Early in the spring 1992, our house was burnt and destroyed by Serb soldiers. My family, father, mother, three younger sisters and me escaped from being captured and killed. After months of hiding in the woods, we took shelter in Srebrenica in March 1993.
We lived in difficult conditions; in a garage, a school and sometimes in the front of the houses beside the fire with other refugees. It was a period of starvation and often we went to seek food all around Srebrenica in the burnt and destroyed villages.
Meanwhile, UN troops arrived and we saw them as rescuers. Almost every day we played football against the Dutch soldiers; often, we boys watched them eating as we were starving. Anyway, we took them for friends. But, in July 1995, all that changed. When Mladić’s offensive started, the Dutch forgot us, left their check-points and fled. We had no option but to follow them and wait for help but it came from nowhere.
We were afraid of going to Potočari – the Dutch UN soldiers’ base. We feared for our lives. After days of hiding and taking cover in the woods and hills around Srebrenica my father, uncle and I headed in the direction of Tuzla on a long, unknown and uncertain road through the woods and minefields.
Running away we were under constant bombardment by Serb artillery from the hills. On that Death Road, an endless column of men and boys, many were killed and the wounded were crying out for help, in vain. In the chaos, I lost my father and ran through the crowd crying and calling for him.
Then, we could not keep going forward because we were in the back part of the column that was broken. We were lost in the middle of the forest, we did not know where to go. Serb soldiers called by megaphone: “Go out or you will be killed….You will have treatment according to the Geneva Convention”.
Bare-footed, starving, thirsty, exhausted, frightened and carrying our wounded, we got out on the road on July 13. The Serb soldiers behaved correctly until we all gave ourselves up. Some 2,000 men and boys were loaded on lorries and taken to their death. After driving in the covered lorries in different directions, we were taken to a field where we would be shot.
We were tortured and dying for a drop of water. Before execution, we were forced to take off our clothes. One of soldiers tied our hands in the back. At that moment I, a 17-year-old boy, realised it was the end. I was trying to hide on the lorry behind the men wishing to live a few more seconds. The others did the same. Finally, I had to jump out. We were told to find a place and lined up, five by five.
I thought that I would die fast without suffering. Thinking that my mum would never know where I finished they began to shoot us in our backs. I did not know whether I lost consciousness, but I lay on my stomach bleeding and trembling. I was shot in my stomach and right arm. The shooting continued and I watched the lines of people falling down.
I could hear and feel bullets hitting all around me. Shortly after that I was wounded heavily in my left foot. The men were dying around me; I could hear their death-rattles.
I was dying too in terrible pain and had no strength to call them to kill me. I said to myself: “Oh my God, why don’t I die?” The pain was unbearable.
It was midnight and the lorry moved away. Trying to raise my head I noticed a man who was moving. I asked him: “Are you alive?” He answered: “Yes, come to untie me.” We succeeded in untying one another and avoiding the next lorry arriving.
After days of suffering, wandering through the woods, hiding in the streams, sleeping in the grave-yards, crawling with my terrible pain we managed to reach the territory under Bosnian government control. My father, uncle and relatives who sought shelter at the Dutch base in Potočari did not survive. The man who saved me lives today far away from Bosnia. I returned to Srebrenica in 2007.