“Razumijem i ne razumijem” = I understand and I don’t understand

The second week with this remarkable group of students is drawing to a close in Sarajevo.  We typically blog on Monday but this coming week about half of us are heading to the Srebrenica Summer University, an intensive genocide study for close to two weeks.  I know that once I get to Srebrenica my attention will turn to our experiences there so I want to write about Sarajevo before I leave for a short while.

“Ne razumijem” is a Bosnian phrase that I mastered a long time ago.  It means “I don’t understand” and I can’t count the number of times I unfortunately have to say it to someone who is speaking Bosnian to me.

Ne razumijem how at lunch the other day an old friend and a new friend, both genocide survivors who lost most of their families in the war, were intent on making sure that I was comfortable and that I would agree to come to their home to have lunch in their garden.  Ne razumijem how I can ever be the story in the presence of people who have faced what they have experienced. Ne razumijem where such graciousness comes from.

Ne razumijem how our host Sead can be telling us about his experiences in a concentration camp one minute and then be serenading us with a beautiful rendition of “Strangers in the Night” the next minute.

Ne razumijem how Bosnia’s political situation will ever get straightened out.

“Razumijem” means “ I understand”.

Razumijem that cherries and strawberries bought at the market in Sarajevo are impossibly sweet and flavorful.

Razumijem that being able to bring students to Bosnia is a gift.

Razumijem that Bosnian friends are a treasure.

Razumijem that when I look up into the scarred and picturesque hills of Sarajevo I know that this place is in my soul.

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