Nedžad. Life is precious – čuvajte se

By Johann Sattler

We lost a good man this week. Nedžad, our colleague and friend, fought long and hard against the virus that is sweeping Europe, but the virus got the upper hand.

Nedžad’s death has put a face on this disease for the EU family in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We feel his loss deeply.

I had the pleasure to be working with Nedžad for only half a year, but it feels I have known him for much longer. He was a fantastic driver. Discreet and professional, interested and committed, always cheerful.

During our last day together, in early March, Nedžad and I spoke about the virus. He did not minimise the threat it posed but at the same time he was not afraid. He smiled and said, “Good-bye, Ambassador. Have a good weekend. Čuvajte se.’

After he was admitted to hospital three weeks ago, despite glimmers of hope and the tireless efforts of the medical staff at the Podhrastovi Clinic, Nedžad’s condition deteriorated. When I spoke to his wife during those days, I struggled to find words. Sometimes the only thing to do is to pray.

A loss like this reminds us of how precious life is and how fragile, too. We are all connected. This global health crisis has surely called on all of us to stop and reflect on what is truly important. It has reminded us that we are in this together – every continent, every culture, every community.

There are parallels, of course, to what happened in this country a generation ago. People in Bosnia and Herzegovina understand – more than most – how life can be painfully disrupted. ­Nedžad lost his sister in the war. I think perhaps that was one of the reasons he appreciated life so intensively. We must all make the best use of the time that is allotted to us.

With Nedžad’s passing, I feel all the more acutely that compassion for others must be at the heart of what we do. I have met so many people in the last seven weeks on the frontline of caring for others and I am moved by their commitment and their courage. What we must do is ensure that these people have the support they need in order to carry on with their work. We must do this not just in the medical sector but across the board.

The citizens of this country are facing the crisis with courage and with dignity – they are working responsibly despite the difficulties; they are facing illness and bereavement; they are facing uncertainty; they are facing the prospect of real hardship if the challenges created by the pandemic are not competently addressed. We must work with them, diligently and intelligently, and above all we must work together.

But this unprecedented health emergency must also serve as a wake-up call to those leading the country, to those managing state institutions or big companies, or serving in Governments, to give their best and to contribute to the greater goals: advancing the country, improving the health and school systems, and creating conditions for young couples to be confident to have children. And in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina this especially means to put the unifying over the dividing and show willingness to compromise.

Humanity will win in the end. Europe is showing the way – through cooperation and solidarity among countries and continents, cooperation and solidarity among doctors, scientists and responsible leaders. This country is part of the European family and the EU will continue to help save lives and jobs.

Our colleague Nedžad lost his battle for life, yet he leaves behind a legacy of integrity and great good humour. These are the things by which good men and women are remembered. I and my team will honour his memory by renewing our commitment to working for the benefit of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I hope that this will be an honest and fitting memorial to a beautiful soul.

Dragi moj Nedžade, thank you.

Thank you for everything.

Your smile will remain with me forever.