Nefa

I'm Nefa.

I was born in the village of Hanifici, and married into the village of Cejvani. He'd visit his aunt in Hanifici and that's how we met. When I came to Cejvani my husband had been working in Slovenia for thirteen years and he left his Job and came home to work the farm, I couldn't do it alone, we had seventy dunums of land, that's a lot in Bosnia, a lot of land, and it was fertile land too. Our village was on one side, thirty houses, Muslim, and around us were all Serbs, we lived like brothers.

I made the blocks for the storage room myself, lugged the sand with my husband, everything, the sand, the stone, we went to the woods and cut down the wood for the windows, the doors, for the roof, oak wood, my brother helped, he came with the horses, we pulled the wood with the horses my father-in-law worked, my husband, me, the kids were small then, they weren't big when we were building the house. We built it with a storage room running the length of the whole house, plus two floors, and a four-sided roof, ten by nine. And I built a barn too, eight by sixteen, a second barn five by seven, we had a meat-drying area, a garage for all the machines, a shed for the wood, we had out own water, on the land itself, you dig and get water, and there was also other water which we shared with the neighbors, forest water, you dig it up from the woods. We had a bathroom, two water supply lines, we had everything.

We heated with wood, we had a shed for the wood we brought in and chopped, we'd carry it into the room from the shed. We had heating stoves in the house, cooking ovens, furniture, we had wardrobes, bedrooms, a kitchen, everything fitted, ready. We had a big tractor, it was new, we'd bought it the year before, the old one was already on its last legs, so we replaced it, we had a thresher, we had horses, all the attachments for the horses, machines, carts, all the attachments for the tractor, disks, rakes, plows, everything a tractor needs. We had a small van, my, the older one, he drove a taxi, he'd done his military service, gotten married, had a little boy. He drove a cab, worked, we all worked together, we were all together. He had a son, the boy's seven now, my daughter-in-law was from Hanifici, where I'm from. There was no problem, we got along well with the neighbors, looked after each other like brothers.

We built everything, had everything. You have to know that seventy dunums, that was a big property, potatoes, corn, wheat, oat, we fed the cows, the bull, sold the wheat, sold the oats, sold the potatoes, sold the corn, we lived off what we grew. Mostly it was me and my father-in-law that did the selling, all of us worked but it was mostly us two that went to the market to sell. We took our products to the market in Kotor Varo, and people also came to the house to buy, and we took things up to the neighbors, there was no problem, we were like brothers, we kept an eye on each other, that's how we lived, but then things started heating up, the men left, they removed themselves, my husband, father-in-law and the two kids, they all took off and I was left alone. It was Bairam 1992, it was exactly on Bairam, my motherin-law had gone with my little girl here to Vecici my sisterin-law had gone to be with her parents in Hamfici, and I was alone in the house, completely alone in the whole house.

They appeared out of the blue, turn over the weapons, I don't have any, yes you do, no I don't, yes you do, where's your boy, he went out I said, produce the boy right now, how can I produce him, just produce him and don't ask any questions, you've got fifteen minutes, you don't ask if I can do it in an hour, you keep talking he said and we'll kill you. I walked some four kilometers, it was raining, the grass was high, the water swelling, I walked and there were shots, I kept thinking let me die walking, when I got up to the village I saw horses, cows, bulls, I walked past a barn whose roof was still burning, that's the next village Hrvacani, I went to look for my son, I passed a cow with no head, two were wounded and barely alive, I went back up, there was a third cow barely alive, I walked down by the creak, passed the water mill, the fence, somebody from above shouted stop, I've stopped I said. A gun fired immediately into the air, what're you doing here, he asked, I'm looking for my boy I said, do you know where they went he says, no how can I know where they went. Come on, hurry up he says, I'm coming, the terrain is steep, bottles, stone, he keeps shouting hurry up, you can't move from all the horror, it's pouring you can't see, I find myself standing in front of a man two meters tall, don't for God's sake what about my kids I scream, if I don't kill you somebody else will he says. You know what it means to have a child, I say, and he takes his finger off the trigger, sits me down and starts questioning me, where I'm from, and I tell him I'm from that village, I don't know the guy, I'm from Cejvani, I say we're all neighbors, then he says come on woman I'll escort you while there's still time, it was dark already, I'll take you through. I went down, the gun's behind me, his hand is on the trigger, I go as fast as I can, I pass a house, the neighbors see it's me and don't shoot, the village is Novaci, they didn't want to shoot at me, I crossed the river and came home.

I came home and he says, produce the kid by tomorrow, how am I going to produce him, and I'm afraid to sleep in the house so I go into the shrubs. I go back up to feed the animals, they're hungry, I'm alone, I start crying, there's nobody anywhere, I'm alone. I had a neighbor there, I was hungry she gave me lunch, we ate together, I ran back into the shrubs, I was afraid to hang around, I lived like that for five days, they found me at her house eating lunch. Six of them came, I didn't know them, only one of them from Moslovar, he says to me produce the weapons, where would I get weapons from, you have them he says, I don't, produce them, I don't have any, torch the house he says. Then Milan from Novak appeared, he shouts to me, don't be afraid nobody'll hurt you, you're our neighbor, and he tells the other man that this is a decent family, he guarantees for it with his life, and I went for my mother-in-law and little girl and brought them there, and reaped the wheat, Milo promised me he'd cut the grass.

Milo promised me he'd cut the grass, I'll cut it for you he says, you got no horse he says, I went up to Mllo's, he says hello, come in and have a cup of coffee, no thanks I said, sure you will, so I went into the house, and he roasted some coffee, he says I'd cut your grass but you'd have trouble with our army, they can't touch me but they'll give you a hard time, light a match to your hay, if that's how it is then don't cut the grass, I say. I'm on my way out, I left ten kilos of fuel, he says take the fuel, no leave it there I say, I tell you we lived like brothers, like brothers, we worked, the horses, the tractors, us, we all worked with them all the time, there was nobody at the firm so he stayed and said I'll cut the grass for you later, I'll cut it for you later. On my way back, the neighbors called me over for coffee, Slavko and his wife Jovanka, come on in and have a coffee he says, so I come over, we talk, everything's normal, I walk another ten meters, come on in and have a coffee, I come in, it was like that all day, we chat and I go home.

Ten days later they shouted they'd slaughtered my child and father-in-law in Vecici, my young sixteen-year-old and fatherin-law. I cried, sure I cried, to lose your own child, I can't tell you what it's like, and it was neighbors that slaughtered them, Boro Kulic and Vojin Kulic, they live not twenty meters from our house.

Blazo came, poor soul, and Milan, they came and said don't be afraid nobody's going to hurt you, don't cry, have something to eat and drink, if they're going to expel people they'll expel all of you, don't worry. I shout take the wheat if you need it Milan, and he says I don't need anything, take my horse, the horse's equipment, the machines, disks, cart, take everything, I say, I don't need anything, he says. I didn't know, I thought if they expelled us then it would be there when I came back. I don't need anything, he says. He left and two days later we were all evicted at gun-point, I didn't know them, there's nothing they didn't do, they hit us with their rifle butts, fists, feet, they kicked us out of the house on August 15th '92. They carted off the machines, I was there, Dane from Savici he took the tractor and the trailer. I was in the house, I gave the thresher to Velja, Velja Novak, I said here's for the threshing, I used it for threshing, take it, look after it for me until I come back.

And so that's how they expelled us, the army, they wanted to shoot us in Lihovci, that's next to my village but across the way, it's called Lihovci. They lined us up, where are the men, here they are, they separated the men in a barn, killed them there and set fire to them there. A man spent three days making sure those bones burned. We were in the ditch for three days, then in a truck and then in a camp in Kotor Varo, it was a sawmill. The children were crying, we'll kill you or slaughter your loved ones they said, walking among us, they killed two Catholics, a sixteen-year old and one of my neighbors, but you mustn't breathe let alone anything else. On the second day around ten o'clock they gave the children something to eat, nothing for us Just for the children, the Red Cross came, we signed something and around one the buses came and drove toward Travnik.

My husband was in a camp, I had no news of him, then I sent a letter through some people, they'd captured my husband, he was in a camp in Skender, they beat him up, practically killed him, whipped him with cables, he had no teeth, his hands were broken, tied, they beat up the women and killed the men tied up with cables in the post office in Skender Vakuf, he doesn't know how they threw him into a truck where he came to. Then in Borik they beat him three days and three nights, blood everywhere, you had to know all their prayers, they killed, killed. He survived and came out, I waited for him in Karlovac, it was winter. He'd signed up for Canada, but our daughter-in-law and the child weren't with us and he didn't want to go without them, so we stayed, you see.

My mother was burned to death in the house, she'd gone to her daughter in Cirkino brdo and couldn't get away to the woods and that night they set fire to her. My sister, she's older than me, she was burned to death in the mosque in Hanifici.

Where the sawmill in Vrbanjci was that's where they did the killing, they wiped them all out, all the men, I heard that Mico Glavac was the worst in Vrbanjci, he did the killing in Vrbanjci, can you believe it, a close neighbor, he lived five hundred meters from me, he was a good guy before the war, he lived just fine with us, I tell you. I can't tell you how great everything was.

No word of my older son, we haven't heard a thing since '92, it'd be wonderful if he was a-live, if he was in a camp somewhere, he disappeared in July, we never heard anything, we sent messages for him to contact us but nothing, I don't know a thing. God forbid what we've been through, I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

Yes, he helped, Mllo helped me, if I ever went back I'd call him, Milo wouldn't let them kill us or beat us, or torch the house. Don't touch the women, as for the men, it depends what you find, Milo shouted. Yes, Veljko helped me, when there was talk about something he'd come and tell us. Slavko, Blazo they'd come too and tell us, how to run, how to hide. Yes, Jovanka came, Slavko's wife, she'd bring coffee and sugar. And Milan, he came too, he'd bring me coffee and flour and sugar, he'd say don't be afraid, if you're expelled you won't be alone, and that's how it was. Milan says, Trivo's brother-in-law, that they held a meeting about our house, don't strip down or raze Nefa's house, we used to get along so well, I Just don't know why they didn't tell me. They knew, sure they knew, they Just didn't say, we knew there'd be something, we thought, you know, there'd be some noise but we never thought things would go this far. My father-in- law started talking about the previous war, I didn't believe him, oh that won't happen to me, I said. But now they've all gone, all the young have left our village. Been expelled, killed.

No I won't stay here, we'll go back to what's ours, how can I stay, we plan to go back home, as long as you're alive you'll find something. We don't like to fight, take offense, we lived modestly, we never had trouble with anybody. I had such good children, polite, smart, good, they went to school in Vrbanjci, then later to high school in Kotor Varo, they never hated anybody, they never got into fights, no, never. Now I've got my daughter left, she's thirteen, she's a good girl, she goes to school, she's good, she translates for me when I go to the doctor's, he tells me it's all from me worrying too much, how can you be healthy, only somebody with no mind can be healthy. Without her we'd go crazy, Redjifa, she's bright, you know, a good girl. Us women, we were saved by the Red Cross, my husband was saved by the will of God and the Red Cross.

I don't know, I've got no idea how they'll live without us, I heard that Trivo's daughter Zagorka, that she keeps crying for us, she keeps crying, who killed Nefa's children she says, that's what I heard, I tell you that's how we used to live, we used to take care of each other like brothers but why didn't they tell me to save my children, that things don't look good, they didn't have to tell me everything, just that things don't look good, then I would've sent my children away to safety.

"You've finished a lot of schools?" she asked me.
"Yes, a lot."
"Why didn't they tell us?"
"I don't know, the answer's not in books."
"You think they feel sorry, sorry for us?"

Simon Wiesenthal Center-Museum of Tolerance Library & Archives 
For more information contact us at (310) 772-7605 or library@wiesenthal.net.
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