Not My Turn to Die

Savo Heleta’s account of life in pre-war and war-time Bosnia, and his experiences as a minority Serb in the besieged Muslim enclave of war-time Gorazde is a gripping and compelling story of the nobility of good and the banality of evil. Through the eyes of young Savo we watch the collapse of human moral values under the onslaught of hatred, propaganda, desperation and lies, while also seeing the attempts by some to maintain their humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a fascinating piece of memoir literature from Bosnia that is certain to outrage the reader, while at the same time offering an exciting narrative.

Dr. James Lyon


Savo Heleta’s memoir of the war in Bosnia is an eloquent testimony to the human capacity for compassion and forgiveness. Only by hearing the personal stories, like Savo’s, from witnesses to the terrible trauma and lasting damage of war, can we imagine how to create a culture of peace. I am grateful to Savo Heleta for erecting a signpost along our path.

Andrew Himes, executive director of the Voices in Wartime Education Project


Savo Heleta’s moving portrait of life in Gorazde during the Bosnian War takes us beyond the simplicity of victim and victimizer, beyond the minutiae of peace negotiations and into the realm of cold, hard war. Not My Turn to Die is as much a testament to the power of forgiveness as it is an indictment of nationalism. His countless brushes with violent death only make Savo’s perseverance and established dedication to peacebuilding that much more inspiring. A moving, real-life story, a must-read.

Ambassador John McDonald, president, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy


All of us face the choice to feed hatred or love, war or peace, yet few of us need do so under the desperate circumstances that teenaged Savo experienced during the Bosnian war. We tremble with him and his family through the violence and trauma of those years, and rejoice with him as he confronts the path of revenge and chooses instead the way of the peacemaker. Thank you, Savo, for taking us with you on this incredible journey.

Louise Diamond, Ph.D., a global peace builder


Not My Turn to Die is a gift to the world. Out of the ashes and despair of war rises a young man who chooses the path of peace and reconciliation. I hope it finds its way into the heart of teenagers and adults everywhere.

Peter Benson, President & CEO, Search Institute


A terrific read from page one! Savo captures the vivid experience of growing up in a nightmare of ethnic cleansing, of neighbors turning on neighbors during the Bosnian war. It is a story that prompts insightful questions and better yet, gives thought provoking answers. During a time when American adolescents wonder if they will have a spot at the cool table in the high school cafeteria, Savo wonders if he and his family will survive the next day.

Mark Scharenbroich, internationally known speaker, member of the National Speakers’ Association Hall of Fame and Emmy award winner


In 1992, Savo Heleta was a young Serbian boy enjoying an idyllic, peaceful childhood in Gorazde, a primarily Muslim city in Bosnia. At the age of just thirteen, Savo’s life was turned upside down as civil war broke out. When Bosnian Serbs attacked the city, Savo and his family became objects of suspicion overnight.

Through the next two years, they endured treatment that no human being should ever be subjected to. Their lives were threatened, they were shot at, terrorized, put in a detention camp, starved, and eventually stripped of everything they owned. But after two long years, Savo and his family managed to escape. And then the real transformation took place.

From his childhood before the war to his internment and eventual freedom, we follow Savo’s emotional journey from a young teenager seeking retribution to a person seeking healing, reconciliation, and peace. Through it all, we begin to understand this young man’s arduous struggle to forgive the very people he could no longer trust.

At once powerful and elegiac, Not My Turn to Die offers a unique look at a conflict that continues to fascinate and enlighten us.


Literary representation: Maryann Karinch, The Rudy Agency

Publisher: AMACOM Books, New York, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8144-0165-1