Keeping the Earth from Becoming Hell…

The story of Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic

Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic   

My kum1 and I don’t really like to talk about “spiritual things in general”. We prefer to discuss his views on the harvest, for example. Moreover, it’s not really possible, it’s even stupid to make contrived conversation about the “spiritual”—like, “let’s have a talk”. The most spiritual moment in my relationship with Dragan was when he discovered that I had wickedly overslept a festal service. Dragan burst into my room, barked something like ‘good morning’, then practically dragged me out by the scruff of the neck, stood me before the church entrance, and announced, “Moli se, budaletino!” This “budaletino” sounded Italian at first, but I later learned that it means something simple and to the point: “Pray, you little fool.”. My kum from Kosovo knows how to explain complicated spiritual things. He’s a natural catechist.

During our brief visits we discuss linguistics, mainly Slavic, and history. Even love for bombers. Not long ago, Dragan reminded me of the words of Patriarch Pavle: “We can’t turn the earth into paradise. We have to prevent it from turning into hell.”

“It seems to me,” I said, “in our days, this means even geographically, so to speak, we have begun to sense such attempts, and that the Patriarch was clearly right.

Dragan smiled sadly. “I told you a thousand years ago that ‘all of this’ applies not only to Serbia and Serbs, but to Russia and Russians. I remember that you didn’t really believe me. Well, that’s okay. I’ll tell you about Bosko and Admira. No, it’s not a Life of the Saints, it’s just life, which is still trying to keep the earth from turning into hell. More precisely, into death. It’s a recent story, but a forgotten one.

It was what they call love at first sight: A young student from a school in Sarajevo, Bosko Brkic, fell in love with a young student of the same school and class, Admira Ismic. Their attraction withstood the test of time and grew into true, mutual love. The two were always together. Youth, happiness, love, romance. It seems to me that the annoying attention of the surrounding society could have stymied their feelings. You see, before the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, with everyone talking about the brotherly relationship between the peoples of what was then Yugoslavia, they were continually dogged by the press, which considered their love a real find for showcasing. True love, and not just mutual attraction, is shy—in the good sense, of course. So the two young people were fed up with the general attention, and they were glad when the journalists found some new attraction. Their love was not even hindered by the fact that Bosko was Orthodox and Admira, as you can guess by the name, was from a Muslim family. Radmila Brkic, Bosko’s mother, says that they would visit each other’s families with no trouble at all, amazing their relatives and neighbors with their constancy. They made plans, quite logically—all of this means a wedding is coming up. Admira wanted to be baptized, and then naturally to be married in church. A matter of tradition? Of course, we can be wary; but with real love and faith, such things just won’t pass muster. This is more than a stamp in your passport.

“In 1992, the civil war began in Bosnia marking the end of Yugoslavia. Things that didn’t matter before suddenly became a matter of life and death, like your name and surname, your pronunciation, how you said words from what is basically our common language. To kill you or not depended upon whether you tomaitoed or tomatoed (for us Serbs it was whether you ‘chocked’ or ‘shtocked’). Killing was not a problem—as the those who lived Sarajevo at that time can tell you, ‘whoever had the cannon was the boss’. I won’t describe the butchery in Sarajevo—now you can see it all with your own eyes in your own cities. Bosko’s father died, and his mother had to flee from her native city to Serbia, which by that time was a foreign country. Everyone should have fled, but Bosko said that he couldn’t leave his beloved. Let his mother go alone, while there is still a chance.

“So, just imagine a city divided by hatred, and somewhere in the middle, two people who truly love each other are huddled in a battered apartment building. They know that neither of the warring sides will accept them—in both places, one of them will be a ‘turncoat’, a ‘traitor’, or an ‘apostate’. Once again, they understood how fleeting and false worldly glory is. Yesterday they were praising them affectionately on every street corner, but today they are tearing them apart. What do you think? They lived that way for a year. Friends on both sides helped them out—the world hasn’t gone completely haywire.

“A year later, this was in 1993, they made a firm decision. That's it, we can't go on like this, we have to move to Serbia—through the front lines. That is, forgive me, through the line of military contact. This is something that I think many of you are familiar with—in order to get out of a city under siege to freedom, you have to pay bribes. The head of the Muslim side of Sarajevo agreed to let the youngsters out for 18,000 German marks (there was no such currency in Bosnia then)—a completely insane amount of money—but they found it, collected it by some miracle, borrowed it. This was the agreement: We quickly cross the bridge over the Miljacka River to the Serbian side of Sarajevo, and your snipers leave us alone. Then we go to Serbian Kruševac, where mother lives. That’s it. They went out to the bridge.

“Bosko was the first to be killed. He died on the spot. The second shot wounded Admira; she was able to make a couple of steps to her fallen friend and then fell down herself, with just enough time to embrace him. They lay there on the bridge for a week—the UN peacekeepers said it was too dangerous, and didn’t go there to evacuate the ‘civies’. Serbian soldiers gathered their bodies. Now they are buried together in the same grave in the Lav cemetery in Sarajevo.

The death of Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic The death of Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic     

“Smelling blood, the journalists quickly blamed the Serbs. The Serbs demanded an investigation, which never began. Nowadays in the Muslim side of Sarajevo you won't hear a hint of this story; Admira’s parents ask that no one talk about it, so as not to draw attention to themselves. How familiar it all is…

“Bosko’s mother says that she doesn’t care who fired the shots. She has only one question for the murderers: ‘Why?’ No, Radmila has no hatred or thirst for revenge. Her tears have dried long ago, now only wordless lament and prayer remains. She also prays for Admira, who loved her son to the death.”

“And I propose,” Dragan ended the story, “that we relate attentively to the daily prayers for the world; we hear them continually at the Liturgy. Not with just automatic ‘hearing’. We need to participate in them. Then perhaps the earth will not turn into hell.”

The grave of Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic The grave of Bosko Brkic and Admira Ismic     

P.S. Dear brothers and sisters, we continue to help the Kosovo Serbs and the churches and monasteries of Kosovo and Metohija. If you have the possibility and desire to help, you can send donations to:

  • Sberbank MIR card: 2202 2014 2978 2747 (recipient: Петр Михайлович Д.)

  • PayPal:

  • Write, “Help to Kosovo”.

Peter Davydov
Translation by


1 A spiritual relative, such as the godfather or godmother of one’s child.—Trans.

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