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Bosnian Muslim Commando: ‘Stranger to Myself’

February 3, 1996

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ A palm-sized Browning pistol is in his right front pocket and a Czech-made 7.65-mm Zbrojevka is shoved behind his belt. They are always there, like the frayed nerves and restlessness he brought back from war.

``I’ve become someone I don’t know: Who is this guy?″ says Armin Colak, running willowy fingers over his close-cropped hair. There’s some gray strands. Colak is 21.

He joined the army the first day the Bosnian government asked for soldiers in 1992. He left his commando unit in November and enrolled in college to study political science. A simple lecture, however, is a test of stamina.

``I try to sit. I’m trying very hard, but I just can’t stay still anymore. I have no patience. I can’t even sit still for 45 minutes for a class. The teacher’s talking but it’s just words,″ he says.

Colak can’t stay home, either. He gets up early and leaves right away. He can’t stand his mother’s tears and melancholy. Colak’s father was killed by a mortar shell in June 1993. By the time Colak could return to Sarajevo, the funeral was over.

``I’m the man in the house and expected to get a job, get some money,″ says Colak, who lives with his mother and 25-year-old sister. ``There’s nothing I can do. I just know I can’t be home.″

Before the war, Colak worked as a DJ in a dance club. Now, he can’t bear to listen to music. His school books _ any book _ is beyond his concentration.

``My biggest wish is just to understand what’s going on with me,″ he says. ``I feel like a stranger to myself.″

He pats his pistols.

``I don’t feel comfortable without them.″

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