The story of this watch is very dear to me. This watch belonged to my beloved grandfather, Suljo Salko Jahić. He was not just my grandfather but more like my second father.
During the war from 1992 to 1995, we, my mother my little brother and I lived separated from my father for four years. My father was not able to return to Bosnia at the beginning of the war. He worked in Belgrade, and when the war broke out he was trapped in Serbia. Soon he had to flee from Serbia with no chance of returning to Bosnia. He left and somehow was able to travel to Austria where he then tried to get in contact with us. Which was very difficult at that time.
During the war, there was a lot of censorship and letters were confiscated by the Red Cross. You were not allowed to write about death or the war. Sometimes months would pass before we were able to contact my father. He never knew if we were alive or if we had been killed.
This whole time my grandfather became something like a second father to my brother and me. Grandfather was a very strong and proud man. He loved us dearly. He was mostly an introvert, who loved to take care of his animals and did not like to talk to people. He was a person who only talked if he had something important to say. I followed him all around like a little puppy. He took me with him when he chopped wood or when he took our cow to graze.
I was, and still am, very proud of my grandfather.
My grandfather became our protector, even though he was a man in his seventies. I remember the last day we saw him. We were all ordered to go to Potočari, on the 10th of July 1995, because Srebrenica has been occupied by the Serbian army. My aunts were there with their kids. I remember Grandfather had his best clothes on. He never left the house in dirty clothes. He had on his black beret, white shirt, black blazer and black trousers.
We were deported on the 13th of July. My grandfather and grandmother stayed behind. On the day we left Srebrenica the temperature was unbearable. Many fainted. We had no water to drink. That’s why my grandparents decided to wait until the next day and leave then, hoping the weather might be cooler. We trusted the Serbian soldiers who told us
“Who wants to leave, can leave, and who wants to stay, can stay. No one will be harmed.” Later we would all find out what really happened to those who stayed behind.
So, we left with the promise of seeing them tomorrow. We were to be deported with a truck. There was an elderly couple in front of us. The Serbian soldiers tried to separate the husband from the wife. The elderly woman pleaded with them and her husband too, to let him leave with his wife because she was ill. They told the wife: “Don’t worry, you’ll find him in the Drina.” And they pushed the wife to go onto the truck and separated the husband to the side. I remember that my mother almost crushed my hand while watching this. She was shaking. I did not know what was wrong.
When we arrived at the refugee camp, people soon realised what was happening with those who were separated. Women screamed and cried in agony. I asked my mother where my grandfather was. She told me that he was gone.
I was 7 when we left Srebrenica in 1995. Now my parents, my brother and I live in Austria.
In 2007, my aunt, my father’s sister, called him at work and told him that they received a letter from the red cross. They had found my grandfather’s remains. My father called me at home. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was the summer holidays. He just said: “They have found grandfather”. I put the phone down. Went to into my brother’s room and told him the news. After that, I left our flat and walked around for hours. I can’t remember where I went. I just had to get out. After that, I went home and cried.
I was not there when he was buried. I was mentally not strong enough to go. Years later my father showed me the photo with the items that were found with his body. I saw this watch and asked if I could have it. He asked his sisters in Bosnia if they were okay with that. My aunts were more than happy to give me a piece to remember him by because they knew how much he meant to me.
This watch was found with the remains of my grandfather, Suljo Salko Jahić. His body was found in two separate mass graves. Some body parts are still missing.
I will always remember him as a strong but quiet man. Who taught me so many things about nature and animals.
I’ll never forget you grandfather.