Just before the war, Majda gave birth.
Violence flared across the border in Croatia as Yugoslavia disintegrated, but war in Bosnia still seemed unthinkable in 1993. The various ethnicities in her city Mostar had co-existed peacefully for five hundred years, a celebrated Ottoman bridge linking their predominantly Muslim east side with a Catholic west over the teal water of the Neretva. Calls to prayer from the stone minarets dotting the skyline competed with each other, not the bells of the churches.
We sat at Majda’s table over small cups of coffee she prepared in a copper kettle, the Bosnian way, waiting for the grounds to settle and rich crema to form. “This house was totally destroyed,” she said, attributing her husky voice to tobacco between long breaths. “I started to smoke then.”
She and her husband, Dragan, faced a choice: leave like the droves of others who scattered to safety around the Balkans or stay and wait out what they hoped would not last long. Her Muslim heritage and his Orthodox made them one of the many mixed marriages in Mostar that encouraged this hope. Then a Croatian general bombed the bridge …
Listen to the whole story in Episode 91.