Ernad Čomaga was five years and eight months old when the war broke out in Sarajevo. He and his family lived in the Alifakovac settlement, under Trebević. Ernad could not even imagine that he will have to leave the place where he was growing up carelessly one year after the beginning of war, escape over the runway under sniper fire and become a refugee.
“First memories of the siege are related to the peace demonstrations that took place shortly before the aggression. I know that my mother took me one night to my grandmother, that the roads were full of people with flags of Yugoslavia and that everyone seemed to be celebrating something. At least that is how I perceived it back then, and I guess it evoked some feelings in me so I feel a kind of positive emotion towards that memory,” Čomaga said.
Couple days after, he was with his mother and, like any other child, he wanted to watch cartoons on the TV. However, nothing other but the demonstrations had been broadcasted. Ernad thought that people are celebrating something again, but the feeling was very different this time. Carved in his memory are the sounds of airplanes that flew over their house.
“Not long after, my uncle entered the apartment, wearing full military equipment, grabbed my hand and took me to a basement in one of the buildings in the street. I was scared and I started crying. In the basement were other people from the neighborhood and children as well, so I played with them until my parents and grandparents came and we all went back to our apartment. That first day is so engraved in my memory that even today I dream about the war breaking out again, that someone is watching us from above and that we must find a shelter until we figure out how to defend ourselves. That dream evokes fear, powerlessness and the need to defend yourself, probably the same emotions I had back when I was a child, but they are probably much different in a child that in an adult,” Čomaga said.
Čomaga spent one year in the besieged Sarajevo. As he says, he carries plenty of bad memories, strange images he will never forget, but also moments of happiness. The most positive and the most negative memories for him are those related to food. He says that he was not hungry so much, because he was used to eat as much as they had.
Ernad felt one of the rare moments of fear during the war when a grenade fell on the house opposite of theirs. Several seconds later, the second grenade fell in their yard. The Čomaga family then lived on the ground floor and they were watching television. The explosion cause the glasses to break and shatter over the children.
One year after the beginning of the war, his parents made a tough decision – to escape from Sarajevo over the airport runway. That memory, Ernad says, still evokes discomfort because they spent the entire night on the runway, trying to cross it. His parents, three-year-old brother and uncle were preparing and practicing how to run across the runway.
Under the fire, these five members of the family risked their lives trying to run across the runway. They were even caught by UNPROFOR members who wanted to return them to Sarajevo. After begging them to be merciful and take them to Hrasnica, the UNPROFOR member became empathic because he had two sons in France as well, so he drove them near Hrasnica. As they started running towards the nearest houses, snipers started firing on them. However, with a lot of luck they managed to reach the houses where they were protected.
After Sarajevo, his family went to Mostar where there was peace at the time. They lived with his aunt, in the eastern part of the city. The situation was a lot different because they had food and there was no shooting. After some time, the war broke out in Mostar as well. Thanks to some friends, Croats, they managed to get documents for safe transition to the western part of the city so they can continue moving towards Croatia. They managed to get to Zagreb, and then to Germany.
Life in exile was very hard for him. First they lived in rooms covering 20 square meters. Then they lived in sports halls, until his father got employed and managed to provide an apartment for them.
After 10 years, they returned to BiH and continued living. After graduating from university, Čomaga left to Berlin for master studies in European Law at the Humboldt University. He is an active member of the BiH community and known as a great fighter for the rights of students and the development of that population. Upon the completion of studies, he intends to work abroad, gain experience and knowledge and return to BiH to contribute to the development of his country. He is currently writing two books “Basics of Political System and Law in the European Union” in Bosnian language and “Die Landebahn der Engle” (The Runway of Angels) in German language, in which he writes about his memories from the war.