SARAJEVO, May 23, 1993 - Two lovers lie dead on the banks of Sarajevo’s Miljacka river, locked in a final embrace.
For four days they have sprawled near Vrbana bridge in a wasteland of shell-blasted rubble, downed tree branches and dangling power lines.
So dangerous is the area no one has dared recover their bodies.
Bosko Brckic and Admira Ismic, both 25, were shot dead on Wednesday trying to escape the besieged Bosnian capital for Serbia.
Sweethearts since high school, he was a Serb and she was a Moslem.
"They were shot at the same time, but he fell instantly and she was still alive," recounts Dino, a soldier who saw the couple trying to cross from government territory to rebel Serb positions. "She crawled over and hugged him and they died like that, in each other’s arms."
Squinting through a hole in the sandbagged wall of a bombed-out building, Dino points to where the couple lie mouldering amid the debris of Bosnia’s 14-month civil war. Bosko is face-down on the pavement, right arm bent awkwardly behind him. Admira lies next to her lover, left arm across his back. Another corpse, that of a man shot five months ago, lies nearby. The dead man’s body is so wasted his clothes seem hollow.
The government side says Serb soldiers shot the couple, but Serb forces insist Bosnian Moslem-led government troops were responsible. "I don’t care who killed them, I just want their bodies so I can bury them," says Zijah Ismic, the dead girl’s father. "I don’t want them to rot in no-man’s land."
Government and Serb authorities have discussed the matter, but so far are refusing a cease-fire around Vrbana bridge to permit recovery of the couple. The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), charged with providing humanitarian assistance in Sarajevo, maintains the bodies are a local issue.
"I’m an auto mechanic and I know a lot of people in this city," says the girl’s father. "Everyone is washing their hands in this case, Bosnians and Serbs alike."
In a country mad for war, Bosko and Admira were crazy for each other. The university chemistry students dated for seven years before moving in to live together nine months ago.
With his father dead, no one would have blamed Bosko had he left Sarajevo when his mother and brother fled before war broke out last year.
Instead, he stayed in the city. "He had no one here, just Admira," explains the dead girl’s mother. "Bosko stayed in Sarajevo because of her. Admira wanted to repay him by travelling with him to Serbia."
Mystery, and perhaps treachery, surrounds the couple’s death. Government and Serb officials admit they agreed to let them pass through the lines last Wednesday afternoon at 4.00 pm. Bosko and Admira walked at least 500 meters along the north bank of the Miljacka river, fully exposed to soldiers on both sides.
As they passed Bosnian lines and headed for the Serb-held neighbourhood of Grbavica, someone shot them.
The young couple had been dead two days before Admira’s parents found out. Ham radio operators in Serbia contacted them trying to confirm rumours of Bosko’s death.
"I spoke to his mother then and she gave me permission to bury them together in Sarajevo," says Admira’s father. "We want them to lie together in the ground, just as they died together," he adds.
Frantic to retrieve the bodies, Admira’s parents are bewildered by unresponsive Bosnian and Serb bureaucracies, and by UNPROFOR’s hands-off policy. Zijah Ismic claims he begged UNPROFOR to let him drive one of its armoured pesonnel carriers in to get his daughter. He says the U.N. told him armour-piercing rounds from machine-guns and cannon around Vrbana bridge would go through the vehicle.
"Love took them to their deaths," Ismic says of Bosko and Admira.
"That’s proof this is not a war between Serbs and Moslems. It’s a war between crazy people, between monsters. That’s why their bodies are still out there."