Sanja’s Story: From meeting Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia to joining the Defence Team

Sanja Pintar and her family
Sanja Pintar, financial analyst at the Director General Financial Operations, with her family during a visit to Sarajevo. Photo: Submitted

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By Sanja Pintar

It is unusual to have a happy memory from war. However, I have one that I have kept in my heart for many years and that somehow led to my present life.

During the Bosnian war, from 1992-96, I lived with my parents, grandparents and two brothers in a small town called Ilijas, very close to Sarajevo. I can’t even imagine what it was like for my parents who tried to keep us alive and out of danger, get enough food on the table, and to stay sane in the midst of all the madness going on around us.

Everything that was normal to have before the war was gone during the war. There was no electricity at all, so we spent the nights talking, reading by home-made candle, and playing cards. There was no water as the supply was cut off, so we had to fetch water from the nearby river for washing, and from the well for drinking. The schools were closed since it was too dangerous to walk to the city.

We received monthly portions of flour, rice, beans, and a few cans from aid agencies; everything else, we had to find for ourselves. We had a small piece of land where we grew our own vegetables, so luckily we didn’t go hungry. But one thing I remember is that all of us kids missed sweets. Sugar was very scarce, so we were lucky if we had an apple pie once in a blue moon. I remember dreaming about cakes, chocolate, candy, and talking with my friends about eating all the candy we could once the war was over.

This is where my happy war memory comes into play. One winter day, somebody ran to our house and told us that peacekeepers were giving away candy and cake. My brother and I ran as fast as we could; this was happening not too far from our house. I remember seeing a green military truck with lots of people surrounding it. We saw people going away with paper plates full of what looked to me like magical looking white cakes and treats. Our biggest fear was that there wouldn’t be enough. We were pretty far from the truck and the crowd was getting bigger every second.

We were lucky enough to get to the front of the line. I vividly remember the soldier smiling and handing me and my brother the plates filled with different pieces of cake with a maple leaf flag on top. My brother and I each ate a piece of cake before we brought the treats home to share with our little brother and the rest of the family.

I have eaten my share of treats since then, but even today, when I close my eyes and go back to that moment, I can remember the amazing taste of those sweets that nothing else will ever match.

My parents told us that the peacekeepers were Canadians. They pulled out a map of the world, and showed us where Canada was. With my belly filled with Canadian treats, I never dreamed that one day I would proudly call this flag my own, and that I would be supporting the very troops that made me happy in that brief moment.

Image gallery

  • Master Corporal Bert Howard talks to a Serbian local
  • Canadian peacekeepers during UNPROFOR

I wish I could personally meet the soldiers that were there that day, and tell them how happy they made me and many other kids, and what that little act of generosity meant to us at that time. I would let them know that there are many who still remember that moment, and share this story with their kids, as I have.

After the war, my family was lucky enough to immigrate to Canada to start a new life. Today, I am proud to work for this department that has been close to my heart since I was a child in a war-torn country.

My two girls were born in Canada, and I have told them this story. I can only hope that one day they will understand how lucky they are to be growing up in this beautiful country.

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