. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

War's 'Romeo and Juliet' Brought to Final Graves

SARAJEVO -- Three years after they died for love, the Moslem girl and Serb boy whose fate symbolized the madness of Sarajevo's ethnic division have been brought home.


The bodies of Admira Ismic and Bosko Brkic were exhumed from an untended grave in a Serb military cemetery and shipped back to the reunified city whose wartime horrors they tried to flee.


They will be buried side by side Wednesday in Sarajevo's Lion Cemetery in graves within sight of the cafe where they courted.


Lowering of the coffins into their final resting places will mark the end of a journey that began hopefully in May 1993.


Confident they had guarantees of safety, Admira and Bosko walked from Bosnian government front lines in the heart of the city, between buildings bristling with guns, toward Serb-held Grbavica. They planned to go to Belgrade and on to a life abroad.


A volley of gunfire cut them down in no-man's-land. Admira crawled toward Bosko, put her arm around him and together they died.


For eight days their corpses lay in the sun as the two sides disputed who had killed the lovers, and who should risk death to gather them for burial.


"Some people don't realize the greatness of their death," said Admira's father, Zijah Ismic. "He stayed in Sarajevo because of her and she wanted to reward him by leaving with him to the Serb side."


Just as blame for their death is obscured by deceit and treachery, so too is the way the bodies were recovered.


Serb militiamen say they staged a night-time dash to pick them up. Moslem prisoners of the Serbs say they were tethered by ropes and dispatched to fetch the corpses.


Zijah and his wife, Nera, found Serb friends to exhume their beloved daughter and the boy they treasured as a son from territory that the war's end has not yet made safe to visit.


"At first I didn't want to disturb them in their peace but my wife and mother insisted we get them so that people can come to their graves and visit them," Zijah said.


The couple, dubbed Sarajevo's "Romeo and Juliet" by the media, were sweethearts for eight years before their deaths at the age of 25. They grew up in a city where inter-ethnic marriage was common until nationalist hatred blossomed.


"If they'd had religion on their mind they wouldn't have been together," said Zijah.


Zijah paid for an expensive private autopsy on both bodies. The examination found a machine gun bullet in Admira's chest and wounds he believes show they were shot by Bosnian Serbs. But since he will never know why, the knowledge brings no comfort.


"It's more important to bury them here than [to] find out who shot them, as they're dead anyway. I can't change what happened, can't bring them back to life," he said.