It has been 20 years since the world was shocked into action when a civil war led to war crimes in Bosnia. YNN's Bill Carey says the war left behind bitter memories of death, as well as opportunities for new lives.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was a war that never lacked in its ability to shock the world. The west watched, mostly, for years, until the pictures of the death camps forced NATO's hand.
“I think we came to realize that we needed to do something. And that it was important to us, with respect to how it turned out,” said William Smullen, Syracuse University national Security Studies.
For those trapped in the crossfire, the geopolitical impact was unimportant. The impact for them was personal.
“One day, everything is gone. It was tough. It was really tough. Especially after people started dying. Relatives dying. People going place to place. It was really a tough time,” said Bosnian refugee Mirzet Hajdarevic.
It took armed troops from the U.S. and its NATO allies to pry the sides apart and force a peace.
For a much younger reporter, it was routine work, cataloging the death and destruction. What was much more difficult to portray was the depth of brutality. The level of hatred, neighbor against neighbor, fueled by conflicts centuries ago. Questions of life and death determined simply by where someone had been born.
“You are raised in a family who never divided people and overnight, you have your neighbors killing, raping, murdering. In my mind, I can't, I cannot still, some to some word to say, why,” Bosnia refugee Faruk Mehkic said.
Twenty years later, memorials remember the thousands who died. For thousands more, war eventually meant a new life in the United States. A life that has brought success in achieving the so-called American Dream.
Hajdarevic said, “We were fortunate enough to have a refugee school center that took really good care of us. They offered us aid to learn English. I took the opportunity and then, after a year, went to school. Onondaga Community College, then later I went to ITT Tech. So, I think I did pretty good.”
“My parents. They worked hard jobs. So I was like, I don't want to end up doing the same thing. So I always had the focus of going to college,” Bosnia refugee Edin Omerovic said.
Thousands of those trapped by war, found a new beginning in Upstate New York. They still feel strong ties to their homeland and they may visit from time to time. But now, they say they have a new home.
“I am American,” Mehkic said.
Close to 100,000 people died in the Bosnian civil war. Most of the dead were civilians.