Dino Cankusic Bosnia War changes everything. It changed me entirely, but I would never exchange my experience for anything else. Going through what I had to go through changed all my opinions. It opened my mind and my eyes. I can’t belong to any group ever again, only the human race. My children are being raised as individuals. That part of it I love—I am just sorry that so many people had to die. I was raised in a Muslim family in Sarajevo. Our family was never very traditional or religious. Being Muslim in Bosnia is probably different than in many other countries. In Yugolavia under Tito’s rule there was religious freedom; you could practice your religion any way you wanted, but it was not encouraged. I didn’t even think about myself as a Muslim until I was a teenager. Sarajevo was an integrated city, three nationalities living together. That was the beauty of Sarajevo when I was a kid: I felt that I had all the freedom in the world. We could go anywhere, do anything. There was no authority controlling us that I felt. In fact, I think just before the war was the best time for our country. When war broke out, we weren’t expecting it. No one in my generation was thinking about politics, and we were very surprised. I was raised to live with all different ethnic groups; I was friends with every one of them. But then everything started separating nationally. Living in Sarajevo became very dangerous. There was heavy artillery and big cannons; bombs began falling. Everything was burning. The only thing in my mind was to stop whatever was coming and protect my home. I had served in the military voluntarily before that, but when the war broke, there was no military for us. We just went door to door and organized our group. We didn’t even have guns. Most of the time I spent out there, we had only one pistol between four of us. So we started out just guarding the perimeter of our neighborhood, as all the neighborhoods did inside the city. You could look out over the hillside and see a Serb neighborhood across from our house, and it was impossible to go there. It happened overnight. Try to imagine that in Seattle. My wife is Croat, and we got married when the two groups were fighting. In 1991 we discovered that we were expecting twins. We lived in an eighteenth-floor apartment with no electricity, no gas. We had no food or money, nothing basically. Most of the time I was out fighting on the front lines around the city, and she was there alone. We stayed until she was six months pregnant, and then we decided it was time to leave. She was able to get papers to travel to Germany, where her mother was living. I left seven days after her, without any permission. I basically ran away. That was 1992.