A Srebrenica massacre survivor remembers

This week commemorations are being held to mark 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre when towards the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, Bosnian Serb forces overran a United Nations designated “safe area”.


More than eight-thousand Muslim men and boys were killed in the days that followed.

For survivors the events continue to cast a shadow.

For one who’s made Australia home, the fear and desperation people felt at the time remains fresh.

“For me Srebrenica is not the past. It is not 20 years. For me Srebrenica is the present. Intimate present and intimate future. And I live with that everyday.”

The artist, poet and filmaker Saidin Salkic.

He was 12-years old when Bosnian Serb troops overran the United Nations declared “safe area” in Potocari where he, his mother and sister, and thousands of other Bosnian Muslims had sought refuge in July 1995.

“You could see them walking through and examining people, everyone almost individually.”

When the family tried to board a bus to leave the camp near Srebrenica, soldiers ordered Mr Salkic to one side.

“My mother realised I’d been taken away and she turned around and she started screaming. Pulling me away. They pulled their guns out. They said “shut up we’re going to kill you”. And then one of them said he’s young enough he can go.”

There was no escape for the 33 year old’s father.

He was captured as he attempted to hike a forest trail to the town of Tuzla.

“On SBS News in 2005 I saw the execution of my father in the famous Scorpions video with five other Bosnians. And he was wearing the same blue shirt I saw him last.”

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed by paramilitary troops led by the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic.

They were then buried in mass graves.

“Everybody I ever played with never came back. And these were all 10,11, 12, 13 year old boys.”

After years in refugee camps the Salkic family was given the choice of settling in Australia or the United States.

They made Melbourne home.

A father himself now, Mr Salkic can see beauty where for such a long time there was darkness.

“Historically she will find the facts. Intimately she will feel it from me. It has left an enormous amount of melancholy. You sort of live with it.”

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