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People Making Changes Issue 3 -
From Sarajevo to New Zealand

- Dorothy - 16/1/97

“Ahmed Kafedzic is no stranger to dramatic change - from success and wealth to the horrors of the siege of Sarajevo and then to being a refugee in Christchurch, New Zealand.”

Before the war broke out in Bosnia Ahmed Kafedzic was one of the wealthiest and most successful people in the country. He was a publisher, writer and mathematician. He travelled all over Europe on business, often by taxi, so that he could make contact with people in the small communities. His text books on mathematics were widely used. He spoke seven languages and his books were translated into these languages. English was not one of those languages.

When the first signs of the war were evident Ahmed was warned that Sarajevo could become an isolated city and that he should leave. He did not believe that this could possibly happen. He stayed on in the city. When the city became cut off he and seven of his ten children were trapped in Sarajevo. His wife and three of his older daughters were in Zagreb.

The oldest daughter left in Sarajevo cared for the children in this city where bombs fell day and night. Water was available in only two places and there were long waits to obtain five litres of water. Food was scarce and astronomically expensive. Then after seven months in spite of the dangers involved their mother managed to return to Sarajevo to care for her children.

No place this to write books or carry on a publishing business. Ahmed became involved in working to let the world know more about Bosnia and Sarajevo in particular. He became a networker with the media and promoted the music of Bosnia to the world. Developing the cultural programme enabled Ahmed to retain his sanity in those terrifying days. Two of his daughters became deeply involved in this work.

"Let the Doves of Peace Fly", is the title of a song written by Ahmed's father, Sasefet. This song was sung by his daughters, Janna and Selma, every day for two years during the war, in the streets, in hospitals, concert halls, and schools. The children's singing while a thousand bombs fell around them daily showed the world that life still existed in the city. The song was sung in ten different languages and many journalists, hearing the song in their own language, prepared documentaries about the war to be shown in their own countries. Many journalists were killed, but others spread the story of life in Sarajevo.

One of Ahmed's daughters became a journalist. A French journalist helped her to leave the city in a United Nations plane. Later she helped the whole family to come to New Zealand as refugees. The escape from Sarajevo was in four different groups because the trip was so dangerous. They had no money, because investments in the bank now had no value. The girls sang for the bus company and received free tickets in return. By the time they left the city Ahmed, a big man, was down to 55 kilos in weight and his wife weighed only 35 kilos.

The song has now been translated into twenty languages, both eastern and western, including Maori. It was sung by Ahmed's daughters at the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch on the day the New Zealand soldiers left for Bosnia.

Here they were in a new country. Ahmed had no work and no knowledge of English. But he did have fresh air to breathe, peaceful surroundings, water in abundance and plenty of bread to eat though now he can eat only small meals Hard work at the needed language skills has opened up more communication for him and once again he is a networker, and aims to use the skills he possesses in publishing books.

"My great desire is to work for peace and international understanding", he says. "I want to gather together the work of creative artists in New Zealand and in Sarajevo and publish a book, "Let the Doves of Peace Fly". The proceeds will be used to help children in Sarajevo. This book will be a tribute to the journalists who worked in great danger to get the news to the world. It will also help the children who suffered so much during the war."

For the new book work has already been donated by a well-known landscape painter, a photographer and some journalists. The book will portray New Zealand and Bosnia in times of peace, in contrast to the pictures of Bosnia that journalists portrayed during the war.

If you are reading this and you are a creative artist you may wish to donate work to this book. If so please tell us how to contact you in the comment space below.

We hope that the next change in Ahmed's life will be a sense of great satisfaction from the success of his book.

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