Bosnia-Herzegovina - Every Bosnian child knows the story
of a poor woman who caught a golden fish, released it and
in return gained wealth and happiness. It's a Balkan fairy
tale - but it became reality for one poor family.
"What happened here is beyond good luck, it really is
a fable," said Admir Malkoc, reflecting on how his fleeing
relatives freed two goldfish and were repaid a hundredfold.
The 150 Muslim families in Jezero, a northwestern village
surrounding a lake, lived a quiet life before the Bosnian
war-except for holidays, when the men returned from jobs
in Western Europe loaded with presents.
In 1990, Smajo Malkoc came back from Austria with an
unusual gift for his teenage sons, Dzevad and Catib: two
goldfish in an aquarium.
Two years later, war arrived. As Bosnian Serb forces
advanced on Jezero, the women and children fled and the
Malkoc was killed. When his wife, Fehima, sneaked back
into the destroyed village to bury her husband and take
what remained of their belongings, she spotted the fish
in the aquarium.
She put them in the lake. "This way they might be more
fortunate than us," she recalls thinking.
In 1995, Fehima Malkoc returned with her sons to Jezero
to find ruins, nothing left from the idyllic past except
Eyes misting over, she turned toward the lake and glimpsed
something strange. She came closer-and caught her breath.
"The whole lake was shining from the myriad golden fish
in it," she said.
Fehima Malkoc and her sons started feeding the fish
and then selling them.
Now, homes, bars and coffee shops in the region have
aquariums with fish from Jezero - some pure gold, others
with black and white spots like the original pair Smajo
Malkoc brought home.
The Malkoc house, now rebuilt, is one of the biggest
in the village.
Other residents are welcome to catch and sell the fish.
But most defer to the Malkocs.
"They threw the fish into the lake," said a villager
who identified himself only by his last name, Veladzic.
"It's their miracle."