Senadin Selimić

My mother Mejrema, an 87-year-old lady, has spent her whole her life caring and worrying about the four of us; my two older sisters, Zerina and Džemila, my brother Semir, and myself. Through all of our worries, throat infections, temperatures, and coughs, she cared for us through sleepless nights and teary eyes. She worried often and intensely. Perhaps that is why her hair turned grey very early.


1992 was hard for most  Bosnians, so my mothers worries, sighs and tears became even heavier. She sensed troubles ahead, so the fear she felt for her childrens safety was a lot to carry on her shoulders.


On a Spring day in 1992, my brother and I (along with many other friends, neighbours and relatives) took weapons to defend ourselves, our families and everything that was dear to us. That day, my mother wasnt scared or tearful as I was used to seeing her. She was strong (or at least she wanted to be strong for the two of us). She gave my brother prayer beads, and me a little Hamajlija(a handwritten pocket Quran – a souvenir that her cousin had brought back to her from Mecca). She simply said, Go on boys you are on Gods path,waved to us and watched until we disappeared into the distance. For the year and a half that followed there was a greater chance that I would die rather than stay alive, but despite everything I survived and my mothers Hamajlija always remained with me.


In Summer 1993, I was taken to Dretelj (a concentration camp). It was hell on earth.


The Ustaše (enemy soldiers) took all of our personal possessions, identity documents, money and especially religious artifices. Out of fear, people kept throwing their items onto piles before they had even been told to do so, but I couldnt part myself from mumsHamajlija. I smuggled it in. In the following months, I was not only holding onto dear life but also my mums Hamajlija as protection to stay sane and alive. Eventually, the cover and pages of mums Hamajlija started to disintegrate. Somehow, a needle and thread came into my possession. I ripped the sleeve of my old uniform and sewed a little pouch for my precious book. To this day, I dont know whether I saved the Hamajlija, or if the Hamajlija saved me – I believe only God knows.


In Winter 1994, I arrived at a reception at a refugee centre in Oxford, England. I was confused: I was referred to as Bosnian(even though I was Herzegovinian) and as a refugee(even though I felt like an ex-prisoner of war), but I quickly learnt that in England my regional belonging meant little, so I became a Bosnian refugeeto spare myself from endless explaining.


The only personal item that came with me to England was, of course, my mums Hamajlija. Everything else I had had been donated by the International Red Cross or the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).


On my first day in Oxford, I met my love and my life-companion Azra, a Bosnian girl from Ključ. If there hadnt been a war we most probably would never have met, but God works in most mysterious ways so our paths crossed in a new foreign land. On the 5th April 1994, we said our I dos– my mums Hamajlija was, of course, with me that day. Today, there are four of us: my daughters, Ina and Leah, joined us later on, but my mums Hamajlija has carried its journey with us and will continue to do so as long as I live. My mum remained in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and she still waits patiently for our annual holidays to see us all. I speak to her every day and learn one or two things from this wise old lady – my mum, who I love endlessly.



Bosanski

Moja mama Mejrema starica od 87 godina cijeli svoj život je brinula za nas četvero, dvije starije sestre Zerinu i Džemilu, brata Semira i mene. Svaka naša nevolja, upaljene krajnike, temperaturu, kašalj propratile su njene neprospavane noći i suze. Brinula se mnogo i uvijek zato je valjda i prerano dobila sijede kose.


92-ga je bila teška za svakoga u Bosni pa su i brige, teški uzdasi i suze moje mame bivali sve teži. Predosjećala je nevolju, pa je strah za njenu djecu bio bremenit i pretežak.


Proljetni dan 92-ge moj brat i ja smo uzeli oružje da se branimo kao i mnogi naši prijatelji i rodjaci. Taj dan moja mama nije bila uplašena i uplakana kako smo je navikli vidjeti u teškim trenucima naših života. Bila je jaka ili je htjela izgledati jaka zbog nas dvojice, dala je mome bratu tespih njen poklon sa Ćabe od svog rodjaka kad je bio na Hadžu i meni hamajliju. Rekla nam je hajdete djeco Allahu na amanet i mahnula i gledala za nama ponosito i gordo. Narednih godinu i po bilo je puno više šanse da poginem nego da ostanem živ, ali eto ostao sam živ i moja hamajlija uvijek sa mnom.


Ljeto 93-će Dretelj, koncentracioni kamp, džehenem na zemlji.


Dušmani su nam oduzeli sve, dokumenta, novac a pogotovu religijske relikvije. Ljudi su u strahu bacali sve sami i da ih nisu ni tjerali ali ja se nisam mogao rastati od mamine hamajlije i nekako sam je uspio pronijeti. Naredne mjesece sam se držao mamine hamjlije kao bih sačuvao goli život i razum, ni sada ne znam dali sam ja sačuvao nju ili je ona sačuvala mene. Korice su se počele raspadati pa sam nekako došao do igle i konca i rukava stare vojničke košulje pa sam sašio malenu futrolu za maminu hamajliju.


Zima 94-te Oxford, Engleska, reception Centre za bosanske izbjeglice. Niti sam Bosanac niti izbjeglica nego Hercegovac i bivši logoraš ali sam brzo naučio da za engleze regionalna pripadnost ništa ne znači pa sam tako i ja postao Bosanac kao bih sebe poštedio nepotrebnog objašnjavanja.


Jedina lična stvar koja je došla sa mnom u Englesku je naravno mamina hamajlija sve ostalo je od Crvenog krsta ili UNHCR-a.


Tu sam prvi dan upoznao Azru moju životnu saputnicu, Bosanku iz Ključa. Da nije bilo rata vjerovatno se nikada ne bih ni vidjeli u životu ali široki su putevi Gospodnji pa se tako i naši putevi ukrstiše. 05. April 94-te smo izgovorili Da, i naravno mamina hamajlija je bila sa mnom. Sada nas ima četvero kćerke Ina i Leah su nam se pridružile kasnije ali mamina hamajlija je još uvijek sa nama i biće tu dok sam živ. I mama Mejrema je još uvijek sa nama čeka nas vjerno svake godine da dodjemo da je obidjemo i vidimo. Čujemo se svakodnevno i dan danas naučim ponešto pametno od te moje starice, volim te mama beskonačno.