"It seemed as if they had some sort of an agreement with them. They were not scared at all," remembers Mehrudin Mesanovic one of the Srebrenica survivors. With eyes full of tears he relates how difficult it was to part with his family.
"The children were crying, trying to get away from my wife; they wanted to go with me. Of course I couldn't take them with me. They left, and my father, brothers and I set off towards the forest," he continues quietly. "We had no choice. We had to leave women and children behind. We knew that men had no chance to survive if they surrendered. We believed that UNPROFOR would at least protect women and children. Unfortunately, except for saving themselves, they didn't help anyone."
Everything happened extremely quickly. While the Chetniks penetrated towards Srebrenica, it was decided that women and children go toward Potocari, while the men started over the mountains towards Tuzla. The men formed ranks in Buljun and the brigade started towards Tuzla, platoon by platoon... "We encountered first ambush above Kravice. There was shooting from all sides. You couldn't tell who was where. In that chaos I lost my father and brothers and thus remained alone... Once it quieted down a bit, a group of us got together and decided to head towards Konjevic Polje."
However, in order to reach safe corridor towards Konjevic Polje they had to cross a road which was carefully monitored by the Chetniks.
"We tried to cross several times but no one succeeded We went back. Near Kravice there was a horrible scene. There were many dead, perhaps 500 to 600 people."
They hid near Kravice for about ten days. The name of the village was Pohulje.
"The Chetniks, so-called 'Drina Wolves' were constantly searching that region. They knew that we were there, but they couldn't find us. For days they called on us to surrender; however, we were aware what would happen to us if we did. We would later find those who had to surrender dead, massacred and slaughtered. From the forest, I watched how they were taking people away; they would kill some of them, while they took others towards Bratunac..."
They didn't dare move. They didn't know what was coming.
"We thought that Zepa had already been taken. One evening someone found a small radio. Thus we heard that Zepa, although under constant bombardment, still hadn't fallen."
The following day, they headed towards Zepa. That was the 12th day since the fall of Srebrenica.
"We returned along the same path, still finding our dead. The largest number of dead was around Kravice. There were about 500 massacred corpses there; to the left and right from the road there were groups of corpses, some of them were decapitated, other died from a bullet or a grenade..."
The survivors were looking for their relatives among the dead. Sometimes there wasn't even enough time for that.
"I was exhausted and hungry. After so much walking on rocks and through water, my shoes were gone, so that my feet had turned into open wounds. We hardly had any food. I don't know how we managed to get to Zepa. My feet were bandaged in a field hospital there. I found my brother in Zepa." However, the fall of Zepa was expected any minute. They were aware that they had to continue. The fall of Zepa came a week later.
"They offered me to get on a convoy to Kladanj. I refused; I was afraid that the Chetniks will take me off the convoy and kill me. I had already seen too much. Together with our soldiers who were at the time in Zepa, I headed into the mountains."
After the Chetniks occupied Zepa, Mehrudin, together with a small group of people, returned toward Srebrenica, following by now a well known path. Every other choice offered even less security.
"We hid among the rocks near a village; I think it was named Plotevac. We slept in caves. We ate fruit which we would secretly pick in an orchard, not yet ripe apples, pears, whatever... At night we would climb down to the lake to wash and drink water. After several days we couldn't endure hunger anymore and decided to return towards Zepa".
Lack of knowledge of the local terrain cost many of them their lives. Those who didn't know the route were either captured by the Chetniks or were forced to go in circles. And wait. After a certain time they would get going again, stumble into a mine field or a Chetnik ambush and return, and so on...
"Right next to Zepa we met a group of about 50 people. They had some food which they had managed to take out before the fall of Zepa and hide among the rocks. We stayed there, among the rocks, for a few days."
One evening they heard footsteps. At first they thought that the Chetniks were coming. However, a little while later they realized that someone was shouting; "Is there anyone alive here, I've come to save you!"
"At that moment we didn't believe anyone. Only after someone from our group recognized the man we realized that he was telling the truth. He was a captain from Luka, I don't remember his name. He told us that he had come from Tuzla to get us, to help us, to lead us, that some people who had passed by earlier had told him that they had seen people among the rocks... There were five people with him; all of them were searching for survivors."
They stayed there two more days gathering survivors and resting. They shared the little food they had like brothers.
"The man told us to prepare a 'big bread' and thus we started after two days. A guide, man named Numo, waited for us in a village near Zepa. There, we formed ranks and they took our names."
After that, they continued towards Kladanj. At the time, Mehrudin didn't know what had happened to his family. Had they survived? He found one brother in Zepa, lost another brother and father on the way and his wife and children stayed behind in Srebrenica...
"Some people had told me that the Chetniks hadn't allowed 13 and 14 year old children to board evacuation trucks," he says and stays quiet for a long time. After two-three minutes long silence he continues:
"We walked to Kladanj for two days and two nights. At one moment the Chetniks noticed us. They started shooting, but we were already entering neutral zone. I remember that a man suddenly shook my hand and said - buddy, you're on free territory, you're going home to your family. We all looked bad, tired and hungry. People around us were offering cigarettes, juice, coffee, food... A woman walked among us, I didn't recognize her at first, there were 172 soldiers, and asked: 'Are there any Mesanovic's among you, Meho, Mevludin' - that was my sister."
Mehrudin will never forget that moment. From his sister he found out that his wife and children were alive and well and were in Banovici near Tuzla. He still hasn't found out anything about his father and the other brother. He lives with the family in the refugee camp in Grab Potok, ten kilometers from Banovici, and dreams about the return to Srebrenica. One day, when everyone goes back...
He still doesn't believe that the Chetniks have managed to remove all the evidence of crimes, especially in forests and among rocks which are, as he says, full of the bones of massacred men from Srebrenica.
"If someone took me back there, someone who could guarantee my security, I could find many mass graves. However, besides International Red Cross, which made the list of the missing persons no one has ever asked us anything".
Translated on 5/8/98