by Danijel KOVACEVIC
Precisely that happened in the village of Ledici in the foothills of the Treskavica Mountain. Ledici was a Serb village surrounded by several Bosniak villages. Before the war this village had about 60 households. Less than a half of residents survived the war... Those who managed to escape in front of their former neighbors today live in Tnovo, Pale, Serb Sarajevo. They claim that their relations with their neighbors were good before the war. They assisted each other, celebrated together...
Attack: Ledici went through a boom period in the eighties, just before the war, when the village started to grow quickly. Old family homes were reconstructed, new homes were built. Life was good and there were no problems with neighboring villages, according to the survivors. When clashes in Sarajevo started, a verbal agreement was made with the neighboring Bosniak villages to leave each other alone and continue as before. Residents of Ledici dearly paid for their trust. On July 4 1992, Bosniaks from the neighboring villages of Dujmovici, Ostojici, Dejcici, and Gaj attacked Ledici.
"The attack was horrible. We were outnumbered by far. They had some sort of trucks; they mounted heavy machine guns on those trucks; it was sort of as an armored vehicle. We were totally unprepared; some people had hunting rifles, there was a handgun or two...," Stojan Vasic, one of the survivors, recalls. He is middle aged with hollow cheeks and a sad stare. His hands shakes as he tries to light a cigarette, and his voice betrays pride mixed with bitterness while he adds that that evening they managed to repel the attackers and that no one was killed.
Several days after the attack on Ledici, two women from the neighboring village came and told them that five trucks full of HOS [neo-Nazi Croat militia] soldiers had arrived and that they were getting ready to attack the village again (they had allegedly already killed everyone in the nearby Serb village of Uncani and burnt the village to the ground). After hearing this, residents of Ledici decided to try to break through to the Serb-held territory. They split into two groups. The first group was supposed to head over Treskavica towards Kalinovic, while the other group went over the Igman mountain towards Vojkovici.
Ten members of the Tesanovic family, three Vasics, three Kenjics, Sekulics (21 all-together) headed over the Treskavica mountain at dawn. They managed to reach the peak of the mountain and then the shots rang out... They fell into a trap. Eight of them managed to get away, twelve-years-old Dragan Vasic was seriously wounded, while the others were murdered in the most monstrous way. The victims of the massacre included four men, four women, and four children, the youngest of which, Milun Tesanovic, was a 16-months-old baby killed in the arms of his uncle. Out of the 12 victims, eight were members of the Tesanovic family. Little Milun was killed by a shot fired in the back of his head. After the massacre, the executors "verified" that the victims were dead by firing another bullet into their heads, and then they pushed the bodies down the slope, leaving them to the wild animals. Interestingly, the victims knew their executors - they were neighbors.
Rada Cvijetic, Milun's aunt: "What did the baby do to them... what did he do to anyone..." She wipes off tears and stares into the skies, as if expecting an answer. "The same people who were welcomed and fed by my grandmother a thousand times did that..."
Twelve-years-old Dragan Vasic was seriously wounded. He was saved by a Bosniak man, whom Dragan knows as Dedo [uncle]. Dragan was taken to the village of Lukavac. Dedo said that no one was allowed to touch Dragan and that he was going to turn him over to UNPROFOR or his parents. It is interesting that during his stay in Lukavac Dragan was renamed Adnan, supposedly so that other, Bosniak, children wouldn't pick on him.
Massacre: When they heard what had happened in Ledici, the second group, 42 of them, immediately headed over Igman towards Vojkovici. Fortunately, they made it through unharmed. After that, only 13 persons, Serbs, mostly elderly women, remained in the village; one of the persons left behind was Stojan Vasic, with wife and three children. Realizing that they had no chance of surviving in the village, Vasic escaped with his family into the forest, where they lived in a tent. "I slept in the forest with my family... we did not dare go to the village... the others slept in the village. We lived in a tent in the forest on a hill above Ledici. I went to the village to get flour; we survived somehow... it is fortunate that it was summer because of children... it can be very cold here at night."
In the meantime, Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina units under the command of Ethem Godinjak entered Ledici and killed everyone they encountered in the village, mostly elderly women. The victims included: Rade Mijovcic (70), Savka Vasic (78), Tankosava Mijovcic (70), Ljubica Vasic (84), Ikonija Vasic (92), Zoran Vasic (71), and Milka Vasic (56). Most of the victims were beheaded, while Savka Vasic had her throat cut on her doorstep.
Camp: Stojan Vasic was captured with his family in the forest after somewhat more than a month of life in a tent. He was taken to the village of Dejcici, to an improvised camp set up in the local school. The camp held more than 150 prisoners, including women and children. Vasic found in the camp Milenko Mijovcic, another resident of Ledici. "First 19 days we were all together, and then, after the fall of Trnovo, they separated us from the women and children," Vasic recalls. "Milenko was beaten to death... he was dying for two days in my arms, I tried to close his wounds with my hands... they beat us with whatever they could lay their hands on - metal cords, rubber batons, boots... boots were the worst... only those who did not want to did not get a chance to beat us... it was horrible; you hear 'get out of my way, let me in' and as soon as you see the door open you start shaking, you know what is going to happen... then they forced us to beat each other. Although I wasn't beaten by the locals, the guys I know; but when the others came, from Crna Rijeka and Kijevo... whatever, I knew all of them..." Stojan's voice trembles while he talks about the conditions in the camp. "They wouldn't let us out, to a toilet. We had to urinate and defecate in a bucket that was kept in the cell... there was no water, no food. Every day, we would get four spoonfuls. You try to survive on that. Look at the kid, my girl, here," he points towards his daughter, who was with him in the camp, and we spot a tear in his eye for the first time, "she cried, screamed, 'daddy, I'm hungry'. She was hungry, she was two at the time; and the guard says 'shut her up or I'll kill her'... And, what could I do, I put a blanket in her mouth to muffle her cries..."
Vasic spent 60 days in the camp. He was exchanged together with his family. "A neighbor helped us out. He immediately told me to be patient until September and that he was going to let us go, exchange or no exchange." Vasic shrugs his shoulders and repeats: "What is there to say... no one can explain that. I now only live for my kids, and that is also not easy. We survive somehow on $40 a month, I work for Oslobodjenje, but that's not enough. Look, they cut our electricity off, I can't pay; they say I owe $200; how can I pay? I told them that my kids can live without electricity, but cannot survive without food." After our question whether they were visited by someone from the competent ministry or the War Veterans' Association, his lips twist into something like a smile. "Don't be ridiculous..."
Deal: Although the massacre of the residents of Ledici took place in early 1992, their bodies were found only in the late September of 2001. The search, all over Treskavica, was futile. The reason was that none of the surviving witnesses could recall the precise spot of the massacre, because it took place in a wilderness, a forest, at more than 2000 meters above the sea level. The circumstances under which the bodies were found are strange, to say the least. Namely, a Bosniak man contacted families of the massacred residents from Ledici claiming that he knew where the bodies were. However, he wanted $2,500 to reveal the location. He claimed that he had not taken part in the massacre. They managed to reach a deal and reduce the price to $1,000. The man agreed to receive money after identification of the bodies. Although the information was not precise enough, the commission for search for the missing managed to finally find 12. The bodies were piled up, under beech trees, covered with leaves and a tree trunk. "Now I'm even more hurt," Rada Cvijetic says. "First they killed them and then we had to pay to get their bodies back."
Ledici today resemble a haunted village. Only destroyed and burnt houses remind a passerby that this was at one point a human settlement. At the same time the ruins are evidence of events that may never be fully explained. The authorities of the Federation BH tried to revive the village. Thus, the plans envisaged the construction of a mosque on the land belonging to the Tesanovic family; a road was built over their land as well, then a new post office and an outdoors school. However, that did not help. Currently, this village is deserted. Only the howl of wind startles the visitors. Nothing is the way it used to be. Even the fresh water spring in the center of the village which served as a sort of a local hangout for the young villagers. The village never had a tavern, café or a youth center - the Ledici water spring, known as Zbisce, fulfilled all of these roles. At that spot the Federation BH authorities have erected a monument to shehids [martyrs fallen fighting for Islam], "Muslim victims fallen in defense of the village of Ledici".