Life Story: Resad Trbonja was a Teenager who survived Sarajevo Siege

November 28, 2018 7:00 PM

In 1991, Rešad Trbonja was a regular teenager. He wore Converse trainers, listened to punk rock and thought he knew everything. But within a year Rešad would be fighting to save his family, friends and fellow Bosnian Muslims during the Siege of Croatia, the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.

In the interview given to Examiner Live, Rešad (pronounced ‘Reh-shad’) delivered a thought-provoking talk to students at Greenhead College, detailing the horrors he saw in the conflict which lasted almost four year and demonstrating the dangers of allowing hate and intolerance to flourish.

It was ironic that Rešad’s religion made him and his fellow Bosniaks a target for Bosnian Serbs hoping to establish a Serbian republic.

He wasn’t particularly religious describing himself as ‘more belonger than believer’.

Before the Bosnian War broke out in April 1992, Sarajevo was a place where people of four faiths – Islam, orthodox Christianity, Catholicism and Judaism – had thus far gotten along.

Rešad, who is now a coordinator for the charity Remembering Srebrenica, said: “In Bosnia all people are white. All the people speak the same language and wear the same clothes.

“The only difference is their names. Until you know their names only then can you tell if they are Muslim, Croat, Serb, Orthodox or Catholic Christian.

“Sarajevo was a symbol of coexistence, a multicultural life.”

But the differences, which had hitherto been a detail of that coexistence, became the fuel for ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In the besieged Bosnian capital day-to-day became a surreal and harrowing mix of fighting and surviving.

Rešad said: “You were exposed to death in both…

“I’ve witnessed things that none of your Hollywood blockbusters show.

“I’ve seen people decapitated by shrapnel.”

After the war, Rešad took a job as a UN security guard.

He moved up the ranks becoming an investigator for the UN before working for the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

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