Home World News Fight on your heels. They were fleeing Yugoslavia for their lives.

Fight on your heels. They were fleeing Yugoslavia for their lives.


Brutal massacres, destroyed cities and divided families. There is much to blame for the conflicts that took place during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. People were going through tough times, many were losing hope, and for some, hope for a better future was gone. They left their homeland not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.

An example would be Bosnia and Herzegovina, which marked its history with the bloody siege of Sarajevo. Nearly two million people left their homes in the country during the conflict, and one million of them went abroad. However, their return never materialized due to the bleak economic situation as well as political and property barriers.

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Many people fled Bosnia during the war, but the current situation is not much different from 30 years ago. In a report coming directly from Sarajevo, the younger generation there describes their impressions and plans for the future:

It was the increasingly tense situation, driven by the horrors of war and nationalism, that forced the Yugoslavs to cross the border and then flee. For example, as a Croat of Bosnian descent, Amir Zaketović became uncomfortable in the central Yugoslav army, where he felt the hostility of the ethnic Serbs who dominated its ranks.

hostility in the army

At the same time, Amir was accustomed to mutual tolerance among Yugoslav ethnic groups and was initially unaware of the superiority of Serbian soldiers and commanders. Gradually, however, he began to feel excluded from the army, which was mainly fighting against people of his own origin.

He did not want to fight on his own and was so worried that one day he would be put on a military transport with the others and sent to the front. Officers are also often said to have been confident that Amir was loyal to the Yugoslav army. She said she did, but she also knew that her relationship with him no longer mattered.

He finally decided to flee with another soldier of Croatian origin. It ended successfully, and Amir’s service in the Yugoslav army, which at that time was more of a Serbian army, came to an end.

Amir Zaketovic

  • Born on October 7, 1971 in Zagreb
  • Catholic father, Muslim mother
  • After her parents divorced, she grew up with her mother in Bosnia with her grandparents.
  • Between 1990 and 1991, he joined the army at the start of the war that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.
  • deserted the Yugoslav army and joined the Croatian army
  • Fearing for his life, he fled to Germany, then moved to the Czech Republic.

Exhibition photograph as part of Amir Zaketović’s exhibition Stories from Our Neighbors in the Hradec Králové Region.

Amir later joined the Croatian army, but he remembers the next few months spent in Bosnia as the most difficult time of his life. “I was hanging out with guys just like me and they were dead in a matter of hours. It affects a person so much, you can never forget it.”

The last straw that solidified the witness’ decision to flee forever was his realization that someone was trying to kill him. Therefore, he quickly fit into a single backpack and fled to Zagreb at night. There he decided not to return to war and instead went abroad. His first steps later led to his relatives in Germany, but later settled in the Czech Republic.

“Might Have Saved My Life”

For example, doctor Edib Jaganjac, who was serving in besieged Sarajevo and whose family left the country in a convoy with the wounded on May 18, 1992, also headed for Czech territory. working in difficult conditions. But in 1993 – like many others – he left.

Edib Jaganjac

  • Born on May 14, 1957 in Sarajevo, spent his childhood in Yugoslavia
  • medical student, majored in surgery in 1992
  • He worked as a doctor in a hospital in Sarajevo between 1992-1993.
  • Strongly criticized the functioning of humanitarian organizations in Sarajevo
  • He left Sarajevo in 1993 and immigrated to the Czech Republic with his family.
  • Collaborated with People in Need

Doctor Edib Jaganjac in 2017.

But even before that he managed to be remembered by many; for example, she played a role in the story of Irma Hadžimuratović. The five-year-old girl, later known as the “Princess of Sarajevo”, was playing in the street with other children when mines began to fall in the area. Her mother, who heard the sound of the mines, later covered her daughter with her own body.

The decision was fatal for the mother – shrapnel flew through her, instantly killing her and lingering only on the body of little Irma. Jaganjac was bombarded with the girl directly in Sarajevo, but later managed to take her to London to see better-equipped doctors. However, he remained paralyzed after the operation and died a year later.

Edib also fiercely criticized the functioning of humanitarian organizations in Sarajevo during the war, often even publicly, so the UN sought to evict him from the city. However, at the same time, the doctor himself was already thinking about leaving, because his help at that time was no longer so urgent.

Edib Jaganjac remembers his escape from Yugoslavia. Video: Memory of the Nation

“I was given a UNICEF vest and a blue helmet to look like a UNICEF employee. They said we will go to the airport through the Serbian checkpoint. I was afraid they would recognize me at the checkpoint, I was always on TV back then,” recalls the witness.

“Luckily there was a jeep with journalist Jackie Shymanski from CNN. He saw me, gasped, and shouted at the soldier approaching our car. Then he started shouting at everyone. They turned to him and waved at us. He looked at me and waved as we passed. It may have saved my life.”

good checks

The deteriorating political and economic situation in the former Yugoslavia did not allow Dejan Pulejkovič to sleep either. “I was terrified for the children and the idea of ​​them continuing to live in these conditions was terrible,” recalls the witness, who was born in Belgrade, Serbia.

Due to her fears, Dejan eventually took advantage of the opportunity to study and work in Prague for both of her daughters in 1993-1994. His wife traveled frequently to see them, thanks to an acquaintance who had a bus line between Prague and Belgrade. However, both were aware that it would not be possible to maintain such an environment for long.

Yugoslav series

The 1980s heralded the end of the former Yugoslavia. Nationalism began to play a big role and the multi-ethnic state began to split, witnesses agree in the first episode of the series:

Without electricity, water or food. The siege of Sarajevo lasted for about 4 years and the people there lived through hell. Witnesses recall the hardships they experienced in the second part of the series:

Raped women, executed men, landmines – these are perhaps the most visible consequences of the conflicts in crumbling Yugoslavia. Witnesses living in the Czech Republic describe the dark period and what’s left of it in the third part of the series:

“I couldn’t even advertise the house to sell, I had to sneak through an acquaintance who was a real estate agent. I was afraid someone would kill me. People were killed for fifteen marks, let alone thousands,” told an eyewitness who suffered at the time. The country was drowning in hyperinflation, and a coffee in a cafe cost one billion two hundred million dinars.

The sale of the house was eventually successful and Dejan joined the family. Although they did not speak Czech at the time, he and his wife started running a tobacco shop in Opatov, Prague. They didn’t make much money, but they had the opportunity to learn the language through newspapers, magazines and conversations with customers.

Dejan Pulejkovic

  • Born on January 11, 1946 in Belgrade
  • in his youth he was the best player in water polo
  • In the 1990s her parents separated and her two daughters moved to Prague for safety reasons.
  • In 1995 Dejan also moved to Prague with his wife.

Dejan Pulejkovic in 2016.

“It was difficult at first, but our biggest advantage was that the Czechs loved Yugoslavia. They did not distinguish who was Serb or Croat, for them we were all Yugoslavs. And so, despite the good memories of the holiday, we also won their sympathy.” Dejan talked about the beginnings in the Czech Republic.

“Dear customers also appreciated our effort to remember what everyone is buying on a regular basis and prepare for them ahead of time. I remember one customer told us, ‘I’ve been shopping here for five years, but no one remembers it like you do.’ Another of our customers was at the ministry and he was a permanent resident. He advised us on his application and offered help. Just out of sympathy. They were very kind to us.”

Source: Seznam Zpravy



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