So how does a relatively peaceful country descend into an orgy of violence so quickly? To understand, we'll have to run through a couple of paragraphs of history:
Yugoslavia was a Communist country in Southeastern Europe until communism imploded in 1991. It was located in the Balkans, which is historically Europe's "bad neighborhood," filled with ethnic groups who've been killing each other since the days of Rome. The iron-fisted dictator who'd been keeping the peace in Yugoslavia died in 1980, and all of the different factions (Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks) started turning on each other. Lifelong neighbors were splitting along racial lines.
Digital Library of Slovenia
Free elections and relative safety should never end up being an "either/or" kind of thing.
Our source, Sudbin, lived in a city (Prijedor) that had a slim majority of Bosniak Muslims, like him. But the surrounding area was Serbian, and although his group was the majority, the Serbs were almost as numerous and tended to dominate the ranks of the police. The local government was overthrown in a police-instituted coup, and within a matter of months, all the Muslims and Croats in the area -- including Sudbin and his family -- were rounded up and sent to death camps.