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From war victim to aid worker

Bosnia, May 15, 1992: The civil war in Bosnia has been ongoing since the beginning of April, and Sarajevo is under heavy siege. On this day, the Bosnian civil war is about to reach the country's third largest and most multicultural city, Tuzla.

Selma Antic Photo: Johannes Müller
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One of Selma and her team's most important tasks is providing Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) to children. Photo: NPA
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A boy uses a Russian tank as a jungle gym in a bombed-out Sarajevo in 1996, just after the war. Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/EPA/NTB

Lack of food and water

It will take three years before Selma sees daylight again.

"We lived in the basement 24 hours a day from May 1992 to May 1995. We didn't go to school, and we barely had food or water. The air quality was very poor as dust and pollution seeped in from all the bombing outside. Eventually, it became very crowded due to more refugees arriving, including many women and children from Srebrenica," she says.

Tuzla was practically closed shut during the war, so it was impossible to flee or access humanitarian aid.

"The markets and store shelves were empty, but luckily my mother worked at a factory before the war, where she got the hold on industrial oil that we mixed in with the little food we had, like potatoes, onions and rice," says Selma.

While mother and daughter stayed put in the basement, Selma's father was on guard outside. The family's apartment was situated on the 10th floor of the building and was damaged in shelling several times during the war. Partly due to the fact that Majevica hill, where fierce trench battles were fought, was situated less than a kilometre away.

From war victim to aid worker

For the past 20 years, Selma Antic has worked in the field for NPA's Mine Action and Disarmament programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 30 years after the war, Bosnia is still one of the countries in Europe that are worst hit by landmines and cluster bombs.

NPA established the country program in 1996, just after the war had ended. Today, around 140 employees work in the programme. They come from different ethnical backgrounds, and many were soldiers during the war.

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Selma was only 12 years old when the war started. Photo: Private
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Demanding working conditions for deminers from Norwegian People's Aid clearing a bombed-out building in Grbavica, a suburb of Sarajevo in 1997 Photo: ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS/ EPA/NTB/
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Selma Antic has worked for Norwegian People's Aid for 20 years, and can't count how many friendships she has made through her job over the years. Photo: Kristian Skeie.