I feel that I got something different from the Srebrenica memorial than many of my peers. Not better or worse, just different. As I walked through the cemetery, I noticed something that interested me. There were a few main colors working throughout the area. White, green, yellow, and grey. All of the tombstones were white. The grass and trees were green as well as “for now” tombstones that mark where proper tombstones need to go when they are finished. The fountains, benches, walkways, and memorial structures were all grey. And as for yellow, a flower that captivated me.
Grey can represent depression, and it can be a symbol for loss. I would say that both meanings are appropriate in this situation. Many innocent people were killed in Srebrenica, which lead many people to deal with immense grief. People lost so much in their lives. Their homes, their money, and the people that mattered most to them. Fathers, brothers, sons…
It is known that the color green stands for growth, both literal and figurative. The growth of the grass, trees, and hopefully a country. It is less known, however, that it can represent peace.
White is best known for embodying purity. According to those who work with caves, white is also a definitive sign of continual growth. Stalagmites and stalactites that are covered in white are still active and are continuing to grow. It takes years for them to show much growth, but as long as they are white, they aren’t finished.
Optimism is what yellow is best known for. Yellow can also be a symbol for a positive future. Optimism and a positive future often go hand and hand, and promote happiness.
I was struck by a theory upon noticing a curious type of flower in the center of the memorial. The flowers had a yellow center and yellow petals. Its’ body should have been green by traditional standards, but it was actually white. Close to these flowers stood a large white stone speckled with grey. It quoted a prayer that centered on hope, justice, and the desire for an event like this to never occur again.
Maybe the colors in this memorial were coincidence, traditional color schemes, or precise planning with color symbolism. Depression plagues those directly affected by what happened as well as those who come to see Srebrenica for themselves. Some have lost possessions, pride, and people that they loved. Others lose the image that the world is a perfect place and that all people are innately good. A sea of grey was followed by a wave of white; the secret symbol of growth. Literal green growth then follows. Blossoming of trees, continual growth of grass, and growth in green tombstones. The green tombstones hold a place until white tombstones can take their place, but they also represent closure, which is important for many families affected. It means that they can move on as best as they can knowing what happened to their loved ones, and where they now rest. The white tombstones that replace the green ones will be, like the stalagmites and stalactites, continual growth of a family who will always mourn the loss of a family member that was taken from them. And then there is the seemingly insignificant yellow flower with a white stem and flowers. This small gesture reminds people that there is hope for the future. People can pick themselves up and become strong once more. They can tell people what happened and try to keep history from repeating itself.
Now returning to the quote that stood near the flowers I grew so fond of. Hope, justice, and future prevention. What better justice is there than showing people who wronged you that they cannot keep you down? That you will continue to have hope and that you will continue to grow. You will mourn the loss of family and friends, and you will also be optimistic about your own personal future. Creating and keeping bonds with those who may hold different ideologies than you. Being able to live and function side by side once again.
Maybe I read too much into the colors used, or wanted to feel something other than sadness. Either way, I hope that I am not alone in what I took from this experience. I want to believe that people can recover from something like this. I have to keep looking for bright beams of light even in the darkest of skies. If you only had grey, you could never move on. As long as there is green, there is peace. No matter how slow, white shows that a community is still growing. As for yellow; trying to find light in dim situations and always holding onto optimism that you are capable of growth.