Selma's Story: From Landmine Victim to Graduate


During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, my father, a soldier, was stationed on a hill called Žuč in Sarajevo. There was a lot of heavy fighting in this area and many people were killed. In April 1998, when the war had finally ended and people began to return to their normal lives, my father suggested that my family take a trip to visit the place where he spent so much time during the war. A large group of my family members, including my parents, cousins, and others, made the trip. Although the area was previously a combat zone, there were no signs warning of landmines and we were completely unaware that the area might be dangerous. My father wanted to show us where he fought, so he took us to the trenches and along some walking paths nearby. I was almost nine years old and was holding hands with my younger cousin, and my father was walking a couple of meters in front of me, when I stepped on a landmine. The shock from the explosion threw me onto the ground, but I didn’t lose consciousness.


My dad ran back and took me into his arms. He was devastated. He tried to carry me to the hospital, but he lost his strength, not because it was hard to carry a little girl, but because it was his little girl and I had lost part of my leg and was bleeding in his arms. He lost consciousness and fell to the ground.


At the hospital, my leg was amputated below the knee. I spent the next three months there, and underwent several more surgeries and amputations.


I celebrated my ninth birthday in that hospital.


When my leg was amputated, I was just a naïve child and thought it would grow back again. It was a hard period of recovery, but my family was with me. Puberty was the hardest time; I had to face all of my fears of rejection. While all teenagers have similar fears, it was much harder for a teenage girl without a leg. But I somehow managed and grew into a confident woman. I no longer feel fear or shame that I have a prosthetic leg. My role model is Victoria Modesta, because she created a brand of beautiful prostheses, with metals and crystals; she is a true artist and performer. I would like to be more like her and am making an amateur photo book that I have called, “A girl without a limb.” I aspire to campaign for women – and all people – with disabilities, so that we have an equal chance to succeed in life.


I have worked very hard to succeed, graduating college with a degree in journalism and getting a Master’s degree in Public Relations. But I have no job and it can be hard to get the medical treatment I need. It is like that in our society, young people with qualifications have few opportunities for proper employment. During job interviews, I often hide the fact that I have a disability because I don’t know how the interviewer will react and I worry that it will put me at a further disadvantage.


Only once have I been approached by someone who asked: “Is there something we can do for you”?


Throughout my life, I have participated in several workshops to share my story, and while everyone is always touched, only once have I been approached by someone who asked: “Is there something we can do for you”? That was someone from the MDDC, which leads the Marshall Legacy Institute’s CHAMPS program in Bosnia. When I heard that CHAMPS stays involved and takes care of people like me, I was so surprised, grateful, and excited to hear that something like that exists. 

Update from the field

After meeting Selma at a conference, MLI’s CHAMPS team offered to take her to get her prosthetic examined to ensure she did not need further medical attention. Selma thought she only needed a new liner for her prosthesis, but after the medical team examined her, they discovered that her prosthetic was in dire shape and if she had waited any longer she would have needed surgery and possibly another amputation. The blood was not circulating properly because her limb was not connected well to the prosthesis and her leg was beginning to turn black.  She urgently needs a new socket, as well as a vacuum valve that will fit and release the air. MLI is now preparing to help Selma and ensure that she receives the medical care she so desperately needs.


At her last appointment, Selma exclaimed, “I think it was destiny to be at the conference and meet you, you saved me!”



Selma is waiting for her medical examination with one of the MDDC Instructors and Mirsad Mirojevic, who received MLI’s Survivor’s Award at the 2018 Gala.


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