Una Srabovic-Ryan is a British Bosnian whose biological father was killed in the Srebrenica genocide. She was adopted at 6 months and moved with her adoptive family at the age of 5 to the UK. In 2016 she went to Australia to meet her biological mother. It was during her time there that she learnt of her father’s name and saw his picture for the first time.
I have never met my biological father and I never will. My biological mother was only a couple of months pregnant with me when he was killed in Srebrenica in July 1995. At that point, she didn’t know she was pregnant so he never knew I even existed. The ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina started in 1992, affecting Srebrenica and Zepa the most in 1995. The Srebrenica genocide saw more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys separated from their families and massacred. Some bodies of those who were killed were found straight away, some were found in mass graves a decade later and some have still not been found.
It wasn’t just men who were affected, but women were displaced, tortured, raped and sexually assaulted. Many have lost countless loved ones; husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, boyfriends, friends…
I was put up for adoption because most of my biological family had been killed in the war. My biological mother was transported to Tuzla where she gave birth to me. I was then put up for adoption straight away and was adopted at 6 months old, eventually moving to the UK with my adoptive parents. Only in the past couple of years have I finally been able to reunite with my biological family, with most of them residing in Australia. I sometimes think how different my life would have been if the war didn’t happen and I wasn’t adopted. However, I would not have known the people I know today, and I am fortunate enough to say that I have two sets of parents.
I view the women who had to endure the torture as heroes. I view the women who had to watch their husbands, son’s and brothers be killed, women who had to give up their children as heroes. I view my biological mother as a hero and I also view my adoptive mother as a hero, because they both saved my life.
More than two decades later and we have a conviction. Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladić was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War and sentenced to life imprisonment. Justice is finally being given to the victims and the victim’s families, with some finally beginning to have closure. Now that we finally have some form of justice, it is important for us to pass on the message of world peace and that violence is not OK for any reason, whether it be down to religion, gender, age or race. Some families are not able to have closure due to the fact that some bodies or remains have never been found and they are not able to bury their loved ones. A conviction does not bring the deceased back. The number of lives that were destroyed and the lives that could have been is something I think about often. However, we can celebrate their lives and remember their happier moments rather than grieve their deaths and remember the darker moments of the war.
It is important to speak about our experiences as I believe it brings people closer together. It also educates those who had no knowledge of what happened. The more people speak about it, the more people are aware, and we can work to enable a better and more tolerant world, sending out a clear message to future generations to say, ‘Never Again’.