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Mediha (Tokmić) Halep

Moto: Whatever happens, could not bypass you, and whatever avoids you, could not happen to you!

My name is Mediha (Tokmić) Halep. I am a nurse. This is an occupation that I wanted to work on from my early childhood. Now, when I am grown up, married, and a mother of two children, I often picture myself as a 7-year old girl.

Everything starts all of a sudden, without any signs or reason, or maybe there was a reason, but nobody was able to explain it. It was spring. As elderly people said, the most beautiful one ever in my village. A smell of cherry blossom and green grass where one can find flowers of chamomile. I dressed up early in the morning. It was time to go on a trip. First graders and our teacher Radmila. We arrived in front of the school, but unfortunately, our teacher said that the trip is cancelled, because it wasn’t safe. We had a ‘trip’ on our blankets, and we spread them around our school. Above our school there were helicopters. We, children from the countryside, were delighted.

I don’t remember well, but I think that after that day, our parents didn’t allow us to go to school. One morning, a long line of cars were driving along with our house and left traces of dust. It seemed like a movie. Behind the cars, there were women and children. Some without the clothes, some carried some things in their hands.

They were searching for accommodation because they were temporarily evacuated. It was said that they would have returned back home soon. Mum was worried, but if you asked her something, she would have said that everything is ok. She welcomed 11 strangers to our house.

We protected the house with woods, and we were hiding in one room, which served us as a shelter in a time of airline bombing.

When there wasn’t safe in our house to hide, when there was a siren, we ran into our neighbour’s house into the basement. You just had to run as fast as you can. I didn’t understand anything. From who we ran, why each evening our neighbours took care of us, why me and my school mate Armin needed to sleep on the same couch when he needed to be continuously put into sleep.

These really annoyed me. It was also very frustrating for me to sleep in clothes to be prepared for going SOMEWHERE. After all dad’s requests to come to Slovenia, where he was working at that time, my mum has finally decided that it is time to pack our bags. Only basics, a few clothes, maybe a picture or two. Quran, of course. We don’t go anywhere without it.

My sisters wore ugly clothes, so one can not even think that they are young. At that time they were 15 and 17.

I hid money in my jacket, but for urgent matters. Mum sewed them into the inner part. If I survived, at least I had money. I remember each part of our departure. Tears, deep sighs, stammer, grand father’s tight hug on my weak shoulders. We sat on the rotary. We were crying, and now we were the one who left dusty traces.

My grandfather’s hand got lost in the distance, but I still see him how he was waving at us. We went to the bus, which will take us to my father’s place. For the whole way, my sister and mum were crying, some of the passengers were vomiting. Soldiers drow some black circles on the road. The bus is driving zig-zag in order not to hit that point. To do so, it’d explode. I am bored. My sister handed me my favourite book from the backpack. She took care of everything, as usual. She tried to pretend that everything was ok. We’ were going to meet our dad, after all. We arrived in a big town.

Bus station. We had to overnight somewhere. We didn’t know anybody. We asked the driver if we could sleep on his bus. He allowed. It was not comfortable, but my mum consoled me that it’s better than a bench. She held me tight. We are travelling to Slovenia (Celje) in the morning. This is the place where my father was working.

Happiness cannot be described in words when you hug your father after a long, long time. We were accommodated in one-bedroom apartment. Aba (that’s how we call our father) lived there with a lot of other people who worked with him. But we couldn’t stay there long, because it was building for workers only.

Aba took us to the refugee centre in Hrastnik. That was the name of our new home. The houses there were not like ours. They have strange manners. There were a lot of children.

My parents convinced me that it is nice to be here. I had a chance to play. No more sirens, no helicopters, no sound of the guns. They placed us in the, apparently large room. I say apparently because there were 16 of us in that little room. I slept with my mom on a couch with very prickly blankets on it. But, thank God, there were no sirens.

Mom cried. Every day, every hour. She was absent in thought. She didn’t answer questions, and tears never stopped flowing. A lot of people came to our crowded new home. Some mothers in Turkish trousers and scarves. They also brought with three or four children with them, who told me that their fathers were taken somewhere and they don’t know where their father is, or they told me, that they were killed. Those children had nothing to put on, only sadness inside.

 They brought us food every day. We also ran out of the water, but we filled it into canisters.  We started getting help from various humanitarian organizations. The first trucks with sweets and hygiene products came from Belgium. The chocolate was so delicious. Soon, we received support also from other countries.

The Englishwoman Aranča took us to a nearby hill for aerobics. We went with Italians to Kal for a walk. 

We got a room for play, school and fun. That room was multifunctional. There we went to a refugee school, in Bosnian with Bosnian books. We “devils”, “we Bosnians”. It was fun, sometimes we had the Olympics between the barracks by running, playing, chasing.

Mom cried a lot. Director of the centre suggested here to work as a cook. She prepared Bosnian food for all refugee, and she was able to forget what was going on in Bosnia. She agreed after the doctor recommended her that it is suitable for her health. She has kids, after all, and she had to think about them. We often got clothes from foreigners, and we knew how to be fashionable and had some fun.

But in the evening, when I went to bed and closed my eyes: alarm, images seen and those created by children’s imagination, nightmares… There were, however, nights when I dreamed of returning home. As I touched my house, I hugged my bald baby and called out the name of my dearest friend. And I always sad in a dream: “this time it’s true, I’m back home!” And when I opened my eyes and felt the prickly blanket sticking to my body, I realize it was all a dream. After 3 years of schooling, it was decided that we would go to Slovenian school. We were afraid of that, all of us, “refugees”, “devils”, we did not meet Slovenian children very often. Our lives were reduced to a refugee centre. But we learned how to speak Slovene. It is similar but still different. We attended Slovenian school in Dol pri Hrastniku. We were only 2 Bosnians in your class. Our teacher introduced us to the class and asked other children to help us with the language and everything else that we might need. Those ”terrible’ Slovenes were thankfully kind and helpful.

There was one Lucija. She lent me pencils with scents. And there were others – Darja, Suzana, Manja, Vesna, Marko, Mitja, Borut, etc. Lucija helped me with Slovenian language, Darja had a solution for every situation. I liked my new friends. I told them about my Bosnia, about my house, about the desire to return. They were crying some time, especially at the moment when the war ended, and we decided to go back home. I said to them that I like it here, but I’d still love to see my house.

We are packing again, but this time is different. We had a lot more things to pack, jointly with life lessons that we gained, with friends that I left in Slovenia. My sister, who got married, has stayed there. It was hard to say goodbye. On our way to Bosnia, we saw ruins, sad faces, countless tanks. But the scene on the hill, when we saw our house, it can not be described with words. It was real. My dreams came true. I was back to school. This time, Bosnian one. There are no windows, the building is damaged by shrapnels, children had several scars from injuries. We had to get to know each other. They said that I came from the diaspora that I was a deserter. They asked for money: ‘Give us money, you have it, we are poor.’ I gave it to them, so help me, God.

I finished primary school and then a secondary school for nurses. I always dreamed about that. My father lost his job at the time when I finished my secondary school, and I wasn’t able to go to the faculty. What is my future? I got a job in a textile factory. I worked, I wanted to prove myself. I would have worked illegally and overtime, just to have a job. I stayed there for 11 years. I got married and gave birth to two children. I got a chance to work in a kindergarten as a nurse. Here I am now, I live, take care of children, dream and pray to God to save them from all the evil. One has to fight, no matter what life brings you.

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