The last week in Bosnia has been kind of a whirlwind. I spent four days at my internship, ate a lot of bread and cheese, and generally had an all-around good time. It’s still a little disorienting to be living here. Sarajevo is a little bit exotic and a little bit European, a little bit familiar and a little bit foreign. There are reminders of the war everywhere – holes in the pavement, blown out windows and buildings that have never been repaired. Sometimes I notice them and sometimes I don’t, which is a little bit alarming to me. As a stranger in this country, it’s hard to know where I fit in as an observer of the war and not as a survivor. Everyone in Bosnia who is my age or older lived through the war. It’s more than collective memory.
To me, the most poignant marker of the war are the cemeteries that are scattered throughout Sarajevo. Last Sunday, we made the hike up to a hill above the city. We had a beautiful view of the entire valley, and we could hear the call to prayer from mosques all over the city as the sun was setting. On the way up, we passed a Muslim cemetery. The headstones were packed close together and spread partway up the hill. The uniformity of the headstones was striking, and several of the group stopped to take pictures.
As we were taking pictures, Ann stopped and mentioned that the cemetery had been founded in 1992, at the start of the war. All of those headstones represent men (and a few women) who were killed in the war. I keep returning again and again to the idea of that cemetery filling up in just three years. There are similar cemeteries all over the city, filled up with casualties from the war. I’ve been returning to this photo over the past week and just thinking about it. I don’t have a lot of answers to the questions it raises, or any broad conclusions about it, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.