“I have never met my biological father and I never will. My biological mother was only a couple of months pregnant with me when he was killed in Srebrenica in July 1995. He didn’t even know I existed, my mother didn’t actually know that she was pregnant with me at that point and sadly, she never got the opportunity to share this exciting news with him.”
The Bosnian genocide started as early as 1992 and only culminated in Srebrenica in July 1995 where over the space of just a couple of days more than 8,000 boys and men were hunted like animals, separated from their families and executed by Bosnian-Serb forces. Some victims were found straight away, some have been found in mass graves in the last 25 years, while some are still to be found. Some families will never get the opportunity to have closure and say good bye to their loved ones. My father was killed in Srebrenica, we’ve only managed to find some remains but it was enough for him to be buried in Srebrenica alongside my other relatives.
I have never met my biological father and I never will. My biological mother was only a couple of months pregnant with me when he was killed in Srebrenica in July 1995. He didn’t even know I existed, my mother didn’t actually know that she was pregnant with me at that point and sadly, she never got the opportunity to share this exciting news with him. I often think about how my life would have been different if he wasn’t killed. For many years I didn’t know his name or what he looked like.
What happened in Srebrenica is often simplified and reduced to just men and boys being affected, but this isn’t entirely true. Women and young girls were also killed, tortured and raped. They lost countless loved ones; husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, boyfriends, friends and so on.
Survivors have had to wait for more than two decades but we finally had a conviction for what happened in Srebrenica. On the 22 November 2017, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian-Serb general, was sentenced to life in prison by the International Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia. Justice has finally been given to victims and their families, I hope some may now begin to have closure. But, why did this take so long to happen? Many survivors have died waiting for justice.
Although this conviction is very important for us, it does not bring back our loved ones. I often think about all the lives that were destroyed and the lives that could have been. I think it is important to remember them, to remember how they were killed and taken away from us, these awful and sad moments. However, I also think the best way to honour them is to remember happier times and celebrate their lives rather than just focusing on these sad moments.
It is important for us to share their stories and our own experience in order to pass on the message of world peace. Violence is not OK for any reason, whether it be down to religion, gender, age or race. It is important to speak about our experiences as I believe it brings people closer together. It also educates those who had no knowledge of what happened in Srebrenica and across Bosnia. Sadly, it is still one of the least known genocides today.
The more we speak about what happened in Bosnia, the more people will be aware of what can also happen in every society, it provides us with an opportunity to work towards a better and more tolerant world. We can send out a clear message to future generations that, ‘Never Again’ truly means ‘Never Again.’
You might be wondering why I was put up for adoption, well one of the main reasons was because most of my biological family was killed. My biological mother was transported to the Bosnian town of Tuzla, where she gave birth to me. I was immediately put up for adoption and at only 6 months old, I was adopted by a British couple who took me to the UK.
By chance, my adoptive grandmother worked for an organisation in Tuzla where war children were cared for because maybe their parents had been killed, or they had been abandoned or put up for adoption by their families. I was fortunate enough that my adoptive parents were actually wanting to adopt at the time and hearing about this place, they came to visit and chose me. My parents always told me I was adopted and that I was ‘special’ because another family wanted me. When I became I teenager I was curious to know about my other family and where I came from and who I looked like and so on.
In 2016, this curiosity led to finally searching for and connecting with my biological mother through Facebook. It meant I could finally connect with what remained of my biological family, most of them now residing in Australia and many didn’t even know I existed. I learnt my father’s name, I saw his picture for the first time. I could see the resemblance. I also found out that I had a stepfather and 4 half siblings and I have been fortunate enough to visit them twice now.
My biological mother said she’s been trying to find me all these years but searched for my birth name ‘Yasmina’. This changed when I got adopted. It still seems surreal after all these years of not knowing where I had come from but recently finding my father’s biological family was the last piece of the puzzle. I was able to meet uncles, aunts and cousins through them. It was difficult not to think about how different my life would have been if the war didn’t happen, if my father wasn’t killed and if I wasn’t put up for adoption. However, I would not have known the people I do today, and I am fortunate enough to say that I have two families.
I view all victims and survivors as heroes. I admire their strength, their courage and determination to carry on with their lives. I see women that endured torture as heroes. I view the women who had to watch their husbands, sons, brothers and fathers be killed as heroes. I view women who had to give up their children as heroes. I view my biological mother as a hero and I also view my adoptive mother as a hero because she saved my life.