Bosnia 20 years later: Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo

Read the article below written by Nic Robertson of CNN. It is about a beautiful love story that stems from the Bosnian War, which is a dark period in its history. The article is about a modern day “Romeo and Juliet,” Bosko Birkic and Admira Ismi. Bosko was Serbian and Admira was Muslim and they were childhood sweethearts. However, when the Bosnian War hit, their love- that of a Muslim and Serbian- was unthinkable. They tried to flee Sarajevo, but were killed trying to cross the Vrbanja Bridge. They died in eachothers arms.

It is a beautiful story about love and how it can be found even in the darkest of moments. And even though they did not survive, their story lives on in their parents and their community. Their love across ethnic lines offers hope and inspiration to people who, even now, question whether they have the courage to defy the odds and be with the person they want to be with, instead of the one they should be with.


Tragic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ offers Bosnia hope

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) — Two families scarred by the Bosnian war — and joined by the memories of a couple who dared to love across the ethnic divide — have the same message of peace as the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the conflict.

In Sarajevo, Zijah and Nermina Ismic live in a plush apartment scattered with photos and a huge painting of their daughter Admira.

Half-a-day’s drive away in a Serbian village, Radmila Birkic lives in a comfortable home where the centerpiece is a TV stand converted into a photo frame of her smiling son, Bosko Birkic with Admira.

Bosko was Serbian, Admira was Muslim. They were childhood sweethearts before the war ripped Bosnia apart.

Together, they tried to escape the besieged city of Sarajevo but were shot as they tried to cross the Vrbanja Bridge, and died in each other’s arms.

As their bodies lay together for eight days — with no one able to safely retrieve them — they became known as the “Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo.”

Today they are in Sarajevo’s Lion cemetery still lying together, a symbol that defies the hatred of the ethnically charged war, and their parents have remained close friends.

Both sets of parents said they blame the politicians, not the soldiers, for their loss, and both recognize ethnic resentment can simmer beneath Bosnian society.

But they also said the time has come for those still harboring hate to start living without prejudice.

In Djunis, a small village 14 kilometers from Krusevac in Serbia, Radmila, a widow since before the war, lives with her son, Bane. She is recovering from a stroke and walks with a crutch.

Despite the passing of 20 years she remembers the deaths as if they were yesterday and photos of Bosko and Admira dominate her home.

The photos show the couple as teens learning to love and as adults in each other’s arms.

They had been together for nine years when they were killed on May 18, 1993, both age 25.

In Sarajevo, retired mechanic Zijah and Nermina live with their daughter Amela in a new apartment block — part of the construction program that has disguised many of the landmarks of the three-year siege.

Just like Radmila, the home has photos of their children throughout.

When they talk about their loss they are at pains to remember all 11,541 killed during the siege.

As Sarajevo rebuilds it is also trying to move on from the war. A plaque was erected on Vrbanja Bridge to commemorate victims of the war but amid the bustle most locals just walk past it.

The bullet-pocked walls are being pulled down. They have been replaced by new apartment buildings, American fast food shops and a 20-story tower.

Many people in the city now were born after the war and they are keen to look forward. For many that also means not talking about the war.

If they learn the lessons from their city’s Romeo and Juliet the future could be bright.



About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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