Transcript of interview, Queer Archive, 2017
I was born in 1985 and I live in Banja Luka, where my parents are from. Our known roots, which are in fact Dalmatian, go back at least 100 years. My mother and father are religious, as well as patriarchal in their own way. What they hand down on me are precisely those mores that I understood even when I was a little kid. I think that Christmas and Easter are those holidays which are sort of the merriest ones when it comes to my family. In a way, these are the days when every one of us is happy even when he or she usually isn’t. I was a kid when the war broke out, I was just seven years old. I was a goofy little fella, a really mischievous, naughty one. We lived in the vicinity of the woods back then, so I used to spend a lot of time in the trees, both in and under them. This is why I think I had a good childhood full of fun and joy. I spent most of my time there, in the wild. We had productive days when we were outdoors, and this is the pre-war period I can recall. There was also a little pond nearby where we could swim and play, blissfully, like children do. I remember that the pond was always clear. Considering the fact that the war started in 1992, I was seven years old at the time and I lived in Banja Luka, like I do now. It was a safe place. As a child, I never heard the sound of a bullet, but I felt some other things. Hunger was one of them. Famine was really one of the major issues in the town because it was besieged during the war. My parents often tried to hide this problem and find just enough food for my sister and me. I’ve grown up in a conservative, patriarchal family – a conservative Orthodox family – fed by Merhamet, a Muslim charity. I will never forget that. Merhamet fed us until 1998, and everyone knows who they are. Bearing in mind that I was a kid back then, my parents were my pillar of strength.
I am gay. If you had asked me this question six years ago or so, maybe I wouldn’t have said that I’m gay. I would’ve probably said that I’m bi, but I constantly went through these phases as I was growing up, or rather I went through some stages in finding my own identity. It’s because I can’t say: “According to certain standards, yes, I am 100% gay.” I’ve had some experiences with girls as well. My first relation was with a girl, that is, my first sexual experience was with a girl. However, I can’t say this was my imagination. I knew that this relationship wasn’t it, but I didn’t know what that “it” was either. I mean, I’ve always regarded men as being sexually attractive, but I couldn’t define it. It was just a peculiar moment inside of me. For example, something turns me on, but I don’t know why exactly it turns me on. I had no one close enough to talk to about this. Maybe I lived in a conservative family, but, even in this kind of environment, no one would say something derogatory in this context. I mean, it’s just that I never had a chance to hear something bad about it. I’ve never heard my parents explicitly say that faggots or lesbians are something disgusting, atrocious, filthy, or whatever. I haven’t found myself in a situation where I could witness something like that.
Now we’re moving on to, well, to the period when I was 18. Living in a modern world, it was then that I started thinking: “Well, OK, it’s about time you became acquainted with certain things.” Nowadays, many of them do that when they’re about 12 years old, although some pieces of information aren’t readily available. However, in the Nova Varoš neighborhood of Banja Luka, there was a video rental shop that was one of the best-equipped ones in the town. There you could find any movie regardless of genre, and, among other things, there was also a special section for adult movies. Imagine that in the Banja Luka of 2003! It was the only place in this town where one could find this sort of thing, and so I went in and took a look around. “Look at this, I can’t believe it!” I remember, it was the first time I saw something like that – 1000 different adult movies, pornographic films, whatever. 1000 VHS cassettes! It was unbelievable. I saw boys in this light for the first time, at one place. It came as a shock to me, the first real shock.
I rummaged around the place, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Finally, I settled on some of those movies and said: “How much for these?” The girl working there replied: “We don’t sell them.” So, I needed some thirty minutes to pluck up enough courage to carry all those gay porn movies, put them on the counter and ask how much did they cost. I needed half an hour for that. Anyway, when I approached her, she said: “We don’t sell movies, we only rent them.” I said: “Okay, and how much for that?” She told me that signing up cost some ten marks, and that renting each movie cost, I don’t know, three marks. This meant that I had some spare money, which was great! I went back and took five more movies. Having signed up for an account and officially rented them, I grabbed the cassettes and ran back home. I had a VHS player in my room, where I spent the remainder of the day. I remember that I entered my room, pulled down the blinds, turned up some music, and stayed there until tomorrow. So you might ask yourself how it’s possible that I didn’t react to anything for 18 years, not even a slightest teach, a kiss, nor anything else, let alone sex. I don’t know. It seemed so confusing. Questions clouded my mind for months. “Is it feasible? Is it realistic? Is it just one of those things? Is it only a movie? Does it exist in real life?”
And, did you have anyone to talk to?
I think it was then that I heard the word “gay” for the first time.
When it comes to your experience with emigration, when did it all happen?
It was at the end of 2006. I went to Sweden.
And when you left, did anyone support you? Were you able to discuss your sexuality with someone?
Yes, I absolutely was. I’d been thinking about that since I had turned 18, so now I gathered information rapidly. After all, I considered myself old enough to be capable of understanding what it was all about. Of course, I found support when I arrived in Sweden. It’s because I quickly found a therapist, for example, with who I could discuss some things which had been ailing me for years. Therefore, I had some nice, even fun, high-quality sessions. This continued for a couple of months really, since I was interested in all of this. I was interested in making peace with who I am. Even then, I was experiencing something… This was just one part of me, and what I was heading towards was something totally different. So, no, I didn’t leave because I’m gay. The goal of my emigration was not related to my sexual orientation.
I learned much in this period, but I had some problems with the person I was in a relationship with at the time. I wasn’t comfortable in the town and the country where I commenced the relationship. This is why I wasn’t, let’s say stable in this context. It had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. Rather, it was about how I saw myself. I think this was the crucial moment for reassessing who I was in fact, what I was, and I craved the place where I came from. I don’t know, maybe I returned to find myself again.
Did you have any expectations about returning here, and what did you actually experience when you came back home?
Well, basically I found nothing but shit. I had some expectations, of course, after I had seen how things function, I wouldn’t say flawlessly, but how they function really well, after I spent some time where everything is well-organized and where there’s always someone to lend an ear, who at the same time really wants you to keep them informed. All in all, it was a high-quality interaction. This was nowhere to be found when I returned home, and I had really thought that there was something like that. I was disappointed with the social situation, that is, I was disappointed with the dysfunctionality of this country. This is the biggest problem. And then we compare ourselves to some of the most successful countries in the world. This is the root of our distress, this is the reason why we’re out of our minds. We are a silly people. On the one hand it’s alright, I mean, you look up to the best and you can strive for that level. However, it’s not that fruitful to examine the quality of a country like Norway, which doesn’t give a damn about war, and then evaluate the pros and cons of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country which has never missed a single war. They’re only making money out of her, that is, the wars. So, there’s a world of difference between the two, you know. Um, having spent some time in a country where everything is just right, of course you’ll eventually ask yourself, like: „Why the fuck did I come back?” Still, there are a lot of awesome people here. There are brilliant people in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When did the war end for you? Is there a specific moment, thought, event, or perhaps some memory?
I used to play with weapons when I was a kid. I would spend time in the streets of Banja Luka with a colleague of mine who eventually emigrated to the States in the middle of the war. We hanged out in the woods as well, like other children. We played there. There were always some weapons we could excavate. We would find some missiles, put them in our pants, and then run around like that. I mean, we could’ve gotten killed, y’ know, just like that. But God saved us. The war you say? It ended when my father told me: „Hey, the war, it’s all over. It’s okay.” It was in 1996, I think.
When did the peace start for you? What is peace for you?
Peace is within us. Peace is only within us. I am sure, I’m over 90% sure that all of our politicians, be they on this or that side, or some other side, organize barbecue parties together. I think they’re actually good friends, but hate each other only in front of the camera. Their job is to pit people against each other, and also to make money out of it. It seems that everything is about money. That’s what it’s all about, money. However, the real people keep peace in their souls. What bothers me the most nowadays is that some young people who have never even experienced the war talk about it more than me or some other people who have gone through some lot worse things. They do not understand what war is, they discuss it, but they do not feel it. Their claims are unfounded, and they propagate nonsensical things. Therefore, they are disturbed in a way. And then you go to America. You have a country where everyone’s first language is American English, and you have 150 nations which live in harmony with one another. I don’t understand what’s the problem here. The same people who go somewhere else, they live in perfect harmony with each other. I don’t know why they have a need for bullshit here.
Have some beliefs in your family changed compared to the pre-war period? Has your family gotten more open-minded or is it the opposite? Does this affect you in some way?
In 2017, my family is the same it was in 1990. They have kept the same worldviews, including the following maxim – be a decent human being. That’s it.
And does the war affect your everyday life and to what extent?
It has no effect on me. I don’t give a fuck about war.
And what do you think, could you determine whether it inhibited your identity, or perhaps aided in the formation thereof?
It aided the formation of my identity.
What is freedom for you?
Freedom is when you can say whatever you want, but without undermining the integrity of the person you’re speaking to. In other words, freedom, it’s something everyone has a right to. However, freedom does not imply that I can tell you literally anything I want, because it would mean that you don’t understand the other person’s feelings. First you need to pull yourself together, you need to raise your awareness. You can say what you think, but you have to find a way to do so. Say what you think, but find a way to do so. That’s all. Do not hurt other people. Try to pull yourself together from time to time. Consult someone if you can’t.
What guides your life nowadays?
It’s life energy, it’s lust for life, it’s the will to… I mean, I’m only in my third decade, I plan to live for at least five more. I love traveling, I love exploring new cultures, new languages, I especially love good food, I love having a nice drink, socializing in general. That’s what guides my life, getting acquainted with as much as I can, getting to know more and more things, which may lead me to knowing myself and the way I cope with all of this. This sense of challenge is what moves me forward. Challenges, that’s what I love.