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A tragic story from a Bosnian town should remind us of the need to breathe new life into memories from the Balkan wars. From Al Jazeera Balkans.by Dragan Bursac 21 March 2018
Do you know who Petar Golubovic is? Petar Golubovic is a young man from Konjic, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina around 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Sarajevo. He is 32 years old – an exemplary citizen, a dentist. Proud of his father Dura and mother Vlasta, famous teachers at the local secondary school. But he is most proud of his brother Pavle, who is two years younger than him, a senior lawyer and employee of the court in Mostar, a city located 70 kilometers south of Konjic.
The Nightmare of a Midsummer Night
Early in the morning of 2 July 1992, six members of the Special Police Department of the Intervention Center of the Konjic Public Security Station went to the Golubovic family’s house.
Darkness, fear, agony seized the family as they were violently pushed into two cars. Those two cars – with death messengers in them – then reached the police station in the village of Polja Bijela. After talking to the police officer at the checkpoint, the barrier was lifted and the ride continued toward the village of Spiljani.
What goes on in the heads of kidnapped people? How can their neighbors wake them up in the middle of the night, push them inside some car and drive away in the dark night? Until yesterday, the kidnapped were teachers, who were also teaching the kidnappers’ children in Konjic. Who are these militiamen? And what do they want?
“Why did they hit my dad and push my mom? What is this?” seven-year-old Peter roared inside, while clutching the hand of his younger brother Pavle, which had been numbed by fear. Five years old, his little brother had totally disconnected from reality.
The First Shooting
At a distance of a thousand meters (0.62 miles) from the checkpoint on its right, at the sinkhole, the police officers turned off the lights of the cars, leaving only the parking ones on, and then all of them got out carrying guns. They ordered the members of the Golubovic family to leave the car and to line up on the right side of the road.
“They will surely leave us here. They want us to be terrified. I know this Miralem, he is from Macic, I know Jusuf Potura. I’m not sure about the rest, but Father Duro knows them. He is a teacher at the secondary school, they would not dare do anything to him.” Petar tried to find his brother and parents in the dark. Night dilated his pupils, and fear narrowed them. The tip of his forefinger tapped the sweaty and cold hand of his mother Vlasta. At one point, he seemed to see some light, then a sharp metal sound cut through the night.
After lining up the Golubovic family, the cops aimed their guns at them and simultaneously sprayed a burst of fire.
Peter felt the smell of the earth. Fever shook his body as if he had a cold. He sensed a strange and unknown smell. Some mold and something warm. The blood of his parents and brother mixed with death dripped on him. That was life leaving those closest to him, then joining the earth and the endlessness of death. And Petar remained silent and squeezed his eyelids. Because how would seven-year old Petar know what death is? So he thinks that he is dead too, and merely wonders why his death is somewhat different than his parents’ and brother’s.
Through some kind of miracle, it turned out that in this crime fest, seven-year-old Petar was the only one who wasn’t shot dead, and who remained unharmed. The tiny boy fell on the ground between the bodies of his parents and younger brother Pavel during the burst of fire. When he was sure that the criminals were lost in the dark night, little Petar decided to leave the crime scene, where the motionless bodies of his parents and brother Pavel were lying.
He could no longer keep his eyes closed. And the bodies of his parents and brother became a cold burden of horror, which pinned him to the ground, deeper and deeper. Like some kind of weak animal, he wriggled from under the dead, pulled himself up on his trembling feet, and watched the dark again. Maybe it’s better this way, because he did not see death. Strange is the darkness, and how it helps you to not see death. And then in the corner of his eye he saw a light. Petar came out of the ditch and saw the lights of the police checkpoint. He squinted. “There, there, there are the police, they will save me, and then they will call the hospital to save my mom, my dad, and my brother. Everything is so simple, I was just too scared,” thought the boy, blue with fear, death, and earth. He started running.
Short of breath and terrified, Petar, under the rush of adrenaline, told officers Hadzhi Macic and Drazen Markovic what had happened to his parents and brother Pavel. In fact, his story was more a confused monologue of hoarse, weeping consonants, which emerged from a terrified child’s throat.
The man on duty at the checkpoint immediately called the police station by radio to tell them he had little Petar with him, and soon afterwards …
The Second Shooting
“Well, these are the same guys. Militia men! They shot at my dad, mom, and brother! Why were they not arrested by these guys at the checkpoint? Why are they driving me back down to Konjic? Maybe it’s a mistake again.” The child’s brain could not cope with this kind of adrenaline and lost itself in that moldy, never-changing, and never-ending night.
The policemen stopped at a place called Begin Vir, where they took the kid out of the car and spit fire from a gun into Petar Golubovic. The deadly bursts did their job this time.
Petar will never celebrate his 32nd birthday. Peter will never tell this or any other story. Petar is a boy shot twice, killed once, and eternally alive.
Crime, Punishment, Truth, and Reconciliation
And there wouldn’t have been this story, had there not been an investigation. You would not know all the monstrous details, nor about the perpetrators, had the court not done its job. And it was done in a grim, weak, and inadequate way. So the first accused got 12 years in prison, was released, and could then move around as a free man.
However, it seems that Macic had much more blood on his hands, so he was arrested again in August 2011 for mass crimes against Serbs in the village of Bradina, near Konjic. In the end he died in prison without a verdict and without the truth.
The Ghosts of Konjica
It is therefore good to know that 13 former members of the Bosnian and Herzegovian Army, the Territorial Defense, and the Ministry of Interior (MUP) in Konjic were arrested for crimes against dozens of Serbian nationals in Bradina, Konjic, and other places.
In this particular case, it’s about the suspects of crimes committed in the spring and summer of 1992 in Konjic and the surrounding area, which resulted in the removal and forced resettlement of almost the entire population of ethnic Serbs from that area. Among the crimes mentioned are murder, torture, rape, abuse, and persecution of victims.
Among those deprived of their freedom were: Niksic Sefik, born in 1945 in Konjic; Alikadic Adnan, born in 1962 in Konjic; Pirkic Mitko, born in 1962 in Konjic; Cosic Safaudin, born in 1974 in Konjic; Cakic Muhamed, born in 1968 in Konjic; Hebibovic Ismet, known as “Broceta,” born in 1956 in Konjic; Balic Redzo, born in 1952 in Konjic; Lukomirak Hamed, born in 1971 in Konjic; Padalovic Almir, born in 1968 in Mostar; Jusufbegovic Sead, born in 1941 in Konjic; Cibo Senadin, born in 1967 in Konjic; Ramic Agan, born in 1962 in Konjic; and Ramic Esad, born in 1966 in Konjic.
And even after a quarter of a century it’s high time to find out how 240 unfortunate people in the Celebici camp were tortured just because they were Serbs, about how a beautiful city – Konjic – was ethnically cleansed, about the disappearance of 800 Serbs from Bradina, and the killing of 88 others.
Konjic and its people should not have been captives of these thugs. It’s high time for the sake of truth, justice, God, and the boy Petar – twice shot, and forever alive – that we are all born again into reconciliation and truth.
Here’s our chance! There has been enough silence!
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The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.
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