Survivor: Ismedina

"My name is Ismedina and I'm from Northern Bosnia. I was at my auntie's for school holidays when war happened. I travelled from west Bosnia to Croatia as a refugee. My auntie had a bit of money saved and she got us all out. But then war started there in Croatia and Bosnia and that's when we were not welcome anymore."

"They just sort of tell you to leave. My brother was in the army and so was my uncle. And if you have a member in the army, army usually attempt to take care of their members and the families, so we were lucky that way because they took care to get us some kind of visa, kind of like refugee for Germany. Auntie’s husband was in army and he was a commander or something. So I kind of got away with them, and lived in Germany for four years before I moved to Australia."

"Civil war is following you wherever you go. Some people just get on like nothing happened because they haven't actually seen much. They never saw nothing. They never went through anything. But then there are people who suffered, being kicked out of their own house like we did. We had to leave our house in 24 hours. They said: “It's not your home anymore. Where you're going to go is none of our business.”

You live in some place where they don't treat you well because you are a refugee, so everybody looks down at you. They feed us with the leftover foods and give us the clothes that they don't wear and stuff like that. But at least you're not getting bombed or shot or killed. But then on the other hand, when war happens, at the same time you'll become the enemy there, so they just close off the refugee centres, close off the refugee program. And they just send in the army to places where you live to kick you out in 24 hours. And you have to go. It comes to the fact that you kind of just have to leave your life behind and go because you've been forced to, not because you've chosen. That never goes away, really.

When my husband and I are sitting down watching a movie and it's a war movie, he doesn't understand why I can't watch it. He says it's just a movie. But for me it's bringing flashes back, the reality that I saw. And even though I know it's made up, there are things people can't understand unless they've actually been through that. They can never understand that the gun is not a toy and it's not fun."

To see people healing, you need to see ongoing peace for a very long time. You need to see that to start with, but it doesn't happen that often.

"I should be, you know, looking into this differently. There's a better life here and it's much safer. But then you'll see things happening that aren't any good. There we go again. Déjà vu. Like on TV now: people get stabbed or killed, terrorist attacks, whatever. Everything starts slowly, step by step. So many different signs that you didn't recognise before but now you can.

Peace means… how should I put it…

We have peace now, but if you talk to the people who live there, who have family there, it's nothing different then when the war was. Only difference is they don't have bombings anymore. But it's shocking over there. I have still some family there and they hardly have anything to eat. There's no work, no money. No industry. It's just crazy. It’s been 25 years and still not changing much.

To see people healing, actually, you need to see ongoing peace for a very long time. If you follow the history back, you would see that every war is pretty much every 50 years, which means every generation gets caught in it. So you don't actually see the peace. You need to see that to start with, but it doesn't happen. It doesn't happen that often at least.

That's why when I got out, I wasn't happy being away from my family and not being able to see anyone I need to see, but I was happy in one positive way: because I know when I create my own family, my child doesn't have to go through that, but if I was still in Bosnia it probably will."

Peace after war

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