Reader finds inspiration in tragic memoir by Savo Heleta

The book “Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood,” shows Savo Heleta’s life: an inspiration.

In the early 1990s, many of us were carefree kids enjoying the fruits of life. The economy was good, TV series like Animaniacs and Full House were a regular staple, and there wasn’t really a care in the world. Though many of us were young, we learned either through school or the History Channel that the early 1990s in Europe were also times of terror. At the time, the country of Yugoslavia (just east of Italy) was imploding.

Having just overcome nearly a century of communist dictatorial rule, the multi-ethnic state was now rife with nationalism and sectarianism. The ethnic Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, and Bosnians were attempting to make new countries based on their ancestral, (sometimes) religious, linguistic, and racial backgrounds.

Having lost its former control of Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia, the Serbian-run state made it a duty not to lose Bosnia. From the capital in Belgrade, the ailing Yugoslavian government headed by president Milosevic started a campaign to cleanse all Bosnians out of the country, and to protect the Serbian minorities elsewhere.  In Bosnia, the hated Serbs were ruthlessly attacked and murdered to reciprocate for the purges against the Bosnians.

There exist many famous images of concentration camps and killing fields reported on the news at the time, leaving Europe with the worst genocidal crisis since World War II. The crisis with Kosovo would occur in the late 1990s, but the origin of the problem started with the crisis in Bosnia.

So we now look into the home of the Heleta family, a Serb family living in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Savo, the son, tells us his terrifying story of how day-by-day, their formerly happy lives were ruined.

First the children couldn’t play with their Bosnian friends. Then food and work travel became hazardous. Finally, to avoid getting blown up or shot, they couldn’t even leave the house.

Having been literally robbed and savaged by the Bosnian militants, the Heleta’s position is similar to a concentration camp. There is no electricity, no phone, and every day is a painful attempt to stay alive, no matter what needs to be done or eaten.

While reading this book, the reader begins to feel personally attached to the family. Urges of wanting to jump into the book and strangle the smug militants teemed within me. The true anger, accounts of terror, and glimmers of hope cannot be truly described in words.

Time was running out; the Heletas could either remain in their imprisoned housing and die slowly, or risk getting shot in order to escape the city. Throughout this entire memoir, one can’t help but wonder if Savo and his family will die, lose many loved ones, or never find any kind of hope.

I’ll leave it to you to read what happened to Savo’s family, and how he got where he is today (living in South Africa). One thing is for sure, by reading Heleta’s “Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia” you will keep in mind that evil still exists in the world, and it doesn’t come from a rogue Saudi militant or anarchist terrorist.

As Europe and the world rediscovered in the 1990s, mass ethnic cleansing is still possible, and genocide can happen again at any time. But perhaps, the most important discovery of all is the human will to survive, and even forgive those who might try to kill you.

The pure feelings of emotion, details of sorrow, and glimmering lights of hope in this book cannot be truly expressed in one review, so I leave it to you to read Heleta’s story, the human story.


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