Students at Bradford College heard some very personal testimony as part of events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day when a tutor shared his own harrowing experience.
Tutor Samir Dizdarevic was a college student himself when war broke out in his native Bosnia in 1992. He was exposed to deaths, torture, had no electricity and struggled for food. The conflict saw some of the worst atrocities in modern European history with Samir’s father among the tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men murdered as part of ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Serb forces.
The computing tutor recounted finding his father’s dead body on the road, along with the dismembered and visibly tortured corpses of three other men from his village. The men had been taken from their homes by Serb soldiers the previous day.
His moving and thought-provoking talk detailed many of the other horrors he saw during the conflict, including how a group of his friends were loaded onto trucks and taken to a prison camp. One of those friends died before reaching the camp as he suffocated in the back of the overcrowded truck. He explained that as he was small, and looked younger than his 17-years, he was allowed to stay with the women when Serb forces separated the men and taking them away to the camps where the prisoners of war were appallingly treated.
When the soldiers agreed to let the women and children flee the village, Samir, with his mother and other villagers, endured a treacherous journey on a truck and then foot to reach a safe zone where they slept in a school for a week before travelling by bus to Croatia. They lived in Croatia for a year before coming to the UK where they were reunited with two uncles who had been held in the Manjaca prison camp.
Unable to speak English when he arrived in the UK, the teenage Samir enrolled on an English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) course at Bradford College in 1994 and progressed to university before returning to the college as a teacher and like most survivors of war he hopes that by telling his story history will not repeat itself.