In 1992, Savo Heleta was a young Serbian boy enjoying an idyllic, peaceful childhood in Gorazde, a primarily Muslim city in Bosnia. At the age of just thirteen, Savo's life was turned upside down as war broke out. When Bosnian Serbs attacked the city, Savo and his family became objects of suspicion overnight. Through the next two years, they endured treatment that no human being should ever be subjected to. Their lives were threatened, they were shot at, terrorised, put in a detention camp, starved and eventually stripped of everything they owned.But after two long years Savo and his family managed to escape. And then the real transformation took place. From his childhood before the war to his internment and eventual freedom, we follow Savo's emotional journey from a young teenager seeking retribution to a peaceseeking crusader seeking healing and reconciliation. At once powerful and elegiac, "Not My Turn to Die" offers a unique look at a conflict that continues to compel and enlighten us.
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In 1996, just months after the end of the blood-soaked Bosnia-Herzegovina war, seventeen-year old Savo Heleta came face-to-face with the man who had tried to kill his grandfather and terrorized his family during the war. This man was no faceless enemy. His name was Meho and he had been one of the Heleta family's closest friends. Four years later, he still had nightmares about him. Savo and his family had endured unspeakable terror at the hands of the very people they once trusted, and all he wanted was revenge against those who had betrayed him. Now on the verge of manhood, Savo thought he had lost his innocence, his hope, and his ability to trust. What he didn't realize is that this meeting with Meho would lead him on an incredible and harrowing journey of self-discovery and forgiveness. Four years earlier, Savo was a young Serbian boy enjoying an idyllic, peaceful childhood in Gorazde, a primarily Muslim city in Bosnia. At the age of just thirteen, Savo's life was turned upside down as war broke out. All Serbians who had stayed in the city were now under suspicion of being spies, including Savo and his family. Virtual prisoners in their own home, they lived without water or electricity, relying only on their father's battery-operated radio for news of the war that was erupting all around them. Through the next two years, they endured treatment that no human being should ever be subjected to, even from the people they considered their friends. Their lives were threatened, they were shot at, terrorized, put in a detention camp, starved, and eventually lost everything they owned. But after two long years, Savo and his family managed to escape. And then the real transformation took place. From his childhood before the war to his internment and eventual freedom, we follow Savo's emotional journey from a young teenager seeking retribution to a peace-seeking diplomat seeking healing and reconciliation. As the war unfolds, we meet the incredible people who helped shape Savo's life, from his brave younger sister Sanja to Meho, the family friend who would become the family's ultimate betrayer. Through it all, we begin to understand this young man's arduous struggle to forgive the very people he could no longer trust. Seen through the eyes of a child, this is a heartrending portrait of war at its most brutal and unforgiving. At once powerful and elegiac, Not My Turn to Die offers a unique look at a conflict that continues to fascinate and enlighten us. Savo Heleta has trained groups from Bosnia to become leaders in their communities. He has traveled to the United States, Canada, and Spain to conduct education in youth camps, communication and leadership trainings, and strategic planning. He is currently studying conflict transformation and management in South Africa and will be a part of a team that will organize peace talks for Darfur with the help of the UN and the African Union. The team will also include such renowned leaders as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Savo now lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. From the Back Cover:
From the Back Cover
"Savo Heleta's account of life in pre-war and war-time Bosnia, and his experiences as a minority Serb in the besieged Muslim enclave of war-time Gorazde is a gripping and compelling story of the nobility of good and the banality of evil. Through the eyes of young Savo we watch the collapse of human moral values under the onslaught of hatred, propaganda, desperation and lies, while also seeing the attempts by some to maintain their humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a fascinating piece of memoir literature from Bosnia that is certain to outrage the reader, while at the same time offering an exciting narrative." -- Dr. James Lyons, The International Crisis Group
"Savo Heleta's moving portrait of life in Gorazde during the Bosnian War takes us beyond the simplicity of victim and victimizer, beyond the minutiae of peace negotiations and into the realm of cold, hard war." --Ambassador John McDonald
"Savo Heleta's memoir of the war in Bosnia is an eloquent testimony to the human capacity for compassion and forgiveness. Only by hearing the personal stories of those, like Savo, who are witnesses to the terrible trauma and lasting damage of war, can we imagine how to create a culture of peace. I am grateful to Savo Heleta for erecting a signpost along our path." --Andrew Himes, executive director of the Voices in Wartime Education Project
"All of us face the choice to feed hatred or love, war or peace, yet few of us need do so under the desperate circumstances that teenaged Savo experienced during the Bosnian war. We tremble with him and his family through the violence and trauma of those years, and rejoice with him as he confronts the path of revenge and chooses instead the way of the peacemaker. Thank you, Savo, for taking us with you on this incredible journey." --Louise Diamond, Ph.D., president emeritus, the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy
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