Monday, August 31, 2009

They will know you by your name

Some time in the last few months of the war, when the shootings were more sporadic, we heard that few people, namely Serbs, from our neighbourhood were occasionally crossing the 'border', the avenue between two buildings with opposite armies on each side. They were going to the Serb side to get food, since they were better supplied or to use a phone, since phone lines on our side still only worked for local calls. I have family in Belgrade, so one day mom, her girl friend, and I decided to 'go over'.

These crossings were still not 'legal', and the avenue was patrolled by the Serb army. There were no Bosnian soldiers there, so only those who were Serbs had really the freedom to go back and forth.

I must add here that during that time, something like this was only possible for women to attempt. Since only men were soldiers, any man without an adequate documentation to prove they live there, would be arrested and their fate unsure.

The 'border' was five minutes walk from our building, and the post office another five. We were able to get there unnoticed and shock my relatives when they heard our voices. There were no phone booths, so the conversation was censured and cryptic.

On the way back we were stopped by an uniformed man on the Serb side of the avenue. He asked for our ID's, and I was the only one who had my refugee card from Belgrade with me. Since my name sounds Serbian, I was 'safe'. Both my mom and her friend have Muslim sounding names, and would have trouble if caught on the Serb side. The solider asked my mom for her name, and she was witty enough to answer with the name where she removed one letter from it and said a similar name that sounds Serbian. The third lady then did the same. After little more questioning, he then let us pass.

This time we were lucky that this armed man didn't insist we all show him the ID's and didn't take us in for any further investigation.

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