Sabina Hodzic Mehmedovic watched her mother for years trying to collect the courage and go identify the mortal remains of her father. When she was 17, she picked up the phone herself and called the Srebrenica Memorial Center to tell them she will do it.
She recognized him by the little doll he had given her a long time ago and which she slipped into his pocket the last time she saw him. And by his tobacco tin.
Sabina Hodzic Mehmedovic lost her father in the #Srebrenica #Genocide when she was nine. All male members of her immediate family were killed, 13 of them. She grew up in various refugee centres. At 17, she was strong enough to identify the mortal remains of her father in 1997. pic.twitter.com/6mXPbUvmx8
— N1english (@N1info) July 7, 2020
“This box still contains his tobacco. He would write on the lid of this tobacco tin together with me, I would sit in his lap. He would write his nickname, ‘Sabe’,” the woman remembered.
Sabina is one of the many children who grew up fatherless after the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide and that, she said, has affected her entire life. For example, she would go to her father’s funeral instead of her prom.
In fact, she not only grew up fatherless but also without any male members of her family. She lost both grandfathers, her uncles, cousins and many other family members, a total of 13, to the Srebrenica Genocide in 1995, when she was nine.
Together with her mother, two sisters and grandmothers, she managed to escape the massacre. They lived in various refugee centres for years and in 1997, her father’s remains were found along with the remains of 200 other victims, but he was buried in 2004 since Sabina’s mother could not muster the strength to go and identify him.
“Every time the Red Cross would come with some new information, she would run away from the house. When I grew up and understood that my father would never be back, I was 17 at the time, I contacted people from the Memorial Centre and told them I would go there to identify him,” she said.
Since there were no men left in her immediate family, there was nobody to carry their coffins, as is the tradition at Muslim funerals.
She explained how she felt growing up without a father.
“I always felt as if I was half of a person, never a whole person. Because I never had my father. I was deprived of that male strength, male support, that male basis that you can rely on. To us, children from Srebrenica, failure would never be forgiven. Because we had to go forward, by any means.”
She had given her father a gift, although posthumously. She wrote the book ‘To my Srebrenica hero’ (Mom srebrenickom heroju), where she described all the pain and suffering she experienced.
Hodzic Mehmedovic then read out a poem she wrote for him.
“My father, my beloved father, you are not here anymore. My eyes constantly wander, my thoughts are with you. I hoped that maybe one day you’ll come back. That I would joyfully run into your arms. But you, father, are not here anymore. You will never return again. But one day, my father, I will, dressed in white, come to your world.”
After spending many years in refugee centres, Hodzic Mehmedovic and her sisters found a home in Tinja, near the town of Srebrenik. She married and started her own family.
She said that although 25 years have passed since the Srebrenica Genocide, her wounds have not healed and never will.