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I dream of peace: The words of children in former Yugoslavia

A grenade had landed on our shelter. We had to climb over the dead bodies to get out. Meanwhile the snipers kept shooting at us. My father was one of those wounded and was taken away to the hospital. We've not seen him since, but I hope that he is still alive, perhaps in one of the detention camps. I try not to talk about these things, but I get so upset and keep having nightmares about what happened. —Kazimir, 13

I had a new tricycle, red and yellow and with a bell....Do you think they have destroyed my tricycle too? —Nedim, 5

I remember going to our apartment during an alert. When I entered the corridor, all the doors were closed. Slowly, I walked through the dark and opened the bedroom door. All at once, the sun shone brightly upon me. My sadness and fear completely vanished. But while I was enjoying it, I felt as if I had no right to such happiness. —Ivan, 13

Illustration: 'Wounded children in hospital', a drawing from I dream of peace, by 14-year-old Suzana. ©

So many people have been killed fighting for justice. But what justice? Do they know what they are fighting for, who they are fighting? The weather is growing very cold now. No longer can you hear the singing of the birds, only the sound of the children crying for a lost mother or father, a brother or a sister. We are children without a country and without hope. —Dunja, 14

No film can adequately depict the suffering, the fear and the terror that my people are experiencing. Sarajevo is awash in blood, and graves are appearing everywhere. I beg you in the name of the Bosnian children never to allow this to happen to you or to people anywhere else. —Edina, 12

Our teacher has told us about Anne Frank, and we have read her diary. After fifty years, history is repeating itself right here with this war, with the hate and the killing, and with having to hide to save your life. We are only twelve years old. We can't influence politics and the war, but we want to live! And we want to stop this madness. Like Anne Frank fifty years ago, we wait for peace. She didn't live to see it. Will we? —Students from a fifth-grade class

From the group, they chose the ones they were going to kill. They picked my uncle and a neighbour! Then they machine-gunned them to death. After that, the soldiers put the women in the front cars of the train and the men in the back. As the train started moving, they disconnected the back cars and took the men off to the camps. I saw it all! Now I can't sleep. I try to forget, but it doesn't work. I have such difficulty feeling anything any more. —Alik, 13

"When I close my eyes, I dream of peace."-Aleksandar, 14, said this just after enduring a dressing change of the terrible burn wounds he suffered from a Molotov cocktail explosion. His words became the title of the book, I dream of peace (UNICEF/ HarperCollins, 1994), the thoughts and paintings of children recorded by UNICEF in the course of its programme to help children in former Yugoslavia deal with war-related psychological trauma.

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