#3 Imprisoned inside "the Freedom"

He told me about how he remembered the day as if it happened yesterday. The village he lived in wasn’t like it once had been. The people had left their houses in the villages nearby, partly because of fear and partly because of the soldiers. This meant that the houses in his village were filled with people. Every house contained about 20-30 people. It was hard to feed that amount of people but he said that they managed.

His wife was making breakfast as the day came. He said that he looked out the window and saw a tank driving through the village. He turned to her and told her that nothing good could come from this so she should go and prepare the children. As he tried to explain what was going on, he saw a huge amount of people running towards the railway. And that is when they all realized that there wouldn’t be any breakfast in their nice little kitchen that day. They ran out of the house together, and all of them ran to the bridge. And it was at that bridge that they would lose everything. The soldiers took the people’s money, any articles of value and any identification that they had. When the people were robbed of their identifications documents, they were nobodies. They couldn’t go anywhere, which was the Serbian soldiers reason for their making. But he was smart; he had already made sure that his and his family’s identification documents were elsewhere.


At first they were placed inside a factory very close to the bridge, and this is also where he for the first time, saw a man being murdered and it was his neighbor. The victim and his murderer had apparently known each other. The victim had been a guard and the murderer had been a worker at the same place. The murderer had tried to smuggle out a accumulator and the victim did his job as a guard and stopped him. The murderer got fired from that job after a while. But when the murderer had seen the victim inside the factory, they were on different sides as well and they recognized each other and what happened after that is why you just read a story about a victim and a murderer. What happened is because the wrong person held that gun that day, the person that shouldn't have been allowed to carry a gun also had the power to kill whomever he felt like killing. This is also when he realized that this was serious and that it was no game.

Some people were also put in a car and then they just disappeared. He and the rest later found out that the people that went away with the cars had been killed. The rest had to separate themselves, the men had to leave the women and children. They were all transported with some kind of wheel transport. There were about 160 people in each wagon. To be able to try and understand what they went through in that wagon I want you to think of the hottest day you’ve ever experienced and then that you’re sitting inside a car with every door closed with only one window open, enough to give some air so you’ll be able to survive. And no, the car does not have any air-condition. The feeling is unbearable and on top of that, they are 160 people in a tiny area. He never told me about any deaths inside the wagons but he was also very gentle with the details. But you probably know how serious and dangerous it is if you leave a baby or an animal inside a closed and turned of car during a hot day.

When you just thought that they had been through enough they were transported to a Village named Kosova. That is where they thought they would see their freedom because of the Bosnian soldiers, but that was not their future. The ones that got away that day were the children and women, not the men. But before the men, including him, were sent back to the factory, they heard a bulldozer. The bulldozer was digging a huge hole. He told me what they said:

“You should stand against each other and say your last goodbye because soon you won’t be able to see one another again.” Their understanding of the situation had gone from hope about freedom to fear of a terrible death and buried all together in that hole. If he and the rest weren’t lucky, he wouldn’t have been able to tell me this story and I wouldn’t be able to tell you it, but he was lucky.

It was someone with a higher position that saved them that day but then they were sent away, inside the wagons again. They went around to about 3-4 different cities/villages but no concentration camp had place for them. In the end they were sent to their hometown. They had to create a new camp for him and the rest. They were out in the soccer stadium. 3000 people. The soccer stadium named “The Freedom” came to be the place that killed 3000 people’s freedom.

The conditions they lived in were terrible. There were no roof over them, so they stood right under the bright sun in the hottest month of the year. He told me that they could get about 2 dl water a day if they were lucky. And this is a place where 30-40 C was normal. He was there for one and a half month but he lost 26 kg during that time. They also had to stand up as some kind of guard for two hours before their meals. He also told me that many old men lost their life this way. He told me that he was pretty much starving but luckily he never fell. And when someone fell, no one was aloud to help. The guards never cared about if the captives were sick or old, they just made all stand up for hours no matter what and if they fell, they fell. If they did fall then the Freedom had become their end, most likely even their own hell.

These pictures are of the real stadium that he was trapped inside (the stadium looks pretty different today than it did at the time he had to spend his days and nights there).