war broke out. They'd finished school a month before. They were good students, all A's and B's.
I built a house on two floors, I built a cow shed, I built a stable, I built a garage, I did it all with the money from Slovenia, it was a big salary in Slovenia, he'd come home every Friday and bring the money, and I'd build the house, pay the workmen who could build, I'd give the orders, find the men, hire them, later they worked in shifts and I paid them. My house was in the middle of the village, it was the best house there. I'd done everything the children, the house and was about to relax. I only lived in it for seven years.
Our land was first-rate, you could've grown coffee on it except it's got no spring water, the wells were from the house, from rainwater. We had two orchards and the woods for fuel. Me and the kids did everything, and my husband when he came on week-ends. I never paid anybody. Nobody had children as good as mine. I'd finish with the cows by nine and then go into the field with the kids. What did we grow? Produce? Whatever we needed: corn, beet, cabbage, peppers, cheese, butter, clotted cream, we made Jam, dried the plums. I had everything, I only bought sugar, coffee, flour and sometimes a Jam the kids liked.
We were in the valley and our neighbors were up in the hills around us. Our village was Prhovo, and around it were Plemenice, arice, Sokolovo, Podovi, Peci, Risi, Hripavci, Todore, Ljutino brdo. We got along great with them, we never had words, we divided everything with them, we never took things as black or white. We visited, we were on good terms with them, they came to our place, we went to theirs, I bought the woods from them a year before the war.
How did the war start? it was like this: they said there's shooting, Kljuc is under attack, but we didn't believe it, whenever I spoke about it to my son, he'd say, Mama I've got nothing to do with it. We didn't think it'd come to our village. Then one morning, it was six o'clock, I got up to milk the cows and a truck went by, weapons they said, we're done for. What do you mean, I said, and I went to Milan Ris in the village of Rise and asked him what it was he'd hauled in from Kljuc, and he said he'd bought some calves, and then on the third night there was gunfire. My son came and said Mama they're shooting, so what could we do, we took the kids and the horses and the flour but we didn't know where to go, wherever you turned there they were, so we hid in the woods for a month. We spent that night in the woods, it was raining. Stojan Tekic and Marinko Tekic from Tekic came, calling out, shouting, looking for us, and they found us and told us to go home and not to worry, but I said, Stojan you're not the one who's going to kill us, and he said, what do you mean kill, of course not, you go on home, what're you doing here, there's nothing anywhere.
We headed home, I took my youngest one here, it was four in the morning, the cows were lowing, the birds singing, it was May, I went and lit a fire, made myself a pot of coffee while I waited for the kids to come in, put on a pot of beans to cook, baked some bread, reheated some more so the kids would have bread to eat, put on a pot of meat to cook, so they'd have something to put in their pockets. I'd told them in the woods, you're big now, forget about me, if they kill me, don't any of you come, if they kill Azra, run for it, I'm old, Azra's little, you just save your own necks. And then my three girls came in, soaking wet, I lit a fire, they washed, fixed themselves up, put make-up on, warmed themselves up. Then my son walked in, he was wearing a black track suit and his dad's boots. Why did you come, son? To see how you all are. Sit down and eat son, I made something for you over here. I can't Mama. He changed clothes and left. I never saw him again.
We didn't go into the woods that night, but we hadn't really settled down yet either. My girls started giggling, quiet I said, they'll hear us and come and kill us all. The words were barely out of my mouth when there they were at the door, come out they shouted. I looked out and there were thousands and thousands of them. Neighbors, teachers, soldiers. We were lined up in front of the store, questioned about people's whereabouts, beaten from nine 'til ten- thirty, the line was made up of us women, children and the young, they'd already separated the men and boys and taken them away on a truck. Women and children were separate, boys and men separate. My house was the first one they torched, everything in our village was torched, we were standing in line, the line collapsed, the houses collapsed. My mama's house is burning down, my oldest girl cried, quiet, let it burn, let it burn so as long as we're alive. All of a sudden it was dark. They were firing on us from all sides with all kinds of weapons and then they tossed a grenade and the line collapsed.
Later three girls came with a flashlight to see if anybody was still alive. Are you alive, they asked me, yes I'm alive, I was covered with the blood of my girls who'd fallen into my lap, are you wounded, I don't know. Then I turned around and my oldest girl was lying there, she'd already started to go yellow, all I could say was, you're dead sweetie-pie and I'm still alive? Then those girls took me by the arms and legs and carried me to their house.
I didn't know I still had my little Azra here. My sister-in-law had saved her when she saw that all mine had been killed.
She threw her down on the ground and lay on top of her, that's how she saved her. She came in the morning, with my little one, and said, Hida, here's Azra, I saved her for you, so you kill yourself if you want, go and hang yourself if you want, or come with us if you want, we're leaving, yours are all dead, so you do what you want now. I didn't say a word, I had no tears, I'd turned to stone. I took Azra, I didn't know where to go.
We walked with Just the shirts on our backs for three months, it was already fall by the time we reached Slovenia. Azra goes to a Slovene school, she's so smart, very, very smart. Nobody's children were better students than mine, I couldn't see enough of them, I couldn't wait for them to come home from school. Now I'll be without them forever. Why did they kill those sweet children of mine, why didn't they leave me at least one more to live for?
All of mine are dead, you describe me the way you see me. I've lost everything. Nothing, you live, you die. Live how? Live for what? I've got Azra, my whole life now bolls down to her. She was left to save me.
Where do I go now? It's like I've just been born, I gave my offspring, gave my children, gave up my property, got old, where do I go from here? But you've got to go on living 'til death comes for you.
I've got to go back. There's nothing, no house, just grass growing there, nobody to build one for you, everybody's old, sad, bitter. But you've got to go back to your land, you've got to, you don't know where or how, whatever happens happens, it'll kill you or it won't. That's it.
That's really all I've got to say, I've got to go now. Good luck, I hope things get better for you, for you and for me, and thank you very, very much.
"Hida, it's me. Can you hear me?"
Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives