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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Child Of Srebrenica Returns Home For Anniversary Of Massacre

By Sadik Salimovic Coffins in the village of Potocari, where the remains of 610 Bosnian Muslim men and boys will be laid to rest Lejla is a 10-year-old girl who returned with her parents to Srebrenica for today’s memorial service for the victims of the 1995 massacre. While thousands of Muslim men and boys were being slain by Bosnian Serb forces in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II, Lejla was being born in a Srebrenica suburb. Her family later fled Bosnia-Herzegovina and brought Lejla up in safety in the United States. Now -- as Lejla returns home 10 years later -- the young girl is both a symbol of Srebrenica’s past and its hopes for the future.

Srebrenica, Bosnia; 11 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- “I was born in Potocari on 12 of July 1995. Now, I am living in St. Louis, United States...this is my first visit to Srebrenica.”

Those are the words of Lejla Sirocic, who was born in Potocari, a suburb of Srebrenica, the day after Serbian forces occupied Srebrenica and the massacre of Muslim civilians started.

While thousands of Srebrenica residents were wandering around the camp of the UN peacekeeping unit of Dutch soldiers in search of safety -- and a lot of people were being killed -- one new life began.

“First, we had been there in a textile factory. From there we went to Potocari.... When I felt pains, I asked for help," Lejla’s mother, Hamida, says. "My neighbor Dulo helped me a lot, Davlo from Srebrenica, too. He asked the UN peacekeepers to help me. They took me to their hospital. There was a midwife, and there Lejla was born.... After that they took me to the accumulator factory were I spent one night with her, and from there we took a bus.”

Hamida and her baby, together with other women, were transported to the nearby town of Kladanj, where her grandmother Zumra was living.

“Lejla did not have anything...I didn't even know if she was alive until we arrived in Kladanj.... She was not crying...I thought she was dead...but when we arrived in Kladanj they said the baby was OK, but that I was in a very critical condition,” Hamida says.

Grandmother Zumra returned to Srebrenica two years ago. For 10 years she had not seen her grandchild.

Zumra says in those first days of Lejla’s life, she, too, worried the girl would not survive.

“Lejla was with me for seven days...after that I took her to my daughter where we spent another month...My daughter bathed her and said to me that she would not survive. But look at her now...she is washing my plates, cleaning, working, everything!” Zumra said.

Lejla's father, Mohammad Sirocic, escaped from Srebrenica. After a six-day walk through the forest, he reached Tuzla, a town controlled by Bosnian government forces.

“I am from Srebrenica, born 1995 we moved from wife was pregnant, nine months...she went with her mother and father to the peacekeepers’ base...where older people and civilians were the base in Srebrenica with the Dutch soldiers...I went to the forest...and arrived in Tuzla after six days...I was lucky, so many people were killed,” Sirocic says.

Mohammad was happy when he learned that his wife and baby survived. But on the way to Tuzla he lost his father Abdullah.

“People in Tuzla welcomed us...I was so happy when I saw my newborn daughter and my wife, but my father ...left there,” Mohammad says.

After the war, the Sirocic family went to the United States and this is the first time they have returned to Srebrenica.

Lejla’s parents have taken her to see the place where she was born, the place where others died, and the place where so far 1,327 corpses from among the almost 8,000 men and boys killed in the Srebrenica massacre are buried in the Memorial Center.

Lejla's grandfather Abdullah, if his remains are ever found, will be burried here too, were Lejla was born.

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