“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King
This summer I have done a backpacking tour with my family through several Balkan countries. Sarajevo was one of many destinations and a city that has stolen my heart.
We had already heard several heartbreaking stories about the Balkan Wars, but the story of Bosko and Admira, also called “Sarajevo’s Romeo and Juliet” hit home full force. Around the same time when I was making plans for a future with my husband, they were making plans for their future too. They wanted to escape the besieged city of Sarajevo but that went very, very wrong.
Read on to find out more about this brave young couple and what all of us can learn from their love story.
Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, was often referred to as the Jerusalem in the West, since Christians (both Orthodox and Catholics), Muslims and Jews had been living together peacefully for centuries. This abruptly changed during the Bosnian Wars in the nineties. People from different ethnical backgrounds no longer lived side by side, but fought against the other side. The other side could just as easily be former friends, neighbours or colleagues as well as strangers.
One of too many Sarajevo Roses.*
During the Bosnian Wars, the city of Sarajevo was besieged and bombed by Bosnian Serbs for nearly 4 years. Bosko (an Orthodox Serb) and Admira (a Bosniak Muslima) had been together for 8 years when the siege started and they did not let the ethnic conflict influence their love. The siege did influence their existence though.
Life in Sarajevo was getting harder with each passing month and Bosko and Admira (both 25 at the time) decided they wanted to escape the city in order to live a normal life with Bosko’s family in Serbia. This could be done (they knew), but was very dangerous (they knew that too).
They paid a former schoolfriend money for a safe passage out of the city. To escape Sarajevo they had to pass the bridge at the end of Sniper’s Alley. Sniper’s Alley was the informal name of the main boulevard in Sarajevo during the war, since walking there meant exposing yourself to snipers. After crossing that bridge they had to walk through a Serb-held neighbourhood at which end a car would be waiting for them for a ride to Serbia. The young and brave couple got the message that at 5 pm on May 19 (1993) no one would shoot for 30 minutes.
This is what a house on “Sniper’s Alley”, close to the bridge Bosko and Admira had to cross, still looks like today.
Imagine what courage was needed: contacting the enemy, leaving family and friends behind and knowing that you only had 30 minutes to get yourselves through a Serb-held neighbourhood into safety…
On May 19 at 5 pm they were walking over the bridge. They had already crossed half of it when Bosko was shot. He died on the spot. Admira was hit seconds later. Fatally wounded but still alive, she managed to crawl towards her beloved and embraced him. She died 15 minutes later in that final embrace.
Both bodies were left on the bridge for several days. The photo of Bosko and Admira, lying side by side on that bridge, was in every newspaper imaginable and the world was shocked.
Flowers on the “bridge of love” in Sarajevo show that Bosko and Admira have not been forgotten
The couple was soon referred to as Sarajevo’s Romeo and Juliet: a couple in love, dying unnecessarily and far too young because of the conflict of others!
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet were kept apart by the hate between their families. Together they withstood this pressure.
Sarajevo’s Romeo and Juliet were fully supported by their families; all of them withstanding the pressure of the ethnic conflict surrounding them.
Bosko’s mum now lives in Serbia. Twice a year she travels to Sarajevo to visit the final resting place of her son and daughter-to-be. When she is in Sarajevo she always stays with Admira’s family.
Bosko and Admira’s fate unfortunately teaches us what the consequences of ethnic conflicts can be; how senseless and arbitrary this is. Their heartbreaking story also shows us that hate divides, but love unites!
*Sarajevo Roses are craters left by fatal mortar strikes which have been filled with red resin to remember those lost because of the shelling during the Siege of Sarajevo.