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23.08.2018.

Battle for Žuč by Shoba

http://blob.blogger.ba/arhiva/2007/07/28/1057286

Isto kao i sa Umornim, mislim da Shobi neće smetati što ovo postam bez njegove dozvole. Mozda ovo nekako i dobaci do njega da popravi prevod...

It was a bright and sunny day. July 21st or 22nd, I don’t remember exactly. By this time the war had been in full swing and tragedies unfolded all the time. The bulk of it had mostly missed me. I didn’t press to be in front, preferring to stay at the back of the column. I have never been particularly brave for that matter, and had it been otherwise I might not have been around anymore. Still, I was in the Army of RBiH with all my heart because I knew we were fighting for the freedom and independence of BiH – my one and only homeland. That day, at 8 a.m., I was off to do a shift on the Žuč hill. On the way there, I stopped by the Tito barracks, the so called Maršalka, where we all gathered, took our food and set off, on foot of course, to the top of Žuč – a journey that takes about one and a half hours. I never liked the path although it passed through some beautiful landscape because when the war descended on us, it became ghost-like and desolate in spite of its natural beauty. In order to get to Žuč, you have to pass through several of Sarajevo's neighborhoods: Pofalići, Buča potok, and a few hamlets as you get closer. Coming there always filled me with some inexplicable courage coupled with a primal fear. It was a site of a lot of combat, and our brigade was actually the only one that moved the front line forward stretching the Sarajevo free territory for about 8 kilometers. Now, imagine if each brigade in Sarajevo did the same. In doing so, we had lost quite a few men. Many have been wounded, but we still managed somehow.

Before we reached the hamlet of Jezera, Chetniks started shelling our positions on Golo brdo. We stopped in our tracks finding shelter in a deserted house. The shelling lasted ten minutes or so and then it stopped as abruptly as it started. We figured out they must have thought they noticed something before changing their mind. Firing shells for no particular purpose wasn’t new to them, and besides it wasn't like their ammunition reserves were going to be exhausted any time soon. We pressed on and passed through the village reaching an area that was right below Golo brdo. There was a house there, where we stayed when we were off duty. Occasionally, we used to play cards in front of the house, until the day when Samir got killed by a flying shrapnel. It's still not clear to me how we were so dumb and ignorant of the danger to goof around in such a place, and even less clear to me is how any of us survived. On that day, we had all stormed into the house following the explosion. Oddly enough, out of all of us Samir was the only one who started to say something. However, he was stopped in the middle of the sentence. Holding on to the sink and with the ground shifting under his feet, he just collapsed. His face turned blue as he gasped for air like a fish out of the water. We started shouting: “Samir, what's wrong?!”... It turned out that a small shrapnel hit him through his back right in the heart. There was no hope of saving him. There wasn't even a single drop of blood. He was only 19...

We entered the house replacing the guys who had waited on us. We watched them as they hurriedly made their way back to the city. Only later I realized how lucky they were because had they stayed for another ten minutes, some of them might not have made it out of there. Because it was right at that time that the offensive started. Before I even had a chance to realize what was going it, shells were raining on us from everywhere. We had no clue anymore wherefrom they were firing them. Amid the rain of shells we ran to the nearest trench and headed to where our cannon was positioned because we knew that reinforcements were going to be needed there. As we made it to the trench, still trying to catch our breath we looked at each other scared out of our wits. There was an unspoken question on our lips: What on earth is this?! Blasts from exploding shells became unbearable. They were scorching the earth all around us. I held on to the tree roots because blasts were so strong that they threw us around the trench. Some started panicking and moaning, and I just kept lighting one cigarette after the other. I had a hand grenade and held it firmly in my hand. Three of us shared one rifle because officially we were artillerymen servicing the cannon. The heavy ploughing with shells didn't show any signs of subsiding. They just kept raining on us, one after the other. Soon we heard screams and passing by our trench were two soldiers who carried a third one who had lost his legs. All hell had broke loose.

After an hour and a half of non-stop shelling, the shooting stopped. Next came a deadly silence... I thought to myself that it was all over and that it was going to calm down slowly. After a couple of minutes, a heavy infantry fire started. “They're coming!”, someone shouted. Bojan ran out with a rifle shooting frantically down the hill. The rest of us just sat there and stared blankly into space. At that moment, soldiers from Golo Brdo ran by the trench shouting at the top of their voice that our line there had been overrun. Most of them had disposed of their rifles and we took over their weapons. I grabbed an AK-47 and having regained some sense of composure I looked down the hill. At that time, M-84 machine gun, the sower of death as we called it, started shooting from close range hitting the ground in front of the trench and right above my head. I grabbed the hand grenade and threw it aiming for the bunker. As it exploded, I lifted the AK-47 and started shooting bursts of fire randomly down the hill. Eventually we withstood the attack on our positions, but Golo brdo above us fell. There was no one manning those positions anymore, which meant that our right flank was completely exposed. The shelling resumed and for the next hour they were shooting like crazy. Then came another infantry attack. We thought that our right flank had been completely deserted, but in fact it turned out that there were still a few of our guys there hiding in the bunkers. Our positions didn't come under a direct attack, but after a while the firing back from our right flank had completely ceased. We no longer harbored illusions that anyone was still alive out there. Thinking of retreat, we saw two wounded men holding on to one another and coming our way through the trench. One had been wounded in the head, the other in the back. There was no use in staying there, and with panic setting in we left our position.

On the Žuč hill, we've always had only offensive lines because commander Šehović wanted us only to move forward. We didn’t have even a meter of defensive or reserve lines. I think this was a grave mistake because we were exposed to the direct cannon fire from hills above Vogošća and from Poljine too. Until then, they mostly fired at our positions from Ilidža and with mortars from Vogošća... We started making our retreat carrying two wounded men who moaned in pain. We did it the best we could under a heavy mortar fire. When we finally made it back to the house, the sight that awaited us inside was another five or six heavily wounded men, along with two of our comrades who had stayed back. It was indescribable. Blood and blood-stained dressings all around, torn shirts and undershirts, screams and moans mixed with prayers. In the meantime, the house had been hit twice, fortunately in the roof or it would have been a site of another massacre. We figured out we had to move the wounded men somehow or otherwise they were all going to die. Since I was the only one with a flak jacket, I ran out of the house and proceeded at full speed to the field medical unit located at the far end of the village. I managed to get there at long last. Opening the door, an even more disturbing sight met my eyes: a bunch of dead and wounded soldiers, and a doctor smoking a cigarette and staring into space. In his state of utter shock, he thought I was an enemy soldier. After I explained the situation to him and said that we had several wounded men, he just nodded and said: “Bring them in!” I asked him if he had any contact with the command. He said that the last thing he heard was that two ambulances had been hit trying to make their way to Žuč.

As I made my way out, I again ran back to the house as fast as I could. Navigating through shell craters that kept multiplying, I stumbled several times and once I think it even saved my life as a couple of shells exploded at close distance. My head was buzzing with the sound of explosions and I was not able to hear anything anymore other than feel the pressure from blasts. I made it back and briefed them on the situation. We agreed to carry the wounded one by one in blankets since we had no stretchers. The two ran out carrying a wounded man while I tried to dress the wounds of a heavily wounded guy. His name was Nenad and he was from Alipašino polje. He kept asking me if his wound looked okay and if he was going to survive. I consoled him saying that everything was going to be all right and that ambulance was going to come any second. The reality was different. He had a big gaping hole in his back, in the area around his kidneys, and he was losing blood rapidly. He started losing consciousness and I gently lifted him to see if he was in the condition to be transported. It seemed to me that he was not going to live much longer unless we took him to the doctor immediately. The other two returned in the meantime and my friend and I placed Nenad in the blanket and started running through the shower of shells. He groaned in agony, but there was no other option – we had to run. We made it to the field doctor who looked at us with glazed eyes as if waiting for his own turn.

Returning to the house we realized there was no point in taking the wounded there because there was no one to help them. Instead, we should consolidate and try to organize some sort of defense in front and inside the house. There were many disposed weapons lying around. I grabbed a machine gun and a bandoleer filled with bullets and lied down in one of the craters next to the house. Being overwhelmed by some strange madness I was beginning to lose the sense of self-preservation. I went into the house a couple of times to check on the situation and at one moment I totally lost it. I felt completely free of any fear, and it was true that there was nothing to lose any more. “I can’t take this anymore! I’m going up to the top to regain our positions. Who’s with me?!”, I shouted. All three shouted back at me in unison: “Are you out of your mind? They’ll kill us all!!” Still feeling incredibly self-confident I exclaimed: “I’m off, who’s going to join me?!” In the next moment they all jumped on me taking me to the ground: “You’re not going anywhere!” They dispossessed me of the machine-gun and pushed me inside the small space under the sink.

I totally lost any sense of time and space crumbled in that small space. I fixed my gaze on the door expecting it to open any time and to see hand grenades being thrown inside. It was not a matter of if it was going to happen, just when. Probably, hours went by with us lying down on the floor waiting for death to knock on the door because it was getting dark. No one wanted to be on duty outside anymore, with all of us being too tense and delirious from the day’s horrors. With the dark setting in, we heard voices and someone slowly approaching the house. We cocked our rifles silently looking at each other. My friend standing next to me could not hold back and he shouted: “Who is it?!” “The shift!”, the voice shouted in reply. “It’s me, Učo!” Učo was the platoon commander. We recognized his voice and we all jumped on our feet. We quickly opened the door that we had barricaded earlier and in came around a dozen men from our company. They were still unaware of the unfolding tragedy.

“Guys, go back to the command in Buča potok. We’ll take it from here”, Učo said. I still could not believe the turn of events. Few moments ago, I thought that death was literally round the corner and instead the salvation came. We didn’t need Učo to repeat his instructions as we got ready to head back to the city. On my way out I grabbed a machine-gun just in case. It was already dark and the shelling had stopped. Leaving the village behind, we met a group of our soldiers headed in the direction of Golo brdo. They quickly asked us about a few details, and we told them what we knew. They were Cile’s soldiers, the reconnaissance-sabotage brigade. At one point during this brief exchange, they thought we were deserting from our positions and they were intent on taking us back. However, we were quite convincing telling them our side of the story, with the machine-gun in my hands playing the part too. In less than quarter of an hour, we heard them engage in combat on top of the hill. Later on we heard that they managed to regain the lost line on Golo brdo. Bad news was that my neighbor, who was a great guy and whom I loved as if he was my own brother, had been killed in the attack. His name was Zlatko. May he rest in peace. We will never forget you, Điđikovac crew.

In the next few days there was heavy fighting in which I no longer participated, but I was close enough in the case of need. We lost the line on the other side of Golo brdo, but they did not manage to push us back further down the hill. We dug trenches below Golo brdo later on, which should have been dug long time ago as reserve positions. This would have probably reduced casualties on our side significantly. Our brigade suffered major losses. Brigade commander Enver Šehović and commander of the brigade’s first company were both killed. Our brigade was never the same again, but we still pressed on as much as we could. I was later transferred to the Centar company that manned the positions in Fočanska street above TAS factory.

I often caught myself looking at Žuč and remembering the hell that happened there in 1993. I still find it hard to believe that I survived it, counting my time as before and after Žuč. Eventually, I survived the war working as a miner/deminer in the last year, which also had its portion of scary moments. Psychologically maimed as many others who survived the horrors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I moved on... and here I am...

I’m sitting now in my warm apartment in New York, slowly sipping white wine and looking at my boots that I had worn the entire war, the same boots that carried me that day through thick and thin. I never put them on again and I am hoping that they will remain just a memory of the time when death was closer than life.

16.08.2018.

Aldi by Umorni

http://umor.blogger.ba/arhiva/2018/07/19/4105972

Nisam pitao Umornog za dozvolu da postam ovu njegovu priču na engleskom, ali pretpostavljam da ne bi imao ništa protiv. Imao sam neku ideju da se prevedu izabrane price bloggera ono od pocetka pa dosad, pa sam htio da vidim kako bi to izgledalo na papiru...

First he tried to impose his authority by force. Issuing orders to us. Because he was, for all intents and purposes, our commander. Orders that we were supposed to obey. My comrades, however, cared little for his orders. Nobody was in a rush to die. And besides, it was great in this basement of ours. On the other hand, we needed that damn ammunition badly. In order to get it, we would have to get out of the nicely sheltered basement – though slightly damp, but it was a rather insignificant detail given the circumstances – move for about a kilometer amid a shower of shells, have the ammunition loaded on our backs as on mules, and return the same way with shells raining down on us once again. A rather unpleasant and dangerous mission. Actually, the main problem was a clearing – a front yard of one of the nearby houses – where one had to run at lightning speed to have any hope of not being hit by M84 machine gun, popularly known as the sower of death. If you managed to get unscathed, awaiting you next was the task of evading their so called random mortar fire that essentially was targeting no one else but you. Without the ammunition we were done for anyway. So, we fuckoffed the commander and pulled matches. Fire sticks, that is. The lucky winners, who no doubt were looking at the prospect of having a short life span, were: King, Aldi and myself. I was in a good company because both of them were good soldiers. They were brave enough and I reckoned if I were hit, they were not going to leave me behind. And it meant a lot.

We set off running for our lives over the clearing, trying not to pay attention to grass chunks being uprooted all around us by a machinegun fire. Having crossed the clearing, we hid from mortar fire in some repository filled with stale wheat. We smoked a few fags there, waiting for those shitheads to stop, to give their deadly arsenal a short break. The break finally came and we were able to make it to the staff headquarters. Once there, we loaded ourselves with ammunition to the point of nearly collapsing under all that burden. I felt that all that metal on my back was pressing me into the damp ground under my feet. In the damn war, there is this pervasive feeling of everything happening for one sole purpose, that of placing you under the ground. On the way back, they again searched for us by firing shells our way. It’s a nasty feeling knowing that it’s exactly you who they’re trying to blow to pieces. And really making an effort at succeeding. Having found a shelter behind a house, we agreed to cross the clearing together by holding to one another. I mean we should run the distance, but running with a burden that amounted to 70-80 percent of your own weight didn’t seem like a realistic option. Not in those circumstances at least. The machine gun was again uprooting the chunks of green grass all around our legs. This time it was impossible to ignore them. Bullets were whizzing creating gusts of air around our ears. But, we managed to make it to our basement unscathed.

Unloading the heavy load, we sank into an armchair and sofa that we had earlier moved to the basement. That was it, we succeeded. I extended a lit cigarette to Aldi who was sitting right across. Smiling at him I said: “Let others now fucking deal with the distribution of this ammo!” He smiled back and replied: “Let them loafers do it.” I then turned to talk to others, moving my gaze away from Aldi. There was another round of shelling of the area around the house. Maybe there was a reason for it, or maybe not. It was difficult to figure out what those shitheads were thinking. One after the other. Dozens of shells. But we were in the basement and they could not get to us now. At least not with the ones they were currently using. They could fire them for days on end to no effect. I felt an urge to say something to Aldi again. But something, something was wrong. His expression changed, his face assumed an ashen color and tightened a bit, and it appeared as if his eyes retracted in their sockets. He had a strange burning look in his eyes. He was looking in my direction, but I had a distinct impression that he did not see me. I waved my hand in front several times, but his eyes remained fixed. I also noticed a slight trembling of his body. And beads of sweat on his forehead. It was then that I recognized madness in his eyes, an unmistaken and genuine madness. He suddenly leaped on his feet and screamed: “Murderers, murderers, you will not get me out... No, no... I don’t want out... There is no one out there... Never...” While others were trying to figure out what was happening, he ran over me, reached for an automatic rifle and started shooting bursts of fire in the basement room. Bullets ricocheted all around the room and we all threw ourselves on the floor looking for shelter where there was none. He then pulled out a hand grenade from the front pocket of his jacket. Being the only one at the time who realized that he had lost it, I jumped on him and grabbed his arm. In the next moment, I found myself thrown away a couple of meters. Others jumped on him too, but he was throwing them around the room as if they were made of paper and entirely weightless. He became the strongest man on the planet. He then started releasing these unarticulated blood-curdling screams, flailing his arms all around. But he did not get to pull the safety fuse out of the grenade. He probably forgot to do it, with madness holding him strongly in its grip. In those couple seconds, we regrouped and seven of us descended on him. We punched and kicked with all our might, but still he floored all of us one by one. We were powerless against him as he became stronger than all of us combined.

As on many occasions in the past, the most lucid member of our unit, Rale pulled out his gun from the holster and hit him on the face with all the power he could muster. Mercilessly and without holding back in the slightest. Aldi swayed a bit trying to hold his balance, at the same time reaching with his other hand for the safety fuse. Rale struck again with his pistol hitting the same spot on Aldi’s face and causing him to fall on his knees. The left side of his face turned into a puffed-up fritter. Running at full speed Kralj buried both of his legs in Aldi’s chest, but it took the third strike with the pistol to finally knock him unconscious. After a minute or so of working on it, I managed to untangle his fingers from the grenade. He was two millimeters short from pulling out the safety fuse. Two fucking short millimeters. We all collapsed around the room, entirely exhausted and scared out of our wits. Someone asked: “What the hell was this?!” We had no idea, the guy snapped in less than two minutes. Could it happen this way too? From the practical presentation that we had just witnessed, it seemed that it could. We tied him up with whatever we could find, double-checking every single knot. A medic gave him a shot to make sure he remained sedated for a while. For the next couple of hours he was out, and as the dusk settled we carried him off to the field medical unit. After some additional explaining on our part, they gave him some other shots and transported him to the psychiatry ward.

He spent a couple of months on sick leave. I saw him several times at the staff headquarters when he came to collect cigarettes and food parcels. Or rather, what our logistics called food parcels. Ashen color of his face and a burning look were still there. He lost weight and his shoulders sapped. And then the day came when he was supposed to show up for a line-up together with the rest of us to go to the frontline again. There is an end to everything and sick leave is no exception. He failed to show up. And the rest of us left. Upon return, we found out that the night before the departure, he accidentally shot himself in the leg while cleaning his gun. The recovery was going to take another couple of months. This was the official version, I guess. For a while, we came back to the incident in our conversations. Was it accidental or done on purpose? An act of cowardice or bravery? Each of us looked at it differently. I never saw him in uniform again. After the war, I saw him a couple of times. The ashen color of his face and a burning look in his eyes subsided somewhat. He did not recognize me. It seemed that he had seen me before, but there was no place to associate with the face. He was dragging his leg behind him. Much in the same way as one would drag an unwanted burden. This appeared to be the only, visible, change on him...

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