Samira Kentrić (Slovenia, 1976) expresses herself with images and words. Her work merges the political language with the personal, often erotic part of everyday life, thus striving to articulate what in contemporary society remains unreflected and therefore unpleasant and hidden. In 1999, she began her career in the performance art duo Eclipse, using her own body as a means for expressing socially relevant topics, such as the demythologisation of the image of refugees. As a visual artist, she designs book covers and visual commentaries for several newspapers and magazines. Since 2016, she’s been leading art workshops for underprivileged groups. Kentrić published three graphic novels and received awards both for her performance art as well as her books, including the Golden Bird Award, the international Special Book Award by the Motovun Group Association MGA, and an award at the Slovene Biennial of Book Illustration.
Husein Dedić – Hule: The Pilot from the Pit
translated from the Slovene by Gregor Timothy Čeh
Hule had not always been a security guard at the Velenje coal mine. Before that he was a miner. In the mid-1980s a part of the roof collapsed in the mine and knocked out his front teeth. He knew how tough it is for miners to earn their crust. But the pay was decent and with it he could help his family back in Bosnia. The wish that he might also afford and create his own home in Velenje was greater than any fear. He persisted and was doing well.
Before the war his mother had fallen seriously ill and he regularly made the trip to Bosnia to provide her with morphine. Up until 20 March 1992 when he drove down to her funeral in his red Zastava. He didn’t go alone, there was room in his car for three colleagues from neighbouring villages. They were taking their pay packets to their families, among them his sister’s husband Adem. He dropped them off at the bus stop in Zvornik and they arranged that he would pick them up at the same place ten days later, at two in the afternoon on 30 March, so they would return together to their work in the mine.
Hule waited for them at the arranged spot in vain. He had to report for work the following morning at six. He waited an hour. Two. Until half past four. There had been roadblocks along the way even when they arrived, and everything had gone much slower than usual. He drove back from Zvornik alone. There were even more army blockades along the way and he kept having to show his papers. The barricades merely strengthened his dark premonition about his colleagues not turning up. He parked his car outside the block of flats in Velenje at 5 a.m., drank a coffee and went to work.
Once back in Velenje, it soon became clear that his colleagues had not simply chosen some other means of returning. Routes were closed and people were trapped wherever they happened to be. His colleagues and relatives were stranded in the municipality of Srebrenica. All conventional communication channels were cut off. Hule bought a radio transmitter and learned how to operate it. He named his frequency The Pilot. By September he was up on the Gorjanci Hills above Novo Mesto, trying to make contact with the missing. With great effort and a little luck, he managed to contact a ham operator from Titovo Užice in Serbia called Marko who generously enabled him to get through to Samir, a ham from Srebrenica. Samir found his sister Mina and his brother-in-law Adem. During the next calls he managed to speak to several acquaintances and he found out that his sister had just given birth to their youngest daughter. He was once again an uncle. They did not talk about politics; the rules of amateur radio did not allow such discussions during war. He heard about all the shortages, how they risk their lives going on horseback through the forest to get flour, how they otherwise felt safe. There was also a United Nations contingent in town. It was supposed to maintain peace, protect human lives.
Just over a year later, Hule lost all contact. Someone else had taken over the transmitter in Užice, the communication at the end of the line was laden with swearing and threats.
At home in Velenje Hule’s family converted their single bedroom flat into a temporary home for a further seventeen refugees. The miners all contributed to hiring a bus that went to meet the refugees at the border. Hule worked shifts and slept whenever a bed or a patch of floor was empty. He found out about the atrocities in his village, about his father who to no avail tried to hide in a bear den. He was sniffed out by dogs. The Chetniks interrogated, beat and killed him.
His youngest brother from Tuzla called Hule at the mine and explained where he had buried their father’s body. He went on to fight and did not survive the war. Neither did Hule’s colleagues, or Samir, the ham from Srebrenica.
A number of years after the war Hule managed, with a little smooth talking and a couple of boxes of chocolates, to get information from admin at the mine about the employment records and years of service of his three murdered colleagues. With this information and a court ruling, their widows won the right to part of the pension that the miners had worked so hard for. This meant their underage children could at least hope for an education. He did not manage to get proof of employment for all the other men killed. Data protection, they told him.
In 2012 he and his friends managed to organise the first Cycling Marathon for Peace from Velenje to Srebrenica. With five colleagues, wearing his honorary miner’s uniform, he paid tribute to his dead workmates and all the victims of Srebrenica. This was important to him. Remembering is important to him. Now that he has time, he helps with renovations. He does not like revenge. “There are courts for that.”
All along, Hule did what he could. He does not talk about politics and the responsibilities of others. What does hurt him, though, is that the Mining Company does not want to search through their records and confirm the names of all its workers who had been killed in the war. It is as if they never existed, he says.