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Vedran Persic
Title: Hana Petric -
Life Story
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  Nobody has the will to survive like a human being. When found in a danger people
use all their energy and mind to save life. Scientists are constantly amazed at how an
individual can survive in mountains, deserts, and forests, but especially in a war. It looks
like that fear recognizes no fear.
A 24-years old Slovenian reporter Hana Petric talked to the soldier at Kosevo
Hospital who jumped with his comrades from 30 meters high cliff into the woods running
from the enemy. For most of them it was the last thing they have done. Yet another attempt
by Bosnian army to regain the control over mountain Trebevic ended in blood. Entrenched
troops rejected the assault and stormed the attackers. That day one man survived
manhunt and he is now resting in a hospital in Bosnia’s capitol Sarajevo. Bosnians dominate
the city and the country. This young soldier sees his broken legs as God’s blessing
compared to being captured by Serbs. Rebellion Serbs took over control of the mountain
in 1992 when the war broke out and didn’t let it go since. It is the second year of Sarajevo
siege. Serb’s guns kill everybody moving if noticed behind burnt cars and sand begs that
provide a protection for the citizens. Government’s units can’t break the siege as rebels
control hills and mountains around the city. Citizens are held hostage to Serbian politics
targeted to set up ethically pure territories in Balkans.
Hana Petric writes for the Mladina magazine. As a student at the Political Science
Faculty in Ljubljana she witnesses the war for independence. Her country Slovenia managed
to abandon Yugoslavia with minimal casualties.
II
Outside, at the hillsides of the city, sounds of war dominated. Because of a smoke
it come into view like a morning mist although it was a noon. Petric decides to visit
troops first thing in the morning at the slopes of Trebevic. The 1st Mountain Brigade held
position few kilometers from the downtown in a steep side of the mountain. In days without
combat activities soldiers look like a group of men at the holiday. Chess and play-
cards are the most popular soldier’s games. A soldier’s meal always is a topic. Today, a
meat can of questionable quality is shared by dozen. Local herbs found in surrounding of
trench make the meal more eatable. Skinny cook gives his best to prepare the meal,
which boils in a big metal bucket. Meat and rice with herbs smells good as Petric prepares
to lunch with boys deep in a trench, safe from bombs. A meal brings back all good
memories when these guys enjoyed their picnics in near by. Roasted lamb represents the
favorite memory and the biggest wish in this flashback. Their thoughts move from desire
to anger. The soldiers talk about smugglers inevitable for conflict areas. The food smuggling
is blooming in the city while these hungry guys risk their lives in muddy trenches,
armed with thirty bullets in the magazine. Petric feels sorry for them because of situation
they were in but also likes them as they strongly defend their families and homes. Fight
to protect their families represents their ideology, their faith and their strength.

Small photo camera witnesses brothers in arms smiling for the readers and talking
about the war in its Bosnian humorous way. Petric laughed with them absent minded
about the menace hidden just some fifty feet’s away. She wanted to see the enemy on that
peaceful day. Peaking from the top of the trench seamed like a good idea. A gunshot
breached the silence. Petric felt down quietly. The soldiers saw her right eye smashed in
blood with the exit wound at the back of the head. Before loosing consciousness, Petric
caught one of them saying:” She must be dead.”
Outside of the main Sarajevo hospital a car stops abruptly. The sound of breaks
draws attention of the medical staff who smoked cigarettes outdoors. A man in the camouflage
uniform comes out of the car carrying a young woman with bloody bandage over
her head. The soldier screams while walking toward the entrance: “Sniper shot her in the
head, but she’s still alive”. From opposite direction, joining him with the trolleys, a nurse
asks about her identity. “She is Slovenian journalist. Her name is Hana.” Soldier places
lifeless body on the trolleys bouncing on the broken road.
They disappeared in the dark hospital hallway making the car engine the only
sound outside.
III
Hana Petric was a victim of a different war from the one she personally knew.
The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina was more vicious then in Slovenia. Big cities are
bombarded night and day. Eastern part of the country is raped, killed, burnt. Running
through forests, thousands of refugees are looking for safety in the capitol Sarajevo. The
local schools became refugee shelters. The sound of happy school kids was replaced with
crying of hungry babies. Hallways are packed. Classrooms became apartments for up to
ten families where books were used for heating and preparing meals. Running for a story
she was seen as an enemy for the other side. It was not as same as fights between football
fans were nobody cares about a reporter. Here, she witnessed the crimes. But she wasn’t
alone. Hundreds of international correspondents covered the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Fearless reporting and traveling where another civilian wouldn’t created a bond of
brothers among war correspondents. If someone leaves the country others waves him: “
See you in another war”.
A job took Petric to Kosevo hospital more often then she would like. Inside, disoriented
people flooded the corridors. Hospital staff shouts at each other looking for a
way to help everyone in the need. It mixes with scaring screams of wounded men and a
silent pray of their family members leaned on bloody walls. Being coolheaded in such
circumstances terrified Hana. Other people’s pain was just a good story for her. “Doctor,
how many dead people have you counted today?” she asked. “Well it is about the daily
average – twelve”, doctor said and left for the surgery room. As she walked in the direction
of way out she saw a one-leg boy standing at the door facing inside holding on two
sticks. His crippled shadow covering almost the whole hallway marked the exit. Due to
strong back light she couldn’t see his face until they almost touched at the door. “How
are you doing?”, Petric started a conversation. He must have been 15 years old she
guessed. She felt sorry for him thinking that he won’t have a chance to play sports again
as he lost most of his left leg. “I feel sorry for families of these dead soldiers,” he whispered,
“my mom still got me.” Petric gently squeezed his shoulder and left the scene obviously disturbed.
She wanted to understand how a boy, with disabled life, can be so
positive and calm.
IV
Now, she was back to the same corridor traveling on the trolley to the surgery
room. After a week Petric became conscious. She sees the ceiling with her left eye. The
sun entering the room creates a square at the white background. The blurred picture follows
horrible pain in the head. Petric tries to scream, to release the pain, but hears nothing.
Overtaken by the pain and panic, she questions: “What happened?” Thousands of
questions bombarded her mind, but she was helpless to ask for the answer. Her body refused
to obey commands: arms stayed under the sheet, head deep in a pillow, mouth
speechless. That evening, the doctor provides her with explanations of her condition. She
lost her right eye. Brain has been damaged so much that she lost an ability to speak. She
needs to be transferred from Sarajevo as soon as possible in order to receive proper medical
care to be able to improve her condition, which could be worsening. The doctor ends:
“But you are still alive”. She was surprised with the comment as she realized that her life
has been ruined. “What kind of life I have without ability to speak?” Petric questioned in
despair, and increased her agony concluding, “I’m half blind”.
A woman who hated to be hemmed in, who had gone where she wanted when she
wanted, Petric was medicated and placed under constant observation, her nights filled
with the screams and rants of other patients. Lonely, Petric remembered all news reports
she did from Sarajevo. Recalling her memory she pictures the situation in the city in
spring 1992 when she arrived looking to prove herself as fearless war reporter. The
quickest way to win respect among colleagues is to be where is the news. The Yugoslavia
was falling apart and international media attention was on Bosnia and Herzegovina as the
only enclave of multicultural society in this part of Balkans.
The United Nations is trying to bring humanitarian convoys with food and medicines
to the city but Serbs are squeezing them at the checkpoints. Delivered help was not
enough to satisfy all citizens. Surprisingly for Petric, citizens of Sarajevo proudly bear
the war. Moreover in old cloths they walked tall. With limited water supplies and cosmetics
gone the women demonstrated beauty totally unknown to the war. Petric loved them
because of this. They represented all she wanted to be – free from Western culture important
things, simply enjoying her life. One of the best reports Petric sent was on the beauty
contest where the Miss of the City under the Siege was promoted. She witnessed natural
beauty free of modern cosmetic and stylish dresses. Fashion show beats war. Clothes
were hand-made deep in basements of war-torn buildings. Petric felt sorry for them because
of their modest appearance but admired them for the courage to confront the reality.
Today, stuck to a bed, she was horrified at her own looks.
V
But, in every pain there is moment when a person discovers being not lonely in its
misery. War correspondents who used to share notes with Hana Petric helped her to raise
money for her operations abroad. With the money she managed to find doctors to reconstruct
her face. Petric spent whole year in the United States recovering. It took her eight
months to learn how to speak again. Rehabilitation was a painful experience for her. She

missed home, friends and most of all – Sarajevo. That city caused the greatest pain that
she suffered and all joy she experienced. The ultimate pleasure in life of every journalist
is producing story, which triggers public debate. There is no greater satisfaction when
you story leads to positive action. Petric found herself useless in the US and determined
to return to the city that she couldn’t completely understand but pulled her as the magnet
and couldn’t let her go.
But before that she needed to return to the homeland. Back in the Mladina she felt
different approach but her colleagues. They were too kind to her. One thing she couldn’t
bear is to seen based on the outside appearance rather then personality that she possesses.
She knew that back in Sarajevo people don’t judge others by their face as they all were in
the same box – standing in the line to be executed. Making it through the day is what
matters. She needed not to be noticed as different. She wanted to be on the same frequency
with the group. Sarajevo makes life worth living.
It has been more then a year since Petric left Sarajevo thinking that her life is lost.
As she looks through the small plane window she sees familiar ground. A place she embraces
as safe haven. That sunny autumn, the UN plane landed at the airport welcomed
with ceremonial machinegun music typical for this area. Even pilots pay no attention to
few bullets bouncing of the damaged airfield. Old friend returns to witness another attempt
of the city to break the chains that kept him imprisoned for more then three years.
Heart beating Petric tried to spot new scars at local buildings as she walks between the
soldiers guarding the airport hoping to recognize some of the press people buzzing
around.
Half an hour later she stood in front of Holiday Inn Hotel where the UN Peace
Troops organized the Press Center. Emotionally at the edge, waiting to see familiar faces,
Petric walked in. Feelings erupt in the hall when war correspondents met again. In matter
of hours she became the news story. It helped her to free all emotions deeply hidden inside
for years, healing the soul at the same time and making the return a sensible choice.
The Slobodna Bosna reporter Edin Saric came to the hotel in order to do an interview
with Slovenian journalist who was badly injured in Sarajevo and returned again as
journalist. The interview is conducted in the main hall. Weak, but hot coffee steaming
from the coups provides aroma to the interview. An introduction is followed with exchange
of cigarettes that is typical for print reporters, but this is not ordinary interview.
They are about same age and similar affiliations. As he learns more about her the more
she’s glorified in his view. Saric tries to be funny as he wants her to like him and she
knows the game. “Bosnians are charming people in its nature”, she comments to herself,
and proposes another meeting later in the week to discuss current political and military
situation in the country. Occupied by the topic, the bomb explosion in the neighborhood
passed unnoticed. Their laughter blows outside sounds.
The war nears its end. Serbian politics to conquer Balkan countries and to form
alliance of Serbs territories failed. Pressured by the international community, financially
exhausted warlords signed a peace agreement late that year in the US air base, some
10.000 miles away from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hana and Edin jointly worked on citi-
zen’s reactions to the signing of the new peace agreement. It wasn’t the first time that
Saric was at her apartment. After filing reports, two journalists watched the CNN broad

casts NATO’s statement on deployment of troops on Bosnian terrain. Totally non-
romantic moment became turning point for Petric as she kissed him for the first time.
War reporting ends in Bosnia that evening opening a path for country’s recovery.
Petric never assumed to find happiness in war-torn place. Personal and professional
satisfaction doesn’t come with the place but with people. Love, respect and understanding
clears the way for ordinary problems making the life complete. “We chose no
country but people who want to be old with. Who take us for what we are and not by our
outside. Who posses the will to live life with me”. Petric stated at the wedding, in 4th
month of pregnancy, outside her new home in a peaceful city of Sarajevo.
End

 
 
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