A chilling personal account of the atrocities committed by the Serbians during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War as experienced by Gaši and told by debut author Koos.
The history of Yugoslavia, created after World War I, is complicated. In the early 1990s, it broke apart into separate republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Beyond that, there was a mélange of ethnicities and religions within each of the republics. Gaši, who has always thought of himself as Yugoslavian, is the son of an ethnic Albanian and a Bosnian Muslim. His wife is the daughter of a Croatian Catholic and a Bosnian Muslim. When the Soviet Bloc crumbled, the individual republics vied for independence. This is the story of the Serbian attempt to take over Bosnia, an endeavor enthusiastically supported by the Bosnian Serbs, which led to horrific violence among neighbors. Gaši’s hometown was Brcko, next to the Sava River, which was the border between Bosnia and Croatia. It was also the site of a warehouse converted into the dreaded Luka prison, a torture chamber in which Gaši spent three weeks and was put on the Black List, scheduled for execution. After his release, he spent the next two-plus decades working to bring attention to the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Serbians and to testifying in the war crimes tribunals at The Hague. Readers not already familiar with the history should expect to get lost periodically in the weeds of geographic details and hard-to-pronounce names (although plenty of reference sources are provided), but this careful attention to specifics, and the precision with which he recalls the unspeakably brutal events he endured or observed, is exactly what has made Gaši such a good witness. A reportorial tone makes the gruesome tale even more powerful: “Looking…into the hotel parking lot, I saw a dumpster. It was filled to overflowing with corpses. Three more bodies lay on the pavement beside the dumpster.”
Important, powerful; a cautionary tale about nationalism.