BY JASMINE KAPOOR
Nadja Halilbegovich, also known as “Bosnian Anne Frank”, is a survivor of the Bosnian War. She is a professional speaker who has been sharing her story for over a decade, and on November 7th, Milton District had the honour of hearing her tell her history.
During periods one and two on November 7th, Mr. Walker’s grade 12 Interdisciplinary Studies class and Mr. Neuman’s grade 12 Law class listened to Nadja in the library. Period one consisted of Nadja talking about the chapter of her life before the war, her struggles and strength during the war, and her escape from Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital which was under siege for four years. She shared the fears she endured every day of her life, and the trauma of being wounded by a bomb. The negative experiences were not all she spoke of, but also the pride she felt in the strength of her family and neighbours, as well as the joy she found in poetry and music which she shared with her fellow Bosnians through her radio show “The Music Box”.
During period two, Nadja spoke about her “inner siege” – the harsh truths of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how one can never truly be free of war even after the signing of a peace treaty. There was also time for questions and answers, which took up most of second period, allowing a more personal experience with Nadja.
Nadja is an advocate for peace, and has a wish that no man, woman, and especially no child should ever have to experience the pain of war. October 18th marked 25 years since the day she was wounded by shrapnel from an explosion, the remains of which are still in her leg. A reminder of the cruel times she was subjected to, but also of the life she is living and how far she has come. You can watch a video she made addressing that day here. She has also written a novel, My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary, which illustrates her personal accounts of growing up from a thirteen year-old to a sixteen year-old during wartime. Currently, Nadja is writing a memoir which will be released in the future.
Overall, Nadja hopes to spread peace and help the victims of war in any way possible. Through her book, she is able to help those in a situation similar to what she went through by making them feel less alone. Her diary also helps educate those who may not be victims of war understand just how horrific it is to have your life take such a dreadful turn.
Milton District is extremely grateful for the privilege of hearing Nadja’s story and being able to meet her. I, Jasmine Kapoor, was able to speak with Nadja personally, and am honoured to have had the opportunity to do so. Nadja is strong, kind, and an inspiration to people all over the world.
For a final thought, a brief excerpt from Nadja’s diary when she was fifteen years old:
“Why can’t we all live together in peace instead of fighting wars? No country is worth a child’s tear let alone a child’s life.”
June 19, 1995