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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnian boy tells of life after landmine injury

© UNICEF Bosnia/2004
Nikola was three when he lost his hand in a landmine explosion.

By Nikola Kokorus, 14

Nickola Kokorus was three years old when he picked up a deadly object – a landmine – that looked to his eyes like a shiny toy. Here Nikola, now age 14, writes about the awful experience that cost him his right hand.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2 December 2004 - In 1993, when I was three years old, I was rummaging near the garbage outside our house in Bosnia and Herzogovina and found what looked like a shiny metal toy. I threw it against our front steps and watched beautiful sparks fly. And then my toy exploded, blowing three fingers off my right hand.

My deadly toy was the detanator from a landmine, somehow discarded from a local factory that was storing mines. Fighting had been going on near our city for some time, but no one expected an explosion right at home. My mother, who had been washing laundry in the yard, came running. When she looked at my hand, with three fingers missing and the two remaining badly burned, she fainted.

My parents took me to the hospital, praying that the doctors could save my hand. But in the end, afraid of infection from tiny pieces of the detonator the doctors amputated everything up to my wrist. My 'toy' had taken away what would have been my writing hand, the hand I would have used to help my father, a farmer, raise cattle just as he had once helped my grandfather.

Growing up without my hand was difficult even after the pain subsided. The war continued, and two years after the accident my family and I were forced to flee our home. Living in a strange new town, I was embarrassed by my missing hand. To try to discourage people from making hurtful comments, I insisted on having my mother walk me to school.

Now we are back in our hometown, where people accept me as I am. I'm in the ninth grade of the local primary school. I love to play football and am very good at it. I'm also a member of a singing group with three of my friends. When I finish school, I'm going to study to become a car mechanic. I still can't help my father with the farming, but I can help him collect firewood in the forest.

I don't know how life would have been different if I had never touched that explosive. I know it would have been easier – not just for me, but for my mother and father, too. My parents don't have health insurance to cover the cost of a prosthesis for me. So I haven't had one since outgrowing my old one several years ago.

I know of many children who have been killed by landmines. UNICEF is a leader in teaching children about landmines and how to protect themselves. This is important, because 85 per cent of the child victims of landmines die before they reach the hospital.

I also know of many children whose parents were killed by landmines. I consider myself one of the lucky ones – I merely lost a hand. I don't know how I could have survived losing my mother or father.

My finding a detanator outside our home was probably unusual, but thousands of children have to deal with landmines along roads, in fields and forests, near river banks and sometimes even in public buildings. The presence of landmines means that children are constantly in danger.

I know that all the children whose lives have been changed by landmines share my wish that adults would do everything in their power to stop the use of landmines and allow all children in the world to live carefree lives. Children should never be punished, as I was, by their curiosity and innocent desire to play.




2 December 2004:  Nikola's story: Coping with a landmine injury

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9 September 2004: Angelique Kidjo speaks out about landmines

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