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I was born in a village, in Krasu1je, that's toward Vrhopo1je and Sanski Most, but it comes under Kljuc, K1juc county. I was nine at the time of that other war and I got married when I was seventeen. Well, he used to visit, you see, he had an aunt, and so we met in my village. Six months later we got married and I moved to his house, in another village, it's called Castevlci, near KIjuc Seventeen people were living there when I moved into my husband's house, my father-in-law and his brother stayed together, they didn't split up, then we got married, I had two kids, and we all lived together in that house. It wasn't an old house, it was being built when I came, the house was new, it was big, but there were lots of us.
When I said I was going to build the first house, my fatherin-law and his brother said, you go from here and then build a house, I had two kids, so I was going to do it on my own, with a small salary, build. a house, it was hard, really hard. Well, when we built the first house he was working in the forest, he worked at the lumber yard, he had to go and work and I was at home, I had the kids, the cows, I had to cook for the workmen, I had all that to do. And I did everything, you know, everything, sometimes I even mixed the cement and carried it to the men, and the stones, that first house I built was made with stone, right up to the roof. I mixed the cement, lugged it, lugged the stone. Yeah, I lived there, in that house, it must have been twenty years. Then, about eight years before the war, I built the big house, next to the other one, I built it right there, and then he moved here to Slovenia because of work, to get better money as a mason. Then both sons got married, he said it's too cramped here for us now, so we built a third house for the older one. The third house had two floors, plus an attic, we could've built something up there but we didn't. The house was like a school it was so big. We built that one for him, fitted it up and then the war started.
Everything was fine, we got along, the kids had jobs, they were both working here in Slovenia, the older one and the one I don't know what happened to. We've got land, we grew everything, wheat, corn, potatoes, we have everything down there. I had everything in my garden, whatever you want, I didn't have to go to the market for anything. I always get up early, I always have to get up about five, get them ready for school, give them breakfast, and again when they come home, the food's got to be ready. They go to school and I get down to work, they went to school in Velagaci, where they took them from, that's where their school was, it was a good three kilometers from our house, they went on foot, yeah all my kids, sons and daughters, went to school. I had good kids, and they worked alongside me too. My husband was always off working somewhere, wherever there was work, he'd come home every month or two, he'd use his vacation to help us out when there was a lot of work to do, so we could get more done. I had no electricity, I had six children, I got electricity when my older son got married. My daughter-in-laws are from our village, both of them. This one with me here, she's from three houses down, and the women said, said to my daughter-in-law, why marry into the same village, and she says I got along with the boyfriend, got along with the mother-in-law, that was enough.
I never wished a bad thing to anybody, honestly, not me or my husband. Not to anybody, honestly, I mean not to Muslims, not to Serbs, not to Croats, we were all equal. How do I know how it happened, child, how do I know? I can't explain it, I never did any harm to anybody, and I didn't notice that anybody did any harm to me either before. We lived well, normal-like. There were no problems, none, we got along well with them, my son here was god- father to one of their children, a Serb, he lived in Jarici, up toward Klju~, his name is Mllo, he was great with my son. There was a Serbian village just above us, we had a lot of land there, in Majkici, and we worked it, my husband was the same with them as with our neighbors, I don't think it could've been better really, but then what happened happened. Nothing, they yelled look they've started shooting at Pudin Han, then they said there was shooting over toward Vrhpolje, and then where we were, all of a sudden, in a day.
Yeah, my son came, you know, he came for Bairam and left, he went back and when they finally closed down all the roads he called twice for his wife to leave and take the kids, but she wouldn't go without him. Then my daughter told me, she said Rifat's left Ljubljana, he's heading for home. For three days there was no sight of him, and then there he was, I was in the house with the children and they'd gone to plant the corn, I ran out to him, I said, son where're you going, buses, seven buses left this morning taking our people to Ljubljana and you, I said, you decide to come here. He laughed and said, but Mama I've come to protect you, he said, who'll protect you, he said, I barely made it. After that it was impossible to go anywhere so he stayed with us.
Then the shooting came our way, we ran for three days, fled into the woods, it was raining, but you had to take things with you, you think you'll never see home again, you imagine going God knows where. You have to take clothes to wear, food to eat. And you're fleeing, running, God gave us rain all three days, boy was it awful. That third day when they captured us in the woods, first they caught my son along with two neighbors, and this youngster was with them and he says take us to the village but promise they won't be there waiting for us, we promise says my son, nobody's there. And they led them to the village, there were soldiers all over, wherever they found a tractor, car, windows, doors, they took it, and then they piled into the cars and that's all they did, just ripped off the windows and doors and took them away.
My son brought them to our house, there's brandy he said, they said they wanted a drink, there's a barrel of brandy in the attic, and he went to get it, he went with another guy and poured out two or three of those canisters of brandy, we won't hurt you, they said, you didn't put up any resistance, you'll see now what'll happen to these villages, we're going to torch'em, we're going to torch Vojici. Then my son came for us and found us. My son comes and says, it's me, where are You, boy, did they capture YOU, did they beat you, he'd gone as white as snow, he says no Mama they didn't beat me. I was scared for the little one while I was upstairs, I went to the attic for the barrel, he stayed down below with them, there were lots of soldiers, but they didn't hurt him. We were coming back from the woods when we saw Vojici in flames.
We all came home, none of our people went down into town to report, they all went from the other villages but not from ours, and then this man, one of theirs, came and said go down there and you'll get a pass so you can move around, go right away. They got together from the village, twenty-five of them, and went, not to Kljuc but to the old school in Velagici. And twenty from another village called Kontici, they also came and went to the school. But we don't know what happened to them, to my son and all those neighbors after they left. There's no news of those people, that was in May '92. 1 kept hoping, waiting, I kept thinking that our Milo. That he'd bring me some news of my son, just to say he's alive, that he'd tell me, but three or four months later he didn't even want to come and see us when we were hemmed in.
Who knows, child, we don't know if they killed them all right there and then. We heard shots, sure, but we didn't see nothin'. We weren't allowed to budge. People who did go there said, there's blood all over the school, the wall's covered in blood, the stairs in blood, later they blew up the place so nobody'd see, they blew up the school soon after, the old school not the new one farther down. But the older one they did, razed it to the ground. The school where they'd taken the men. Lined'em up and shot'em. What we heard is that there were buses, the men from our two villages, well you see, the brother of this here daughter-in-law of mine was lined up with them when they fired. And he survived, somebody fell on top of him and he survived, he didn't die and somehow he got away, slipped away and came home. He said they didn't kill our people, he says there were three buses and they took them somewhere. They killed mostly those from Velagici and Vojici, that village of Vojici next to Velagici, it put up a fight but our village and the other one didn't, so he says they probably took them away somewhere, God knows.
They kept coming, looting, taking everything from the house, how do I know who they were, child, they all wore outfits, we didn't know them, but the children recognized most of them, they said they were all their teachers, from the area, not far from us. They'd come and take everything away and there was nothing you could do except watch, nothing, they'd come into the house and take what they wanted, if they liked it, they took it, shoved it into the car and drove off, that's it. Nothing you could do. They came for the tractor, took away our tractor, and the car, everything. And you're left with nothing. Both daughter-in-laws were with me, this one here had a small child and she had some money and the poor girl hid it without even telling me, and she said there were seven of them that day, and one of them came, she said, and asked what've you got there, and yanked her blouse like this, and she said, it's two hundred marks, I'm saving it, I've got a small child, in case it gets sick and I have to take it to the hospital. And this guy says, come on, he says, this money, you can't use it here anymore, just our money. And he took it and left. The same with the other daughter-in-law, and she says he took everything from their blouses, the two of them had rings in there too, he took it all and said, here's a match, what's that for she said, and he says if you hadn't turned this over we'd have set fire to the house with that match, your house'd be up in blazes. My husband was there, he'd taken the cows in Just then, and this one man says to him, what are you sitting there for old man, you're not staying, this is all ours, what're you waiting for, why don't you go, and my husband said I'll go when my neighbors go.
And then our Milo came and when he came he said to my husband, listen I can't do anything, if I did, he said, they could kill me too. That was to find out about our son. Sure, he came, he came. He said, listen, don't go without, if you need something, I'll get it for you. Here, he says, you got no money, here's some money, you got nothing to haul the wood in for the winter, I'll bring my horses over and haul in the wood, I'll get everything, you just stay put, he wouldn't let us leave, don't you leave all this, you stay put. He didn't want us to go, he wanted us to stay, but then he said, I say don't go but I don't know what'll happen. Some terrible crimes can happen and kill you, and all because of what I said. So you decide for yourselves. And we decided, we abandoned what was ours and left.
We started getting our documents together and my husband went to Kljuc and signed a paper that he was renouncing everything and got all those papers, each one cost a hundred marks, he signed those documents and that was it, you hang your hands by your side and leave. Everybody said you're not allowed to take anything, this child here was still little so we just took some clothes for him and what we had on our backs. We left everything behind, everything, the houses, three full ones. My son's Just been there, the older one, our houses are all destroyed. All three, Just the walls standing. Stripped clean, not a nail or screw left, Just the walls. Everything, all of it, the gates, windows, tiles, doors, floors ripped up, all gone, carted away. Our Milo had a daughter married in Kjluc, and that daughter and her husband said, when we got our papers, listen whatever you've got, we'll hold it for you, we'll take care of it. My daughter-in-law here was quick, smart, she filled two trucks with our things and got them to those people. Now when my older son went, he found everything. There's nobody there, they're not there anymore, the house is open, wide open, packed like a matchbox, like ours when we left, furnished and everything. And he says the garage was open and all our things were there, he found everything. They took care of it for us, they were good people.
We're going back, we'll live somehow, there'll be something, the living will live. But I can't stop grieving for my child, it's worse than anything on earth, I'll never get over them taking him away and let them have taken him away Just so long as he's alive, let them make him work for them, be with them, let him be in a camp, at least you know he's alive, but not knowing, that's the worst. I wish most of all, when I get back there, I wish for peace, for everybody to get along once things calm down. That's what I wish. Let things calm down, no more of this killing, no more of this suffering. I wish for the best. Harmony, that'd be best, for everybody. For everything to settle down once and for all, for us to live the way we all used to, for things to calm down and relax.
"That's how you feel, like you died."
"Then you know. It means that everything you ever achieved and know is yours they now say isn't yours, it means we can't even be there, touch anything, everything you worked for, the house you built and furnished you now have to hand over to somebody else. Your body goes numb from all the pain, it's like you're dead, like you're somebody else now", she said to someone who had already become somebody else.
Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives