CNN Mission: Peace

'Only a bullet' could separate them

Bodies of Sarajevo's 'Romeo and Juliet' come home

April 10, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT)

Romeo and Juliet

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Two young lovers from Sarajevo, shot dead by sniper fire as they tried to escape the siege of Sarajevo in 1993, were brought home and reburied together Wednesday.

Admira Ismic and Bosko Brkic were dubbed "Romeo and Juliet" because of their clashing ethnic backgrounds -- she was Muslim, he was Serbian -- and their tragic end. The two were both 25 years old, and had been together for nine years. They decided to flee Sarajevo in May 1993, when a Serb stranglehold on the city was at its height, to escape to safety, anywhere else.

Friends in the Muslim government army promised them safe passage out of the city. They walked confidently from Bosnian government front lines in the heart of the city past snipers and towards the bridge they would take out of Sarajevo and into Grbavica, a Serb-held territory. From there they hoped to go on to Belgrade -- and a new life.

Bodies

But as they crossed the Vrbanja bridge in broad daylight, over the Miljacka River into Serb territory, Bosko was shot by sniper fire, and died. Ismic, also wounded by sniper fire, crawled to her childhood sweetheart, put an arm around him, and died at his side, never trying to escape to safety herself.

Their tragic story was told worldwide over the next week as Serbs and Muslims argued over who was responsible for shooting them, and which side should risk the treacherous journey onto the bridge to recover the bodies and bury them.

The couple's bodies laid side by side on the bridge for eight days, until finally the Serbian side went in under cover of night to drag the corpses away. Muslim prisoners later claimed they were tethered by their Serbian captors and forced to go out on the bridge to drag the by-then decaying bodies back.

Serb troops buried the pair in Lukavica, the site of a large Serb army barracks. But Admira's father Zijah felt that with the war over, the right resting place for the star-crossed pair was in the city where they met and fell in love. Thus it was that the bodies of Admira and Bosko were exhumed from an untended grave in Yugoslavia and shipped back to the city whose wartime strife they tried to escape.

Caskets

They were buried side by side Wednesday in Lion Cemetery, surrounded by thousands of other victims of the Sarajevo siege and within sight of the cafe where they courted. Zijah said he had tried without success to find Bosko's family and get permission for the reburial. Bosko's mother came from the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade in 1993 for the first funeral.

Graves

But he expressed no regrets at bringing the bodies home. "This is where they were killed and this is where they should have been buried," he said, as his wife Nermina sobbed beside the grave.

Friends also gathered to remember the couple, who once foretold their fate when they said that "only a bullet" could separate them.

"Back then, we thought you would make it and be happy together. But you didn't," said Bosko's friend, who identified himself only as Dino. "It is as if every great love must end like this."

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