More than 30,000 people were missing after the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. After excavations from mass graves, DNA testing has helped to identify more than two-thirds of the bodies. How does it feel to meet the war dead?
Sanski Most, Bosnia-Herzegovina — D Sarzinski remembers the little boy’s green trousers, and the red toy truck in his pocket.
“I think we all have that one case that stays with us and gets to us. I was junior osteologist. It wasn’t my first case of a child, but it was my first case of a child that had clothing, and pants and toys and –”
She gives a pained sort of sigh.
“I can still see the toy car in his pocket. He was like five years old, man. Green pants, red toy truck. No hair, it was just bones.”
When she came across the remains of the little boy, D was working on uncovering missing people near Tuzla in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Uncovering and identifying dead children is part of her job. She is a forensic anthropologist for the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina for more than two decades. The organisation — with funding from the EU and foreign governments — has helped to identify some of the 30,000 people left missing after the 1992–1995 conflict.
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