BOGOTA (AlertNet) - When FARC rebels stormed her home, a small farm in central Colombia 42 years ago, Edelmira Reyes hid under the kitchen table, trembling with fear until they left.
"They told my parents we had less than 24 hours to leave our home," she said.
Within hours, the Reyes family fled their home, carrying the few possessions they could - clothes, pots, pans and a mattress - on their backs.
Reyes' younger cousin was taken away by at gunpoint.
"He's become one of the disappeared," Reyes, 65, said.
Almost five decades of conflict in Colombia has led to countless stories of civilians killed or forced to flee, of families broken up and intimidated, of orphans and widows.
But President Juan Manuel Santos' recent announcement of peace talks between the government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels has raised hopes that the suffering of generations may end.
"I have the conviction that we are facing a real opportunity to end the internal armed conflict in a definitive way" Santos told Colombians in a televised address earlier this month.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in years of fighting between government troops, FARC rebels and other armed groups, including rightwing paramilitary forces. Nearly 4 million Colombians have been uprooted.
A further 3,800 civilians have been killed or wounded by landmines, many of which planted by the FARC, according to government figures.
With peace talks scheduled to begin Oct. 8 in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, before moving to Cuba, Colombia's victims are wondering what negotiations may bring for them.
HOPES AND FEARS
The two sides have agreed to address issues including the rights of victims and land ownership and redistribution. Families are hoping they will be able to find out what happened to their loved ones who have gone missing and or been killed.
But Santos' efforts to end Latin America’s longest-running insurgency have produced mixed feelings.
While most Colombians welcome the peace talks, not everyone shares the president's optimism.
"They (the FARC) never keep their word and are a bunch of liars. I don't believe a word they say," Reyes said.
Supermarket cashier in Bogota Beatriz Moreno was more optimistic.
"I think this is the best chance we've had for ages. God willing an agreement is reached," she said.
A recent opinion poll published in Colombia's local press showed that nearly 80 percent of Colombians backed the president's decision to start peace talks with the FARC.
But when asked whether this would result in peace, nearly 60 percent said yes, while 34 percent said peace talks would only lead to more violence.
It's not the first time Colombia has sought peace with the FARC.
Most Colombians remember well the last time FARC and the government sat down at the negotiating table in 1999. The rebels had been granted a 16,000 square mile safe haven - the size of Switzerland - to kick start peace talks.
However, the FARC ended up using the demilitarised area as a holding pen for scores of hostages, and to beef up their ranks, train more fighters and consolidate their drug trafficking routes.
So what's different this time around?
To avoid repeating bitter experience, president Santos has vowed to "learn from the mistakes of the past".
Unlike past failed negotiations, there will be no ceasefire this time, no demilitarised area and talks will take place outside of Colombia, Santos has said.
Some of have interpreted this as a high risk strategy.
"I think it's right the president tries to bring peace but I'm not sure that not insisting on a ceasefire first is a good strategy," said Samuel Paez, a student at Javeriana University in Bogota.
"The guerrillas can just go on killing and kidnapping people during the peace talks," he said.
A decade-long U.S.-backed Colombian military offensive has weakened the FARC, killing several top commanders and reducing rebel numbers to around 8,000 fighters now.
In addition, Santos has been laying the groundwork for peace since he took office in 2010, creating a law that aims to provide compensation to millions of victims and help return land stolen by FARC and paramilitary groups to their rightful owners.
He has also pushed through a constitutional amendment that sets the legal framework for eventual peace with the rebels. The reform prohibits guerrilla leaders accused of crimes against humanity from holding political office.
"I ask the Colombian people for patience and strength," Santos said during a televised address. "There's no doubt it's time to turn the page."
No doubt, millions of Colombians are hoping, and praying, Santos will succeed.