Transcript of interview, Queer Archive, 2017
At the beginning of the war I was twelve years old. More or less, I was family related to two places in Sarajevo – Vratnik where I went to school and where I lived with my father and his parents, and mom’s parents – grandma and granddad who lived on Grbavica. And when the war started, I was on Vratnik for the first two months, maybe. But since Vratnik was heavily bombed, they all agreed to move me to Grbavica. And then I went to my grandma and granddad. But usually I used to spend my weekends at my grandparents, before the war. So, there were two houses. My school was on Vratnik, but weekends were reserved for Grbavica and being at grandparents. Somewhere in late April I was already on Grbavica, and then it all happened. The city was divided, Grbavica remained isolated, there was no chance to go back to Vratnik, and it wasn’t very clear to anyone of us what will happen next, how long will it last. And the only option for me, my grandma and granddad was to move elsewhere.
Since my grandmother and Mom were related to Vojvodina, they were born there, that was the only choice we had, to cross over and then take the bus for Belgrade. And then, when we crossed that border, we took off a bit earlier in Šid, so I was in Šid for the next two years. It was 1994, the war was still going on… I can’t event recall which, out of many peace agreements was on stage, but ceasefire in Sarajevo was announced and the Blue road was established. This was the first connection between Sarajevo and Grbavica, where people could actually pass from one side to another, for a couple of days via Put bratstva i jedinstva. When that information appeared, and it was on all the news in the whole region, nothing could stop me. I wanted to return to my home, to Sarajevo. I finished school there a bit earlier. Everyone there, the school and teachers helped me to complete my seventh grade earlier than usual. And then I went with my grandmother – my grandfather was not coming, he was still, military obliged – so we were grandmother and I…we were at Grbavica and we handed the papers for me so I could stay in Sarajevo for good, with my dad. So I spent there two months. There was, that…constant questioning, to inform this one here… Basically, it was two, two and a half months I was in Grbavica, waiting to pass. In the end, they let me go; it was my birthday, August 16th. That was supposed to be a surprise. And that day I went back to Sarajevo, and there I stayed.
And the rest of the time?
The rest… until the end of the war and after the war I was here. No one in my family believed that the war would happen. And when it really started, then, well… I remember that bombing in Vratnik, Grbavica… everything was happening so fast. I didn’t even think about it. Maybe only about the decision, that was mine. When we were supposed to leave for Šid, I remember grandma and granddad asking me, they didn’t want to do it without my consent and my will. It was like – OK this is the situation – Granddad was militarily capable, my grandmother was severely ill, and we had no idea if we will ever be, I mean, in the near future, to connect with the rest of the city. They asked „Do you want us to go?” And then when I came to Šid, I quickly repented. I was constantly thinking how to go back. There were some attempts in 1993, but I came back in 1994. But I do remember that, at one point, perhaps, it may be the beginning of ’94 – I somehow thought the war would never end. I thought this was it. Well, then when…when this Blue Road started, when there was a chance to go back, somehow things just started rolling. I did not think much. Even when I returned to Sarajevo. I know that I started getting out, walking alone, wandering. I mean… I was not quite aware of the danger. I walked. I remember … let’s say, the grenade drops. Now, you hear shrapnel falling down all around but I didn’t know what it was. I just hear people in the street shouting, “Get down! Get down! Get down!” Simply…I don’t know. I didn’t feel the danger. Only later, when I was thinking of all this, I realized how thoughtless it was, and how I admire my grandma and granddad. If I had a 14-year-old child telling me they want to back to war area – no way! But while it’s all happening nothing makes sense. No matter how dangerous situation is, it is happening and it seems normal. Just after it passes, you can actually start thinking whether it is really normal or not.
In 1994 you are already 14 years old?
Yeah, I’m 14 years old.
And when do you start having feelings for someone? Was it in that period of time or…?
When I went to elementary school, so in 1987, I fell in love with a girl who was eighth grade. And I came home and openly told everyone that I fell in love with Sanela. And then…but they laughed so, so much! But OK, they always… I was always like a toy to them. I was the only kid in extended family. No one…there was this generational gap between my other relatives and me, brothers and sister, and I do not know…and then it was always like – ok, whatever. I’ve always had some little, like, crazy ideas for them, like “good, hahaha funny”. And then they simply explained to me how it just cannot be. How girls fall in love with boys, and boys fall for girls. A girl cannot fall in love with a girl. Now, since they, my both grandparents, from my mom and my dad’s side, have been my complete, stable world I had, I trusted them all they say at that age, and I have continued to live somehow this life. Since I was always prone to this imaginary world, in years that came I had built this imaginary world of mine. You live in reality, which was…I don’t know, everything has started to fall down quickly. Immediately after the war they began to die. First my granddad, then my grandma, then…my father’s mom, my other grandma was killed…so, everything was torn apart. And there was this parallel world that went along with everyday life… You know, but all that was…I wasn’t completely aware, but I wasn’t unaware. As I sad, those were two parallel lives, two worlds, everyday life going on. And like that, even my high school passed by.
Then, when I really started thinking, when I somehow admitted to myself and…because it was a process with me, of my own discovery. And admitting to myself. And it was there. It was the first year of college. Study of philosophy. And generally, well I don’t know…and the people around me, a couple of people who were there, and these books, as well, I don’t know, and Judith Butler, and it all came to me at once, because until that point I had no idea. And then, the first year of college it became clear to me. So I was about 19 years old. It’s already 1999/2000 when I start to understand things. I just remember one…first information I got from the papers. The text was about this café or the club where homosexuals gather. And… I don’t know, there was nothing legally possible to happen back then, but there was something, and that’s why there was this celebration that night, and now there is this report, like…there is a place where they gather. And then there was interview with the bar owner, who said “He couldn’t wish for better guests!” And that was like… Now, I’m already in the era of internet. Internet is starting. And first, there were clubs. Forums and clubs on Sarajevo-X portal. That was the name back then Sarajevo-X. And now this Sarajevo-X portal has a forum, and they had, back then, not chat rooms, but clubs online. And there was one, it was literally called ‘Gay club’, where people used to meet. For example I met a girlfriend there. And those clubs may have functioned for another two years. Then, there was forum left and then…I know Balkan came along, but back then, two of us were already together, but I know Balkan was there. And then Svetlana Đurković comes along, she started the whole thing here, you know…then the web page was available, it was 2004 or 2005. So, she was the first one to be out publically. I know they invited her to TV shows, and everything. And then Boba Dekić came soon after. Then, I really can’t recall which year, but SOC was established, but before that there was this (organization) with Svetlana. And then everything escalated on that…
There was also…my good friend at the time, we were maybe second semester or I don’t know… I know there was a girl who came from Croatia, from Zagreb to study with us, and then she became part of the crew. And I know that, my friend that I went to college with then said, after a couple of months – “I have to tell you something,” I said “Tell me,” she says – “I’m with her.” This was the first time for me to see, you know. But, I mean, I normally accepted it. And everyone around me. But it was also initial thing for me to start thinking. And all this is happening in a month or two, maximum three months. But when I enrolled the college, even before that, when I was third grade of higshcool, even before enrolling at the faculty – I was absolutely ready to dismiss all the knowledge, all the beliefs I was taught. Because I enrolled this kind of faculty, I mean, philosophy and sociology comparatively, so later, that process of accepting myself was totally normal, and it all happened so easily. Specifically, for us, this faculty, regardless of how bad it was, maybe, it was a milestone in the sense that we were able to destroy and dismiss everything we were taught.
You’re looking for some new people, some new worlds, something else, and somehow it’s been quite normal in those years. It’s been a year since I outed myself to everyone I thought I needed to say. And more or less, I think, most of them accepted it immediately. Many of them, after connecting the dots, realized that…they too, and not just me, they should’ve known it much earlier. As far as the family is concerned, I told the aunt, with whom I … that’s actually a dad’s sister – after the war, I lived with her, her son and granddad in that house. I told her, she reacted very well. From the fact that she asked me to tell her where they met, she wanted to attend parties with me. But she’s such a person, I mean, I’m saying aunt – she’s ten and a half years older than me. She’s not like … When my girlfriend showed up, she was constantly present and everyone accepted her. And the granddad as well, but what he really thought, did he think the way we did, or he just thought we are hanging out all the time. I felt silly; I don’t know what use granddad would have from that information. He started going senile and everything and…I did not say anything. I didn’t tell my dad, he figured it out later, first of all, because I do not have that relationship with him. We have never been close, so I didn’t even have the need to say to him “You know, I am that and that”, but he figured it out. And I think everyone, you know friends and family – all accepted it very quickly. There were a couple of these who were slightly more into…religion and faith. No one ever told me anything, but I heard that they were not exactly supportive, but years after, they accepted it, too.
I mean today…I’m out. Everyone knows I’m a lesbian. So everyone knows…from people I’m hanging with, people I get in touch with, even jobs I did, working colleagues, from Sarajevo Film Festival, then Navigator…all the colleagues knew, you know. I personally never had that kind of inconvenience, but that may also be because of your attitude, because when you… Some people are caught up in the matter, when you directly tell them that. So I cannot say I was having some problems. Now, what’s being told around – I don’t know. On the other hand, the job I do, I write, you know, and all the jobs were honorary or part-time. I am not so tightly tied to some institutions, my work is such that I don’t need to hide it, you know. Now I don’t know, someone in some other profession, in some maybe public institution… I don’t know. It is probably much harder. I sit home and write. What I write in my books, very few people read it. It’s not like… I know when I wrote the first book, it’s been a long time ago. And now, there are these two, like, two stories. I remember the first interview, somebody asked me, like, “Are you afraid?” like, “What will …?” Well, what? I mean, who? First of all, those who attack, they do not read. Let’s get clear about that. Literature isn’t going to make you… I mean, it’s a problem for people who will come out with a transparent sign on the street, their lives are at stake. And now, to get literature in this, you know, at least I have not had that experience so far. Although it was very clear, immediately after my first book was released, people knew. Even though it was collection of short stories it was said, „A lesbian wrote a lesbian novel”. And people in literary circles know, so it is very clear where I can look for a publisher for the future, and to whom to turn, to whom I will not turn. And you just know how it goes. But I always say, there was never any violence towards me. Even in those first years, well…the first year, my girlfriend and I used to hold hands, walking the city. Probably, people didn’t… I don’t know, here best girlfriends hold each other’s hands. It was like that, at least before, I don’t know now. So, you know … I might have been lucky. Who knows…
I think the process would be much easier if it didn’t happen. If there was some, even if it was not a socialist state, but if some other way of transition took place, without war, without the interference of the nation, without religious extremism, I think that it would be much easier and that today we would not have any problems we have. Regardless of the fact that I tend to be nostalgic about some things, and I feel that socialist country was far better than this one, again, it wasn’t much better when it comes to LGBT community then, because it was all in some secrecy. Maybe even today, if I had the chance to share this life within my family, it divides in times – before the war, times after the war and ongoing. Because in fact, at the beginning of the war, my family falls apart. And I have always been between two sides since then.
I remember the end of the war, because for me the end of the war was the first post war concert in Dom mladih. That was the end of the ’95. Then my high school enrollment. All these dates are now important because I know there is no danger anymore and nobody will shoot at the city. Okay, the first school semester, I remember, there are still reductions of electricity and water. I remember I was always learning under candlelight. So, for the second semester in the high school – the war has stopped. But generally, in some other way, I think it never stopped. Somehow, a lot of things are demolished, and all that has been built afterwards, even if we look at a wider social reality, it is all the product of a pure war. But I do not see any moving, peace building, building up some normal community and the society. This is all the continuation of the war, and I think that everything remains on the theme of the war. For me, even children who were born and who don’t remember the war – they are, at least to me in this social reality in which they are growing up – they are totally in domain of the war. You know, that hatred and nationalism, that’s all still a war for me. I…I have never found the peace that I remember as a child, I never found it. Neither here, or in Serbia, you know. And I’m going there and here, and to Croatia but… to me, all this, is still that war, in a way.