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Bosnia's 'Romeo and Juliet' Come Home
Bodies of Couple who Died on Bridge
to be Buried Wednesday in Sarajevo

(SARAJEVO, April 9—Reuters) Three years after they died for love, the Muslim girl and Serb boy whose fate symbolized the madness of Sarajevo's ethnic division have been brought home. The bodies of Admira Ismic and Bosko Brkic were exhumed from an untended grave in a Serb military cemetery and shipped back to the reunified city whose wartime horrors they tried to flee. They will be buried side by side on Wednesday in Sarajevo's Lion cemetery in graves within sight of the cafe where they courted. Lowering of the coffins into their final resting place will mark the end of a journey that began in hope in May 1993.

Confident they had guarantees of safety, Admira and Bosko walked from Bosnian government frontlines in the heart of the city, between buildings bristling with guns, towards Serb-held Grbavica. They planned to go to Belgrade and on to a life abroad.

A volley of gunfire cut them down in no-man's-land. Admira crawled towards Bosko, put her arm around him and together they died. For eight days their corpses lay in the sun as the two sides disputed who had killed the lovers, and who should risk death to gather them for burial.

"Some people don't realize the greatness of their death," said Admira's father, Zijah Ismic. "He stayed in Sarajevo because of her and she wanted to reward him by leaving with him to the Serb side." Just as blame for their death is obscured by deceit and treachery, so too is the way the bodies were recovered.

Serb militiamen say they staged a night-time dash to pick them up. Muslim prisoners of the Serbs say they were tethered by ropes and despatched to fetch the decomposing corpses. Zijah and his wife Nera found Serb friends to exhume their beloved daughter and the boy they treasured as a son from territory that the war's end has not yet made safe to visit.

"At first I didn't want to disturb them in their peace but my wife and mother insisted we get them so that people can come to their graves and visit them," said Zijah. The couple, dubbed Sarajevo's "Romeo and Juliet" by the media, were sweethearts for eight years before their deaths at the age of 25. They grew up in a city where inter-ethnic marriage was common until nationalist hatred blossomed.

"If they'd had religion on their mind they wouldn't have been together," said Zijah of his Muslim daughter and her Orthodox Serb boyfriend. Wednesday's funeral will be atheist. "It's not my decision, it's theirs. They left a message with their death about how they felt about such things."

"I've been dreaming about this for three years, about getting them out, about every detail," said Nera. "The whole time I didn't want to accept reality. I hadn't seen them so I didn't want to accept it. But this morning when Zijah went to get their coffins I cried for hours and hours."

Zijah paid for an expensive private autopsy on both bodies. The examination found a machine gun bullet in Admira's chest and wounds he believes show they were shot by Bosnian Serbs. But since he will never know why, the knowledge brings no comfort. "It's more important to bury them here than find out who shot them, as they're dead anyway. I can't change what happened, can't bring them back to life."

Nera has visited the spot where her daughter died. "It was difficult. Italian soldiers helped me to lay some flowers as there were still mines all around. They knew all about the story once I explained." Zijah and Nera plan to place a heart-shaped stone at the head of the grave.



Additional resources
Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo Canadian Film Inspired by Story


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