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I married into the village of Dulici, Kotor Varos county, but I'm from Siprag. My father died in the other war. My mother was left with us six kids. There was nothing for it, we fed Ourselves somehow. She worked the land and kept the cows and horses. Thhen she died, she never remarried.
He'd come to my village, I met him, and then, you know how it was, there was this pressure, this pressure for young girls to get married. I carried wheat from iprag to Petrovo polje and then, what could I do, my mother said, get married, cover your head. So 1 got married during, I mean at the end of the war, when things had started quieting down. There were still renegades in the woods. I got married and went to Dulici When I first came it was just one house, nineteen in the house when I got married. That's where we lived, there were three brothers, and later they split up. And then, when the children grew up and got married, everybody split up again so there were 13 Dulci houses. I built three houses myself in my life. First I built one for myself, then one for one son and then one for the other, he never even got to move in. I had it all ready for my younger boy, with water, electricity, it Just had to be connected. But then the war started.
I had over a hundred dunums of land. It was good land, you could grow anything on it if you were willing to work, anything you wanted. Corn, wheat, peppers, tomatoes, anything. I had five cows. When I left I had fifty kilos of lard in the house, three barrels of cheese, big barrels, I gave them to two of my neighbors, it was good, full-fat cheese, I told them to take it home. One barrel stayed behind in the shed. I left the jam, apple jam, in the big jug. We dried the pears, plums, sweet apples. We had every kind of fruit you can imagine, walnuts, peaches, grapes. Honey, too. We had everything, everything. We had our own water, from the spring, you have it connected to the house but the water's yours.
When the war started, they didn't let us go down to the store for a year, after a year they let us go, they taunted and baited us to say something, give us the gold, give us the money. Where would I get gold from, I never liked gold, what I liked was taking a piece of land and building a house and barn on it, that's what I liked. Give me a piece of land and a good cow, let me build a good house for the kids and school them.
What did we live off of? We planted things. You could go into the field, but you had to ask. You go the day before and ask, and when the Command let's you go and work, then
you're free to go and dig, harvest, collect the hay, pick the corn, the potatoes, you know, things like that. You had to have permission. If you want to do something, dig or harvest, you have to go and ask and they tell you how many hours you can be in the field, and that's how long you've got, no more. When they say you can't go, then you can't go.
You know where we milled? It was like this. One time we had no electricity, our mills run on electricity so we couldn't work them. So for two days I boiled the corn. I had small children in the house, my grandson was little and wouldn't eat, come on child eat the corn, but he says to me phooey I can't eat this stuff My daughter-in-law and me, we just sat down and burst into tears. So I said, I'm going to ask Zdravo and Zivko to get it ground. The Serbs were allowed to take it there, but we weren't allowed to go anywhere. So I went over to Zdravo and Zivko. Zivko started crying, Zdravo too, and they said, you just bring it over to us and we'll get it ground even if, God forbid, it means getting killed. So I went and loaded it onto the cart and hauled over the wheat, corn, we had the grain we just couldn't grind it.
We were forbidden from going to the mill or the store. So I hauled it over to Zdravo, Zdravo hauled it over to Obodnjak and Raca's mill, Pera Raca dragged the mill back to his house, and my husband went to Zdravo's and brought it home in the cart.
We lived well. We always got along before the war, all of us. We helped each other out in everything. Digging, sowing, everything. When there was a wedding, a baby born, a sendoff to the army, people would come, either here or there, it was normal.
I've got two sons and two daughters. My sons are in Slovenia, they've been working there a long time. My daughters, the older one - her daughter, grandchild, son-in-law, his parents and his three brothers were all killed in Vrbanjci at the very beginning of the war. They were sitting there at the table like this, about to have their morning coffee, when they came and kicked them out of the house, out, they said, and as they were going they were gunned down on the road. She had five girls, her fifth was killed in her arms. She was killed too, and so was her husband, and her husband's father, and her husband's mother, and her husband's three brothers, the whole household, only her sister-in-law survived. You know how the four of them survived? This guy named Saga shielded two of the kids like this, and the sister-in-law, she wasn't wounded, she took the third child and hid behind a shed. And this Saga shielded the two kids and said, shoot me not the children. Saga, a Serb from somewhere over there, their commander whatever, I don't know what he was, just that his name was Saga. Our neighbors saw, it and told us. And the third one, who was wounded, she fell next to him.
So I stayed in Dulici for two-and-a-half more years, hoping to hold on to everything, not to have to leave. And we were protected. By our neighbors, the Kalamandas, Serbs. But the Vrbanja River separated us. They were on one side and we were on the other. They were across the Vrbanja and we were over here. But they wouldn't give up on us. They did whatever they could to help us, taking care not to be seen. Along the Vrbanja, through the corn field, along the hedge, to the house. If they brought something or did something, they did it secretly like that. If we ran out of flour, they'd get us some, or salt, they'd bring it across the water. And we weren't robbed, our Kalamandas wouldn't let them come near us.
I can never forget them. They were as good as good can be to us. But when bad people come along, you've got to go. In the end those people went after our house and our neighbors couldn't protect us anymore, so we had to leave. Our neighbors took care of us for a month until we were ready to leave, until we got our papers, they didn't move from that village of ours until we left. Mio Kalamanda, he said, listen neighbor, you'll be safe until you leave. Don't you be afraid. And it's true, they stood guard for a month. They'd come at five in the evening. Sure we were afraid, at night and when there was shooting. When they start shooting, you're scared, and how! My little grandson was with me, and when the house was under attack I held him here like this, and he shook like he'd been electrocuted, that's how scared he was. And he kept looking, they said they'd be here at five, he kept looking around, is it five o'clock yet Grandpa, it'll be five any minute now. And they came to stand guard, but by then the child was asleep.
Our Kalamandas sat with us the night before we left. And in the morning the buses came, and the army, it was freezing, January. The army came into our village, they started taking things at random from the house. I said, stop for God's sake, wait at least until I'm out of the house. I walked out and then I collapsed with sorrow, and Zoran Kalamanda carried me into the bus, every time I cried, he cried too. I couldn't not cry when I was leaving. I didn't know where I was going, or why I was going.
Sure I'd go back home, tomorrow, so long as there's peace. I'd live with my neighbors the same as before, normal-like. Always. What can I do? What was, was. It's not easy abroad either, when you've got no rights, you've got nothing, in my own house at least I'd have the right to do what I want. if only I could go home. When I think of what I've got there, plums, pears, walnuts, smoked meat in the winter, here you're wanting for everything.
In that other war, the Krauts came, set fire to Serb villages and entrenched themselves, and our Kalamandas all crossed over here to us, and then my husband's uncle, he was a kind of chieftain, the headman, whatever, he went down there and said, you burn my place first before you burn my neighbors', the Kalamandas, over there. You kill me and my children first and then the Kalamandas. And there were older folk like that again now, that's what saved us, but all that was destroyed by outsiders, who came uninvited, who did evil. We lived well and overnight it all changed. And it will again. It'll change overnight. Everything will be the way it was. Who got us into all this? What did we need all this for? It was the leaders who needed it. They were scared of losing the chairs they were sitting on to the other guys. That's what it was, nothing else. God damn'em, they were fighting over chairs, and didn't give a shit that the poor people were being killed and were suffering. Do I need to be in Slovenia and suffer, with all I had? No. The ones and the others, they were all scared of losing their seats, and they stuffed their pockets in the process. They couldn't give a shit, they've got their families around them, and where they go their families go, they don't want for anything, their families don't either, nobody of theirs was killed. Were any of Alija's1 family killed? Or Miloevic's2 ? Or Tudjman's3 ? If they'd had their whole family wiped out, they'd be singing a different tune, they'd be beside themselves. Like this, what can you do, they've got their families beside them, the planes go wherever they go, damn it.
But it won't end like that, God will punish it, and let Him, He's not a cat that you can jump out of His way, everybody's going to get what's coming to him. When I pray to God I say, Lord, be good to everybody, to me and mine, but to others too. They, they think only of themselves, they're like that. Let me tell you one more thing. I keep thinking that the good people would have been even better but for the bad. But because of the bad people, they didn't dare. God forbid anybody should have another war like this one."
"Was somebody killed in your family too?"
1 Alija lzetbegovic, President of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives