On an autumn afternoon in 1993, following heavy artillery fire, my older sister Edina gave me a backpack and rushed me through deserted streets to a local school in Visoko, a town 30 kilometers outside of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, where we lived with our mom as internally displaced people. The shelling had further battered the already damaged school, making it possible for us to sneak in through what looked — to a 9-year-old me — like an exciting tunnel made of rubble.
Inside, an eerie silence filled the corridors and the empty classrooms. Holding each other’s hands, we walked through the debris until we found our way to what once was a library, where books had neatly lined white shelves a year before, and now hundreds of books were scattered on the floor. I watched as Edina got to her knees and started to collect some books and put them in her backpack. I bent down and started to do the same. Half an hour later we left the school with two backpacks full of stolen books.
Our local school was closed the first time in fall 1992, because local authorities saw that it was no longer safe after it was hit by artillery fire. For a while, teachers would gather a few students together and teach in the basement of a local post office or in houses that were considered safe. Sometimes, in the nearly four years of war, the school would open its doors and allow us to study in classrooms looking out on the inner garden — hoping there was less of a chance in the interior to be killed from a mortar or artillery fire. But overall, together with thousands of other children in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I spent more years in basements trying to …read more