A DIFFERENT VOICE. PLEASE READ TO THE END.
My name is Milomir and I was born in Sarajevo in 1984. There were so many conflicts in our country when I was a child. In 1994 Sarajevo came under siege from Serbian forces, these lasted for almost four years, the longest blockade of any capital city in modern warfare. More than 11,000 lives were lost in an act of ethnic cleansing.
My family lost my grandparents in a bombing attack on their apartment building. I had cousins who were shot in the street walking along with their mothers. Snipers sat on building tops shooting anyone, they didn’t care who they killed.
I remember one day, I was with my father, I was very young and that was one of the days, the snipers were shooting down on us. He grabbed my hand and ushered me to our car and almost fell over an injured person who had been shot in the leg. It was a woman and he opened the boot of our wagon and dragged her in. She was screaming for her child who had also been shot. He ran back and got the child, a little girl, he placed her into the wagon with her, but knew her life had been taken from her. He put his finger to his mouth when he saw that I noticed she was dead. We drove to the hospital and left the two of them there. I will never forget that day and many others as well.
The city was eventually liberated with the help of the international community. But for those who witnessed events in Sarajevo first-hand, the memories are hard to bear.
My father, an engineer, made a hard decision that we would flee the country and move to Australia. That was in 1998. The constant threat to our city was the catalyst that made his mind up. We were in peace, but it was the unknown, we were all scared of that.
My father knew of John Howard, the Australian prime minister, who introduced gun laws on automatic and semi-automatic guns after a mass shooting at Port Arthur in April 24th 1996. By May 10th 1996, he had banned these types of weapons and introduced a gun buy-back scheme. He knew this would be a safe country to bring up his family. My mother was happy with this so that cemented the decision.
We migrated to Australia and not long after were given a roof over our head, furniture, cooking implements donated by different charities and food to get us by. In Sarajevo, we were not wealthy, but we were comfortable and had a lovely home. Here, we accepted whatever was given to us by the Australian Government and the Australian people. We were so grateful and could not believe how friendly Australians were. There was no war, no threats of war, no-one walking around with machine guns or any guns. We were able to relax and begin to live our lives again.
The street we had moved into welcomed us and the residents brought us food in the first weeks of our arrival to their street. They were mostly Australian families, but a few other nationalities as well. A Chinese family, Greek and Italian were our neighbours.
My father got a job in a factory, way below his pay grade, but he didn’t care. He told us, we had to start again and we would succeed if we worked hard. That was his mantra to myself at 12, my younger brother 10 and sister, 9.
After a few years, he started a fruit shop in our suburb and to this day, he still runs it. We have moved into a bigger house, but we were sad to leave our neighbours and friends. We have made more friends in the new neighbourhood.
I was able to go to university and I am now an engineer. It’s funny how things happen. My father is very proud of us all. My sister is a doctor and my young brother a surgeon.
The reason for this letter is that my father, still a strong man at 64 and so thankful to the Australian government and people for how we were welcomed here and all the support we were given. He is very vocal about things that are happening in our country today and doesn’t understand why some people are not happy. He says ‘Don’t they realise they live in the best country in the world. Why does everyone want more, but they don’t want to work for it.’
He is talking about the Voice issue, while we realise it is a sensitive issue, he wanted me to write this for him. He admires everyone in this country, all nationalities, including the first nation people, as long and they work hard and do the right thing. He doesn’t like that some people, of all nationalities break the laws of Australia. He is not singling out anyone.
His point is that any person in Australia can run for parliament and have a voice. This voice would be for all Australians. We can’t change what happened 250 years ago, just as I can’t change what happened in my country and other countries throughout Europe and the British Isles over the centuries.
There will always be wars, but it seems that Australia seems to be able to escape them since the 2nd world war. He also says that if the English hadn’t come to this country, another country would have, a more aggressive country with more violent ways of life.
He also says that the country should be united and not separated by white australians and first nation people. We are all Australians. I think after reading this, you might guess what his vote will be.
His message is:
Be thankful for everything you have at this moment and to not live in the past. We can’t change that, but we can keep moving forward to grow and to keep this country the way it is. A beautiful country to live in.
He was willing to do anything to support his family, maybe more people should take a leaf from his book.
I’m sorry this letter is so long, but it all had to be said. Thank you for reading it.
Milomir. (surname withheld by the editor)