The Bosniaks or Bosniacs [Bosniac is the spelling used in the OED] ( _bs. Bošnjak, pl: Bošnjaci, IPA2|bɔ'ʃɲaːt͡si) are a South Slavic people, living mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina (“Bosnia”) and the Sandžak region of Serbia and Montenegro, with a smaller autochthonous population also present in Croatia, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia. Bosniaks are typically characterized by their tie to the Bosnian historical region, traditional adherence to Islam, and common culture and language.
In the English-speaking world, Bosniaks are most commonly known as Bosnian Muslims, although Bosniaks make up 48% of the population while only 40% of the population (of B&H) is Muslim. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bk.html#People CIA World Factbook, Bosnia and Herzegovina:People] , [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html CIA - The World Factbook] , Accessed: 15 May 2007, “note: Bosniak has replaced Muslim as an ethnic term in part to avoid confusion with the religious term Muslim – an adherent of Islam”] The term “Bosnians”, also used interchangeably, can also be used to denote all inhabitants of Bosnia regardless of ethnic origin (i.e. not only Bosniaks, but also Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats or any other group in the country). [Staff, [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4443449.stm Guantanamo Bosnians cry 'torture'] , BBC, 14 April, 2005]
Bosniaks belong to the Slavic ethnic group, but nevertheless their ‘genetic roots’ are a mixture of Slav settlers and descendants of pre-Slavic indigenous Balkan peoples, mainly of Illyrian tribes. [Carleton S. Coon, "The Origin of Races" (New York: Knopf, 1962). Chapter XI, section 17] Marjanović, Damir; et al. ” [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=16266413&dopt=Abstract The peopling of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome haplogroups in the three main ethnic groups] .” “Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Sarajevo.” November, 2005] . For example, anthropologist John J. Wilkes regards Bosniaks (and Bosnians in general) as a possible descendant of the Illyrians and places Bosnia as once the centre of the Illyrian kingdom [John J. Wilkes, "The Illyrians" (Wiley; New Ed edition (November 30, 1995)). Chapter 9, Imperial Illyrians, page 254-281] .
There are around 2 million Bosniaks living in the Balkans today. Once spread throughout the regions they inhabited, various instances of ethnic cleansing and genocide have had a tremendous effect on the territorial distribution of their population. Partially due to this, a notable Bosniak Diaspora exists in a number of countries, including Austria, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. Both within the region and the outside world, Bosniaks are often noted for their unique culture, which has been influenced by both eastern and western civilizations and schools of thought over the course of their history.
Etymology and definition
According to the “bosniac” entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known use of “bosniak” in English was in “1836 “Penny Cycl.” V. 231/1 The inhabitants of Bosnia are composed of Bosniaks, a race of Sclavonian origin.” and it arrived in English either via the French “Bosniaque”, or the German “Bosniake”, or the Russian “Bosnyak”.
The earliest Bosnian “name” was the historical term “Bošnjanin” (Latin: “Bosniensis”), which signified any inhabitant of the medieval Bosnian kingdom. By the early days of Ottoman rule, the word had been replaced by “Bosniak” (Bošnjak). No consensus exists as to whether the word Bosniak emerged as a Turkified variation of the old Slavic Bošnjanin or as a local linguistic progression where the suffix “-iak” replaced the traditional “-anin”. The Bosniaks derive their ethnic name from “Bosona” (Bosnia), which has been proposed to have an Illyrian origin.Enver Imamović, Korijeni Bosne i bosanstva, Sarajevo 1995] Imamović, Mustafa (1996). Historija Bošnjaka. Sarajevo: BZK Preporod. ISBN 9958-815-00-1]
For the duration of Ottoman rule, the word Bosniak came to refer to all inhabitants of Bosnia; Turkish terms such as “Bosniak-milleti”, “Bosniak-kavmi”, and “Bosniak-taifesi”, were used in the Empire to describe Bosnians in an ethnic or “tribal” sense. However, the concept of nationhood was foreign to the Ottomans at that time – not to mention the idea that Muslims and Christians of some military province could foster any common sur-confessional sense of identity. The inhabitants of Bosnia called themselves various names: from Bosniak, in the full spectrum of the word's meaning with a foundation as a territorial designation, through a series of regional and confessional names, all the way to modern-day national ones.Bosniaks
The generally accepted definition (and the one used in this article) holds that Bosniaks are the Slavic Muslims on the territory of the former Yugoslavia who identify themselves with Bosnia and Herzegovina as their ethnic state and are part of such a common nation. However, individuals may hold their own personal interpretations as well. For instance, some, such as prominent Bosniak intellectuals Muhamed Filipović and Adil Zulfikarpašić, hold the view that all Bosnians, including Catholics and Orthodox Christians, were Bosniaks regardless of religion, but assimilated into Croats and Serbs influenced by national movements in Croatia and Serbia in the second half of the 19th century.Dimitrovova, Bohdana. ” [http://www.seep.ceu.hu/issue22/dimitrovova.pdf Bosniak or Muslim? Dilemma of one Nation with two Names] .” “Southeast European Politics, Vol. II, No. 2.” October, 2001.] Some others, such as Montenegrin Abdul Kurpejović, recognize an Islamic component in the Bosniak identity but see it as referring exclusively to Slavic Muslims in Bosnia. Still others consider all Slavic Muslims in the former Yugoslavia (i.e. including the Gorani) to be Bosniaks. Bajrami, Kerim. ” [http://nasagora.info/reagovanje.html Reagovanje na članak: Uz 90 godina od slavne Bitke za Čanakkale] .” “Našagora.info”.]
In Serb-dominated Yugoslavia unlike the preceding Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bosniaks were not allowed to declare themselves as Bosniaks. As a compromise, the Constitution of Yugoslavia was amended in 1968 to list “Muslims by nationality” recognizing a nation, but not the Bosniak name. The Yugoslav “Muslim by nationality” policy was considered by Bosniaks to be neglecting and opposing their Bosnian identity because the term tried to describe Bosniaks as a religious group not an ethnic one. When Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia, most people who used to declare as Muslims began to declare themselves as Bosniaks. In September 1993, the Second Bosniak Congress (“Bosnian:” Drugi bošnjački sabor) officially re-introduced the historical ethnic name Bosniaks instead of the previously used Muslim in former Yugoslavia. Today, the election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, recognizes the results from 1991 population census as results referring to Bosniaks.
In other countries with significant Bosniak populations that constituted former Yugoslavia it is not the case. The effects of this phenomenon can best be seen in the censuses. For instance, the 2003 Montenegrin census recorded 48,184 people who registered as Bosniaks and 28,714 who registered as Muslim by nationality. Although Montenegro's Slavic Muslims form one ethnic community with a shared culture and history, this community is divided on whether to register as Bosniaks (i.e. adopt Bosniak national identity) or as Muslims by nationality. Similarly, the 2002 Slovenian census recorded 8,062 people who registered as Bosnians, presumably highlighting (in large part) the decision of many secular Bosniaks to primarily identify themselves in that way (a situation somewhat comparable to the Yugoslav option during the socialist period). That said, it is important to note that such people represent a minority (even in countries such as Montenegro where it is a significant issue), and that the great majority of Slavic Muslims in the former Yugoslavia have adopted the Bosniak national name.
“Bosniak” is a term that was sometimes used by the rulers of the medieval Bosnian state, to describe their subjects (although they also used other terms). The Muslim Slavs of Bosnia emerged as a culturo-religious denomination during the Ottoman occupation of south-eastern Europe, from the 15th century. Recently, with the emergence of the independent state, “Bosniak” has been adopted by the country's Muslim populace to refer to themselves, although this is controversial.
The ethnogenesis of Bosniaks can be traced back to the Migration Period of the Early Middle Ages. It was then that the Slavs, a people from northeastern Europe, invaded the Eastern Roman Empire with their Avar overlords and settled in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here, they assimilated various tribes generically referred to as Illyrians, who were the earliest attestable inhabitants of the region.Malcolm, Noel (1994). Bosnia A Short History. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-5520-8.] . This fusion with the aboriginal population of the region has been attested by genetic studies, which showed that the earliest (genetic) roots of the Bosniak people can be traced back to the ancient populations that expanded into the Balkans following the Last Glacial Maximum 21 thousand years ago.Marjanović, Damir; et al. ” [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=16266413&dopt=Abstract The peopling of modern Bosnia-Herzegovina: Y-chromosome haplogroups in the three main ethnic groups] .” “Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Sarajevo.” November, 2005.] These studies have indicated that the dominant Y-chromosome haplogroup found in Bosnian Bosniaks is I – and specifically its sub-haplogroup I-P37 – are associated with these paleolithic settlers. Although all traces of Illyrian culture and language have disappeared, the name “Bosnia” – derived from the Bosna river- is itself Illyrian: “Bosona” (Bosnian: “Bosna”), held as a testament to the Illyrian heritage of the region.
This fusion of people gave rise a new body of people – the South Slavs – to which modern Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins and Bosnians all belong. Although ethnically very similar, they South Slavs remained separated into numerous tribes during the early medieval period. By the 9th century, some gradually coalesced into political entities. At this time, “Bosnia” was a descriptive term referring to a region much smaller than the modern-day state, roughly demarcated by the river Bosna and the river Drina. No recognized, independent political state formed in this region until much later. Instead, numerous external powers controlled the region- Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria, medieval Serbia, medieval Croatia, and Hungary- effectively establishing polarising influences of Catholic western Europe and Orthodox Eastern Europe.
From the 11th century, a semi-independent “banovina” arose in Bosnia, although still nominally ruled by external powers. These foreign rulers tried to gain the loyalty and cooperation of the local people by attmepting to establish religious jurisdiction over Bosnia. Yet, some of the Slavs in Bosnia established the Bosnian Church, an indigenous Christian sect considered heretical by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Although it would not last, it enjoyed popular support from a large number of Bosnians. Eventually, an independent Bosnian kingdom flourished in central Bosnia between the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, and even expanded into neighbouring Serb and Croat regions. However, even with the emergence of a Bosnian Kingdom, there was no conrete Bosnian ethnic identity. The state lacked a dominant religious denomination which could act to cement a sense of unity. Individual communities tended to predominanlty be a certain denomination, however the distribution was totally haphazard.
Thus we see the lack of centralized rule and the polarising influences of Catholic powers (Croatia and Hungary) and Orthodox powers (Serbia and Byzantium) created a medieval Bosnia with an unclear ethnic affiliation. To quote Noel Malcolm from the book “Bosnia A Short History”:
The emergence of a Muslim Slavic element in Bosnia was the result of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. Here and there, Balkan people converted to Islam to escape the burden of taxation and social discrimination. However, in Bosnia, there occurred large-scale conversions to Islam, whereby entire villages would convert, often following their local elder who coverted in order to maintain his previous privileges. Again, this was an entirely random affair whereby Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox villages would exist side by side. By the early modern age, there was a near equal split of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim Slavs in Bosnia following no clear geographic delineation. As the Ottoman Empire decayed, there was a concomittant “re-awakening” of Serbian and Croatian statehood. Both states claimed ‘historical rights’ to Bosnia. Following the flawed idea that religious orientaion equates with ethnic origin, Bosnian Catholics came to identify with the Croatian nation whilst those that were Orthodox identified with the Serbian nation, giving rise to what we now call ‘Bosnian Croats” and “Bosnian Serbs”. The Islamic Bosnians by and large did not align with neither Serbian nor Croatian nationality, but continued to put Islam at forefront of their consciousness. They were therefore referred to simply as Bosnian Muslims – or even “Turks” (as the name was standard in Christian nations until the emergence of Yugoslavia; before, it was not usual to distinguish Bosniaks from Turks and other Muslims.) They were not seen as a true ethnic group, but rather seen as “Islamicized Croats and Serbs”.
Bosniak folklore has a long tradition dating back to the 15th century. Like many other elements of Bosniak culture, their folklore is a mix of Slavic and Oriental influences, typically taking place prior to the 19th century.]
Two popular characters seen often in Bosniak folklore are the trickster and the Hero. Probably the most famous example of the first is that of Nasrudin Hodža, where local folklore has him taking part in various episodes in a Bosnian setting. Other tricksters include an old wise man in the legend behind the old Orthodox church in Mostar. Supposedly, a local official demanded that the church be built on land no bigger than an animal hide. The wise man then cut the hide into thin strips and laying them end to end was able to demarcate enough land to build a reasonably sized church.
National heroes are typically historical figures, whose life and skill in battle are emphasised. These include figures such as Gazi Husrev-beg, the second Ottoman governor of Bosnia who conquered many territories in Dalmatia, Northern Bosnia, and Croatia, and Gerz Eljaz Đerzelez Alija, an almost mythic character who even the Ottoman Sultan was said to have called “A Hero”.
Old Slavic influences can also be seen. Ban Kulin has acquired legendary status. “Even today,” wrote the historian William Miller in 1921 “the people regard him as a favorite of the fairies, and his reign as a golden age.” Characters such as fairies, Vila, are also present. Pre-Slavic influences are far less common but nonetheless present. Certain elements of Illyrian, and Celtic belief have been found.
Generally, folklore also varies from region to region and city to city. Cities like Sarajevo and Mostar have a rich tradition all by themselves. Many man-made structures such as bridges and fountains, as well as natural sites, play a significant role as well.
Bosniaks speak the Bosnian language. This language only has minor differences with the Serbian language or Croatian language in writing and grammar, but its speakers are, on the level of colloquial idiom, more linguistically homogeneous than either Serbs or Croats. The Bosnian language has a number of orientalisms as well as Germanisms not often used in the neighboring languages.
Bosniaks have also had two of their own unique scripts. The first was the Begovica (also called Bosančica), a descendant of local Cyrillic script that remained in use among the region's nobility. The second was the Arabica, a version of the Arabic alphabet modified for Bosnian that was in use among nearly all literate Bosniaks until the 20th century (compare with Morisco Aljamiado). Both alphabets have almost died out, as the number of people literate in them today is undoubtedly minuscule.
Most Bosniaks are Muslim, but some number of them are Atheist, Agnostic and Deist. This is due to the secular humanist world view that was prevalent during the times of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Today, in Bosnia-Herzegovina most Bosniaks belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, although historically Sufism has also played a significant role in the country.
urnames and names
Bosniak surnames, as is typical among the South Slavs, often end with “ić” or “ović”. This is a patronymic which basically translates to “son of” in English and plays the same role as “son” in English surnames such as Johnson or Wilson. What comes prior to this can often tell a lot about the history of a certain family.
Most Bosniak surnames follow a familiar pattern dating from the period of time that surnames in Bosnia and Herzegovina were standardized. Some Bosniak Muslim names have the name of the founder of the family first, followed by an islamic profession or title, and ending with ić. Examples of this include Izetbegović (Son of Izet bey), and Hadžiosmanović (“son of Osman Hajji”). Other variations of this pattern can include surnames that only mention the name, such as Osmanović (“son of Osman”), and surnames that only mention profession, such as Imamović (“son of the Imam”).
Some Bosniak names have nothing islamic about them, but end in ić. These names have probably stayed the same since medieval times, and typically come from old Bosnian nobility, or come from the last wave of converts to Islam. Examples of such names include Tvrtković and Kulenović.
Yet some Bosniaks have surnames that do not end in ić at all. These surnames are typically derived from place of origin, occupations, or various others such factors in the family's history. Examples of such surnames include Zlatar (“goldsmith”), Fočo or Tuco.
Many Bosniak national names are of foreign origin, indicating that the founder of the family came from a place outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many such Bosniak surnames have Hungarian, Vlach or Turkish origins. Examples of such surnames include Vlasić and Arapović.
Many Bosniak surnames are also common as Croatian and Serbian surnames which are likely to have been the names these families had before conversion to Islam examples include: Puškar, Sučić, Subašić, Begić, Hadžić
First names among Bosniaks have mostly Arabic, Turkish, or Persian roots. South Slavic names such as “Zlatan” are also popular primarily among non-religious Bosniaks. What is notable however is that due to the structure of the Bosnian language, many of the muslim names have been altered to create uniquely Bosniak names. Some of the Arabic names have been shortened.
The most famous example of this is that of the stereotypical Bosniak characters Mujo and Suljo, whose names are actually Bosniak short forms of Mustafa and Suleyman. More popular still is the transformation of names that in Arabic or Turkish are confined to one gender to apply to the other sex. In Bosnian, simply taking away the letter “a” changes the traditionally feminine “Jasmina” into the popular male name “Jasmin”. Similarly, adding an “a” to the typically male “Mahir” results in the feminine “Mahira”.
Bosniaks have a wide number of historical symbols that are associated with them. Traditional Bosniak colors are green, white, yellow, and blue. The two best known Bosniak national symbols are the crescent moon and the Lillium Bosniacum.
The earliest Bosniak symbol from medieval times and the old flag of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the flag of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina are very popular symbols among Bosniaks. They were founded by king Tvrtko Kotromanić. It was supposed to represent the entire country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the flag was not officially accepted by the Serb and Croat leadership, which led to the flag being traditionally associated with Bosniaks. Some Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs today venerate the flag (see Bosnians).
The earliest Bosniak flags date from the Ottoman era, and are typically a white crescent moon and star on a green background. The flag was also the symbol of the short lived independent Bosnia in the 19th century and of the resistance against the Turks led by Husein Gradaščević.The flag of the Bosniak Islamic Union is same as the flag just mentioned and is also a traditional flag of Bosniaks.
Some Bosniak organizations combine the two, adopting symbols with a crescent moon where a Lillium Bosniacum (a fleur-de-lis) replaces the traditional star. Other variations of combining the two exist. A notable one is the seal of the Bosniaks in Sandžak, which is based on the old Bosnian flag but changes one half of the seal so that instead of yellow lillies on a blue background there are yellow crescent moons on a green background.
Traditions and customs
The nation takes pride in the melancholic folk songs “sevdalinka”, the precious medieval filigree manufactured by old Sarajevo craftsmen, and a wide array of traditional wisdoms that are carried down to newer generations by word of mouth, and in recent years written down in numerous books. Another prevalent tradition is “Mustuluk”, whereby a gift is owed to any bringer of good news.
Important dates to Bosniaks
*11 july 1995 – Anniversary of Srebrenica genocide
*29 August 1189 – Bosnian statehood charter by ruler Kulin Ban
*3 July 1436 – Document mentioning Bosnian language
*25 October 1478 Death of Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić, last Bosnian Queen, in exile in Rome
*29 March 1831 – The Great Bosnian uprising
*25 November 1943 – Day of the republic
*6 May 1950- “Cazin uprising” against Communists and their agrarian reforms
*2 May 1991 – Day of the Patriotic league
*1 March 1992 – The Independence day
*15 April 1992 – Day of the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (today day of Bosniak unit – part of Defence forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina)
*7 May 1993 – Day of mosques
*28 September 1993 – Official rebirth of a national name
*6 March 1995 – Day of the first Bosnian flag
*11 July 1995 – Day of genocide
*14 December 1995 – The Dayton agreement
*4 February 1998 – Day of the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina
*19 October 2003 – Death of Alija Izetbegović, first president of independent Bosnia and Herzegovina [Takvim 2007, Rijaset Islamske zajednice BiH]
Today, a national consciousness is found in the vast majority of Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the country, Bosniaks make up a large majority in the Bosna river valley and western Bosnian Krajina, with significant populations found in Herzegovina. Currently, they are estimated to make up 48% of the total population. With no official census however, its impossible to know for sure.
National consciousness has also spread to most Bosniaks in the neighboring countries. The largest number of Bosniaks outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina are found in Serbia and Montenegro (specifically in the Sandžak region). The city of Novi Pazar is home to the largest Bosniak population outside of Bosnia.
Another 40,000 Bosniaks are found in Croatia and 38,000 in Slovenia. However, some of them still identify themselves as “Muslims” or “Bosnians”, according to latest estimates. In Macedonia there are estimated to be about 17,000 Bosniaks.
Due to warfare and ethnic cleansing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a large part of the world's ~4,4 million (est.) Bosniaks are found in countries outside of the Balkans. The highest Bosniak populations outside of the ex-Yugoslavian states are found in the United States, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, and Turkey. Prior generations of Bosniak immigrants to some of these countries have by now been mostly integrated.
Regarding the Western countries most of the Bosniaks are war refugees that only arrived in these countries during the past 15 years or so. They still speak Bosnian, and maintain a cultural and religious community and visit their mother country regularly.
The United States is home to about 130,000 (est.) Bosniaks, the cities with the highest Bosniak populations are St. Louis and Chicago. The following major American cities, ordered randomly, have notable Bosniak communities: Atlanta, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Portland, Oregon, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tampa, Florida and New York City.
In the United States there are also significant Bosniak communities in the following places, in no specific order: Lawrenceville, Georgia, Utica, New York, Indianapolis, Indiana, Hamtramck, Michigan, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Erie, Pennsylvania, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hartford, Louisville, Lynnwood, Washington, Northbrook, Illinois, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Clearwater, Florida, and Manchester, New Hampshire. These places do not have as many Bosniaks as those mentioned before but the Bosniaks in these cities make up a considerably larger percentage of the total population.
In Canada, the Bosniak communities of Toronto, Vancouver and Hamilton are notable.
In Turkey, Bosniaks mostly live in the Marmara Region which is in other words the north-west Turkey. The biggest Bosniak community in Turkey is in Istanbul and also there are notable Bosniak communities in Izmir, Edirne, and Bursa.
The highest number of Bosniak immigrants and people descending of Bosniaks are found in Turkey. According to a report from march 2008, prepared by the Turkish National Security Council and performed by Turkish academics, approximately 2,000,000 Bosniaks live in Turkey today. These are most likely the descendants of those who immigrated to Turkey mostly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It is believed that many aspects of Bosniak identity were lost among these people due to Turkish assimilation laws in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Bosniak immigrants to Turkey were required to change their names to Turkish or Turkish sounding ones(under the Law on Family names). As a consequence of this, today some Turks do have somewhat Slavic sounding surnames. However some also have entirely Slavic surnames, the most common one probably being “Kiliç” spelled in Turkish as compared to the Bosnian version which is spelled “Kilić”.
*History of Bosnia and Herzegovina
*Bosnia and Herzegovina
*Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina
*Constitutional nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina
*List of Bosniaks
*Bosniaks of Serbia
*Bosniaks of Montenegro
* [http://www.interliber.com/catlistdetail.asp?SID=Interliber^641132-2007-6-15-17-23&ProductID=&ISBN=9789958688119&content=0&ml=b Bosniak] Book written thirteen years after the end of War World I by Hans Fritz, in honor of Bosniak soldiers. Translation into Bosnian language by Zijad Sehic.
* [http://www.bosniak.org Congress of North American Bosniaks]
* [http://www.baacbh.org/ BAACBH.org] – Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia-Herzegovina
* – Wiktionary entry for Bosniaks
* [http://www.bosnjaci.net/ BOSNJACI.net] bs icon
Ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina
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The Library of Congress today screened “The Woman From Sarajevo”, a poignant, powerful documentary about a Muslim family who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis, and 50 years later was rescued by the Jewish family during the Bosnian war.
Zineba Hardaga became the first of only two Muslims to be honored by Israel as “Righteous Among the Nations,” recognizing non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. She is the only Muslim to be buried in an Israeli Jewish cemetery.
During the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the Jewish Kabilio family helped the Hardaga family escape to Israel.
The Hardaga’s daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter converted to Judaism. The daughter, Sara, now works at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust History Museum. Yad Vashem has six drawers of records, and one photograph, of the stirring Kabilio-Hardaga case.
The documentary begins with Sara entering Yad Vashem through an archway inscribed with “You shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil” (Ezekiel). That is the perfect metaphor for the extremely moving story, told with natural eloquence by members of both families in the fascinating film by Israeli documentary maker and writer Ella Alterman.
Somehow, bathos, pathos, and sentimentality are avoided. Modest heroism, humility, and humanity illuminate every moment of the 65-minute documentary.
The film is interspersed seamlessly with archival footage of Nazis invading Sarajevo in World War Two, Hardaga's “Righteous” award ceremony in 1985, and neighbors shooting at neighbors during the bloody Yugoslavian civil war.
Sara, who even keeps kosher, and her daughter Stella, who was an officer in the Israeli Air Force, talk about their family's rescuing wounded during the Bosnian war, and moving from cellar to cellar, never going outside. “We were afraid of everybody.”
The film “proves the victory of the spirit of humanity,” Alterman told the audience, which included representatives of the embassies of Israel and Bosnia and Herzegovina . “Never in life do we know when we will be saviors, and when we will be survivors.”
She is working now on a film about a Jewish hospital in World War Two Berlin protected by Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's so-called “Final Solution” — the Holocaust.
Alterman's other films include “A Fence in the Middle of the Sitting Room,” the story of a Syrian village divided between two nations, and “With Strong Hand,” about orthodox Jews who are also masters of Asian martial arts.
She is especially interested in exploring the lives of women who demonstrate the courage to forge their own paths, like these inspiring women from Sarajevo.