Home.. as I sit in my comfortable apartment in a suburban Sydney town I am reminded how lucky I have had it. A happy childhood. A safe one. Yet I always think of how my life would have been back home. My real home. The one my brother and I would have grown up in of the war didn’t happen. But it did happen.
I was born in Trebinje,Bosnia in 1988. At that time it was part of Yugoslavia. Now its part of Republika Srpska, the region of BiH administered by Serbs following the 1990s war. Its crazy to think how in modern times a war could break out in Europe!
From what mum has told me, my family was told to leave just like the rest of the town. Even Asmir Begovic, who plays in the Bosnian national soccer team. Our fathers played in the same team. I was four when we left so I don’t have any memories and my brother was born during the war. My parents grabbed what they could carry, we fled Sandzak in Montenegro then made our way to Denmark. Unlike Sarajevo and Mostar, there aren’t too many visible signs war had happened in Trebinje. This is because when the Serbian forces took over, they forced us all to leave, and was used as a major command and artillery base by Yugoslav People’s Army troops besieging the Croatian town of Dubrovnik. Only the mosques seemed to have been damaged.
When the war broke out Denmark accepted about 20,000 Bosnian refugees. They were placed in refugee camps across the country. We stayed in one of these camps for almost two years with other displaced Bosnians. .But Denmark only saw us as temporary residents and we would go home as soon as we could. No one predicted the war would be that long. The Danish government didn’t grand asylum to Bosnians for a few years. But they did try give us a normal life by organising day cares for kids and activities for everyone. I remember attending a big Christmas party in their hall. I am so glad we have alot of photos and video tapes (which i do need to eventually make onto dvds haha), from these days. We couldn’t really go to Danish schools, as it would give us false hope of staying in Denmark. They gave the children Bosnian curriculum in school because they would want us to continue our education when we got back home. The uncertainty if the war would end soon and if Denmark would grant us asylum led my parents to make the decision to move to Australia, in hopes for a better life, leaving my mums family behind, they settled Denmark & Norway later. I still remember the day when one of the kids there said to me that’s she’s moving to Austria. I proudly said that I was going to Australia. Even though I didn’t know where it was or how far from the rest of the world it was. As a kid you don’t think about why we moved, or why we would be moving again. I had my family with me and that’s all that mattered to me.
During our first month in Australia i remember i was going to the doctors to get my before you start school shot. I kicked the doctor and ran our crying after saying I hated Australia. I think that’s where my fear of needles came from. I started school shortly after. Knowing no English my first day was horrible. When I parents said goodbye I cried. I was confused why they would leave me. I didn’t go pre school in Bosnia and Denmark only had a children’s play center. I had to copy off the board a language I had no idea about. Come to think about it I don’t think I really had written much before than. So i was trying to figure out how to “draw” these weird things that were letters! And because it took me longer than anyone else I had to stay back during lunch and finish. My first day and I had no lunch. great start.
Fast forward 20 something years. I’m 26, almost 27. I think and speak in English. I am an Australian citizen. My dream as a teenager was to visit the USA. I was obsessed with anything American. I blame American tv shows i was addicted to. That changed about 10 years ago. I started to appreciate and love where i was from. And then finally in 2013 I went home for the first time since we fled from it. My perspectives changed.
Trebinje. It’s a place I always wanted to one day visit and a place my mother wanted to forget. I was a baby when I left. No one remembers things from when they are 4. But mum was 23. She was young with two babies. She left everything she loved and knew about her home.
In July 2013 my mum and I went back to Bosnia. Our first time.since we fled in 1993; 20 years since we stepped foot on Bosnia soil. The journey was both emotional and exciting. To be around your own people, to speak your native tongue and just forget about everything else is something I can’t put into words. We spent 5 amazing weeks in Bosnia and during this time we visited all the places we wanted to see and even went down to visit family in Dubrovnik where mum spent most of her childhood vacations. Since Trebinje is 28km from Dubrovnik, mum and i took the hour bus ride into Trebinje
When we sat in the bus I noticed a sticker in front of me. It was of a kangaroo. It had to be a sign. The bus pulled into the station an hour later and emotions overwhelmed us. It is such a pretty town.
Trebinje Hospital where i was born
Azzaro Cafe. This is where my dad worked, and also where my parents first met.
What could have been…
As we approached the block of houses, my heart was pounding, palms were sweaty, and my phone was ready to snap away!
In front of my old house.
When we walked up the stairs to the neighbourhood where I lived I got deja vu. The backyard to the house looked familiar. That’s because 20 years ago it belonged to us. Now some family lives in it. i could hear them sitting down for lunch. It makes me so angry that my parents worked for that house, and someone can come in and kick us all out and claim it for themselves. I’ve been taught to not hate people no matter what they have done.Please note that this post isnt about hate. I have very close friends who are Croatian and Serbian and we never let our countries differences affect our relationships. Im not religious but i dont judge those who are. My dads mum is a Catholic from Mostar, so ive always been accepting from both sides. We are all humans living on the same planet. Religion or ethnicity should never define us as a person.But i cant help feeling hurt about this situation.
I couldn’t help notice a toy truck next to the door. I tried to imagine that being my brothers. Him and I playing in the back, but no memories come to mind. Because there were no memories of us enjoying our childhood together there.
This little beige house with the brown door was once upon a time ours
Getting to see my old home was a good experience. Something both mum and i needed. For different reasons. Everyone should know who they are and where they came from. Where the lived, and played. My first four years were spent inside this home.
Enough about me!! Let me show you the rest of the town 🙂
Picturesque wouldn’t you say!
The Old Town
Despite being so close to Dubrovnik, Trebinje isnt a busy place. Perfect for a day away from the crowds, to enjoy a nice coffee and walk by the river. We were in town only for 3 hours but we did get to experience the local side of the town. Markets, people drinking coffee, families walking around.
This little house was used as a set for a TV show that was filmed here
Bosnia & Hercegovina is full of beautiful bridges. Some from Ottoman era, some much older. Like Mostar, Trebinje’s famous bridge is a fine of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture. This bridge was originally built in 1574 by Grand Vizir Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic
In the late 60’s a hydro-power dam was built on the river, and the bridge was flooded. The water level was lowered again in 1966 to dismantle the bridge and it was taken, stone by stone and rebuilt in the downtown of Trebinje, about 10km from its original location.
Click here to see an amazing 360 degree view of the bridge
Didnt want to leave my home town, but all good adventures come to an end. TIL next time!
- ONLY one bus per day goes from the main bus station in Dubrovnik daily to Trebinje at around 1PM. It costs about 40 Kuna takes around an hour. The bus goes back to Dubrovnik from Trebinje in the MORNING. So unless you are planning to take a taxi home, you will have to stay overnight. The taxi didn’t cost us very much, maybe about $20 (ask the driver), and only took 30 or so minutes.
- Perfect for a day trip from Dubrovnik. Enjoy the cheap food, and accommodation!
Wow that was long! haha but it was my favourite post to write. Bought back so many memories. Good and bad ones. I recommend Trebinje for anyone who is looking for a nice peaceful day away from all the tourists.
Below are a few of the then and now photos i have stitched together!