Title

FBU-2016-04-28

Interviewer

Ben Moore

Date of Interview

Spring 4-28-2016

Interview Location

St. Louis, MO

Length of Interview

117:19

Date of Birth

1953

Gender

Male

Religion and/or Ethnicity

None Given

Description

Novak was born in Sarajevo in 1953 and spent his whole life there. His father was a military officer who fought with the Partisans in WWII, and his grandfather was murdered at the Jasenovac concentration camp during the war. His parents were missed, a Serb father and a Croat mother, but they never identified with a religion and saw themselves as Yugoslavian. Growing up, he had friends of all ethnicities and often did not know what group they belonged to. He had a perfect life in Yugoslavia, and nationalist politicians drummed up the civil war. When the war started, he sent his two children with his mother-in-law to Germany on April 15th, 1992. His wife and his parents stayed in Sarajevo. He recalls the early days of the war being almost fun; you would drink with friends in the street and then run in the basement when the shelling started. Things got horrible when the food ran out. The winter of 92/93 was terrible. All the windows were bombed out, and they only had plastic for the windows. No heat and it was -20 celsius outside. His wife was still working at a bank and earned unique currency given in Sarajevo during the war. He was made to dig trenches on the front lines. He injured his hand before the war and could not fight. He refused to continue digging trenches and was beaten. He did not feel like it was his war to fight. You could not leave the city. He believes the government was using the population as a human shield because if the whole civilian population left, the city could be considered a legitimate military target. His wife applied for a Red Cross convoy to leave Sarajevo for Croatia. He has made a pact with friends that they would send contacts to help if anyone escaped Sarajevo. His friend made it out in November 1993 and sent a connection to smuggle him out. He paid 2000 Deutsch Marke and a pistol. He waited for his wife to get on the Convoy to Croatia. On 02JAN1994, he was contacted by the smugglers who told him that they would be leaving in the evening. They escaped through the sewer tunnels and exited in Grbavica. He was then taken to Hotel Alpina in Pale, where he stayed for a few days. He was taken to Bijeljina, where he was given a fake passport. He then went to Beograd. His wife and kids were now in Split, trying to get visas to get out of the region. They were trying for New Zealand or Canada. Finally, they received notice that they could go to America. He traveled to Split through Budapest and Zagreb. They moved directly to St. Louis on 24 MAY 1994 with two suitcases and $80 cash. They immediately started working, and his wife returned to school and got an MBA. His two kids went to school and flourished. He has returned to Sarajevo twice, but it no longer feels like his city.

Keywords

Grbavica Dva, Centar, Čengić vila Dva, Pale, Bijeljina, Belgrade, Zagreb, Split, Hotel Europa, Hotel Alpina, Siege, Shelling, Sniper, Escape, Parent, Children, Resettlement

Pre-War Residence

Sarajevo

Wartime Residence

Sarajevo

First Country of Residence

Serbia

First US Residence

St. Louis

Document Type

Oral History

Collection

Fontbonne University

Digital Format

MP3

Digital Publisher

Center for Bosnian Studies

City

Saint Louis

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Rights Statement

In Copyright - Educational Use Permitted.