I Am A Sarajevan

Sarajevo’s siege became my siege, her loss became my loss


I Am A Sarajevan
by Maryam Manteghi

I left Iran when I was five years old. Until then I’d lived an idyllic life in Tehran with my family on the Street of Good Fortune #22, (Khiabane Khoshbakhti ۲۲) where both sets of grandparents, uncles and aunts and a large entourage of friends, neighbours, shop-keepers, ice cream vendors, and the local fruit and vegetable sellers were daily fixtures in my childhood existence. I remember the day at the airport where my whole extended family came to wish us well as we left for Canada, where my father had been head-hunted by an architectural firm for a short-term contract. It’s a memory etched in my mind because it was exactly then that we couldn’t have known that we’d never return to our country.

Far from the Street of Good Fortune #22, my childhood was less idyllic. It was filled with a daily sense of fear and dread that hung in our home as news came from an Iran I couldn’t recognize about Bahais being killed, kidnapped and tortured in the place that for me represented the happiness and warmth I craved. My five year old brain couldn’t imagine that the park my father would take me on Sundays was the place where his professor, a Bahai philosopher was kidnapped in daylight, never to be heard from again. Years passed and my memories of Iran faded. My yearning for that elusive sense of belonging was transformed into a sense of mission and 24 years after that day in Tehran’s Mehrabad airport I arrived in Toronto’s airport for a one-way flight to Sarajevo. It is a day etched in my mind because it was exactly then that I couldn’t have known that I was on my way to my country.

Welcomed in Sarajevo by minarets and mountains, by cobblestones and cathedrals, by memory and modernity I lived in my city like I’d been born there, feeling my heart burst every time I walked down the narrow alleys and into that all-encompassing feeling of familiar belonging I’d all but forgotten. Sarajevo’s siege became my siege, her loss became my loss and her fallen became my heroes. It was then that I could finally feel the losses in the country of my birth. The losses my five year old self didn’t understand and couldn’t feel became real through the mirror of the country I now call home.

Today Sarajevo commemorates her fallen. Red chairs line Marsala Tita, the main street commemorating every life lost in the siege of the city between 1992-1995. More than 10,000 red chairs that remind me of the heroes in my country. Both my countries.

Today let us all be from Sarajevo.

Pics courtesy of Azra Delalic.


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Nice story but I lost you

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Nice story but I lost you somewhere in the middle.  How did you end up from Canada to Sarajevo?  

maziar 58


by maziar 58 on

Thanks maryam khanoom

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