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The day I decided surgery was for me…the unfinished haircut.

Authors: Almir Miftari; Resident of General Surgery (final year); Ege University Hospital; Izmir, Turkey; İnstagram: @borobag; Twiter: @BoroBag; Linkedİn: almir-miftari-664510258

My name is Almir. I am someone who changed many nationalities without moving anywhere. I was born in Prizren in 1988, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I lived my childhood in very turbulent times in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I was only 11 when the conflict in Kosovo started. My family was having really a difficult time – inflation, unemployment, the conflict, lack of food sirens warning about the air strikes, explosions heard from near and far, day and night. From the moment we heard the sound of an airplane and the time a missile was fired, we could feel time stop until we heard an explosion, followed by relief. It went like that for several months.

In April 1999, my childhood friend and I went to a local barber. He was still open although there were bombs flying all around. It was in a Roma Mahala. I remember his face smiling when he saw us (obviously he didn’t have many customers lately, nobody cared about their looks under the circumstances, and nobody dared to go out of the house). We told him make us look like our fathers. It was easy. He just cut off the hair at the top of our head and left the sides and the back hairy. I remember, my friend and I laughed a lot when we looked at each other. It was the kind of laugh that is innocent and energetic. We concluded that we should walk around like this and be our fathers for a while. Before leaving the barber shop, we told him we will be back to finish our haircuts later.

Five minutes later the siren caught us unprepared, the warplane sound, the missile firing…tick tock tick tock… take a breath, pray to God… … and then BOOM. This time louder than ever before. I can’t hear anything. My friend is looking at me and saying something I can’t hear.  I check my body, and that of my friend – no damage. Holding his hand, we run to the closest house…my hearing clears. We decided to go back to the barber shop. But the bomb hit the street where the barber shop was – there were ruins everywhere …and the bodies of many innocent people. Some of them had plastic bags – they were coming from the grocery shops, some had been on their bikes… I was 11. There was nothing I could do to help them or make time go back. I stood there with my silly hair and hands tied. I wished I could help them.

I never found what happened to our barber. I kept my silly hair, and I had a ruptured tympanic membrane. But more important, I had great motivation to become a doctor and later a surgeon, a motivation that started on that unfortunate and most horrible day, one among many other horrible days in 1999 in Kosovo.


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