ON HEALING, Nine Autobiographical Stories, 1993 - (written in 2004)
There is a bridge in the city where I come from, a bridge so breathtaking, one would never believe that within its many layers of hard white tenelia stone, there lie millions of eggshells. This is a small fragment of Mostar, the ‘bridge guardian’ city:
My parents lived in the center of this city, along the shifting lines of what is claimed‘Croatian’ and ‘Bosnian’. The demarcation line was visible from the terrace of our home. I could hear them yelling at each other as it seemed the soldiers and the city never slept. Unannounced visits by the Croatian (Hrvatska) military known as the 'HVO', deemed gold, jewelry, women, men, children and other forms of valuables, fit to be removed from homes. One never knew when they were about to visit or what they would take that day. I don’t remember his face anymore, but once, an HVO soldier who worked as an apprentice for my grandfather, stopped them from taking us to a camp in favor for his gratitude to his former employer. He said: “You are lucky, today.”
The lower part of my abdomen was burning and I looked at my legs and could not feel anything. Façade cement embedded in my skin as the bullets ricocheted from above. My three year brother ran towards me, as a naïve child would in hopes of saving somebody still under fire. My mother jumped on him and kept pleading for help. I saw two men crawling towards me. They dragged me to the front of a neighboring building where we were safe from the continuous path of the bullets. One was holding me in his arms as he placed me in the back of a car with white seat covers. They sat in the front, one was driving as the other kept turning his face towards me, cursing frightened obscenities as the covers diffused dark red along both sides of my hips. This red river would not stop and my own skin color paled, becoming one with the white of the covers.
I was twelve years old when the genocide in Mostar started, fourteen years old when I was wounded by a bullet from the Croatian trenches at close range. Once in the hospital, I only saw the ceiling and fragments of the doctor’s masked faces. “They cut the damn tip off…” The bullet entered my left hip, brazed my right ovary, went through my abdomen, exiting through my right hip, and finally coming to rest in my clothes. They said it went straight through, but the jagged tip created larger wounds in my stomach and pelvis, leaving shrapnel inside.
My father kept saying I was okay and that everything would be fine. “Nothing happened.”
I realize now, although I still don’t understand, that sometimes people refuse so called reality in hopes of it not being true. Even though I lived under war for a year and a half already during the initial Serbian occupation of Mostar and the consequent coup by the Croatian military shortly afterwards of this ancient Ottoman city, I don’t think I understood what war meant until I witnessed the insides of a hospital trapped on these newly demarcated territories. The smells and cries knew no limits and I remember asking myself how could human beings do such things to one another?
They began to cut my clothes off with scissors. My undershirt was soaked in red against my chest against my new snow-white skin. They opened my legs and began to cut the underwear, now completely unrecognizable in this wet color. I had to trust them to save this repulsive proof. My mother had stitched gold in it, in case something happened to one of us and we were separated, as I was now, we could survive. This gold would not save me anymore or purchase my way out of the bullet that had already passed. “Please, don’t throw it out, find my parents, it has gold in it.”
My first surgery lasted nine hours. The bullet cut open the small intestine in five places, the large one in four, the ovary was stitched, and the hips left alone.
I wanted them to take the bricks off of my stomach. “Can’t you see them?” In my vision, they assembled a tower. In my mind, I knew that the doctors would never do such a thing to my abdomen. It didn’t make sense and this would most likely be the end. Still, I saw them as clearly as I felt their weight. The nurses kept saying to think of happy memories.
I was raised in an old Ottoman house, over three hundred years old. Every step creaked, precisely identifying sounds based on one’s weight, speed and exact location. We had a dog, two cats, and an overgrown yard. I was my parents’ first child and the first and only grandchild my grandfather knew before he died. My mom was a successful lawyer and my dad headed his own department in a local hospital. I remember my grandfather making furniture in his shop; he would show me his drawings and let me help as much as any other five-year old child could. All these memories I knew, could not erase my pain. In a year and a half, the twelve years of my content life I had before the war started had grown forgotten.
“Your daughter has a five percent chance to survive.”
Fortnight Journal – Edition 3, Anonymous Video Chapters (http://fortnightjournal.com/). Stories on path of Survival from a War Torn Country, 2012 [TWO OF NINE autobiographical stories written in 2004]. For more information on additional chapters, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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FACTS from the first two (2) out of six (6) surgeries over a span of two years in hospitals after the below document; nine (9) surgeries in total. Lebbeus [Woods], thank you for giving me strength to talk about this more than 20 years after it all happened.