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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July 2005, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Srebrenica: A survivor moves on
By Leslie Woodhead
Storyville producer

When I met Hasan Nuhanovic in 1999, I thought he was the angriest man I had ever known.

Hasan Nuhanovic
Hasan helps to bury a coffin at Srebrenica's memorial cemetery
Sheltering from the pouring rain under the balcony of a ruined house and interviewing him for Cry From The Grave, my film about the Srebrenica massacre, was something I will never forget.

He told me then how he had been trapped in the little town of Srebrenica for three years, besieged by the Bosnian Serb army with his parents and younger brother, along with 40,000 desperate refugees.

Starving and fearing constant bombardment, Hasan had found a job as an interpreter for the Dutch Battalion of Peacekeepers, deployed to watch over the first UN "safe area".

I realised I was weary of living with my rage - I wanted a future with my wife and daughter more than I wanted revenge
Hasan Nuhanovic
His stunning account of the fall of the town had reached its terrible climax with the moment when he had to watch his family being thrown out of the haven of the Dutch base and into the hands of the Serb army, knowing they were going to their deaths.

They joined 8,000 other victims of Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Mother's death

Over the years since that interview, I had often thought about Hasan, and for my new film on the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, I wanted to find out how he was faring.

Now, half a dozen years after our last meeting, he was walking towards me in a pizza place in Sarajevo.

Leslie Woodhead

Hasan Nuhanovic seemed to be a changed man. He actually smiled.

I told him he looked well, and he said: "That's because I've decided to live for my daughter rather than die for my mother."

We talked for hours, and he made me understand what that simple statement meant for him.

Hasan discovered only recently how his mother had died.

She had been dragged away from his father and brother after they were evicted from the Dutch base and imprisoned in a nearby town.

Fearing the menaces of drunken guards, she had killed herself by cutting her wrists.

Hasan had been told the name of the man who led the assault on his mother.

"But in the end, " he said, "I realised I was weary of living with my rage, and of replaying the past. I wanted a future with my wife and daughter more than I wanted revenge. I wanted a normal life".

Nightmares

Hasan told me it had taken him years to begin to deal with his traumatising experiences in Srebrenica.

It was as though my mind was telling me that my mother didn't like me any more because I hadn't managed to protect my brother's life
Hasan Nuhanovic
"For a long time I couldn't even bear to look at signs or newspapers in the Serb Cyrillic alphabet," he said.

And he talked about his endless struggle with guilt.

"After the Srebrenica massacre, I had terrible dreams, like I'm flying over scorched land, and everything is destroyed and black. And there are many graves, and one grave opens up suddenly under me, and my mother comes out of the grave and says to me: 'I don't like you!'"

Hasan looked stunned by the memory.

"It was as though my mind was telling me that my mother didn't like me any more because I hadn't managed to protect my brother's life".

Over a difficult year, I followed Hasan's attempts to pursue the Dutch authorities in court and to seek compensation.

At last in June, he had a chance to confront the officer he accuses of sending his parents to their deaths.

It will also be his first vital step in mounting a legal case against the Dutch state.

Column of coffins

I was with Hasan when he returned to Srebrenica for the anniversary of the massacre when 338 newly identified victims were to be buried in a spectacular ceremony.

Children at Srebrenica memorial site
Children are among those marking the Srebrenica anniversary
"I'm trying not to think about what happened to me here", he told me.

He still has no information about his family's remains, but he was a key figure in the campaign to build the memorial cemetery.

I filmed as he joined the column of men helping to transport an endless procession of green-covered coffins to newly-dug graves.

It was a sombre occasion, but afterwards Hasan told me about a little Serb girl he had spotted on his drive to Srebrenica that morning.

"I looked at this girl and I asked myself: 'She's a Serb - do you hate this girl?' And the answer is, 'No'. This little girl and my daughter should have a future."

Leslie Woodhead's Film 'Srebrenica: Never Again?' will be screened on Monday July 11, the anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, on BBC4 at 2200 (2100 GMT).


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