Walking with One Foot in the Past and One Foot in the Past

One of the many things that I have found myself thinking about often while here in BiH is the seemingly ever present dichotomy between all that has happened here (and continues to happen in some cases) and the amazing beauty, hospitality and grace of this place and its people. The war, the pain and the political strife are all still a very important and ever present part of this place.  However, so too is the breathtaking beauty and zeal for life that makes this place so special.  Sarajevo is beautiful and when walking its streets one can easily forget about all that has happened here.  You look at the incredibly green hills and appreciate them for their beauty.  But, then you turn a corner and find yourself looking at a building with holes and damage from a mortar blast or gun that was shot from those very hills not so long ago.  It is a sobering realization to be caught between enjoying the beauty of something and recognizing the death and misfortune that having those hills brought to the city.  For Sarajevo, those hills are symbolic of both the city’s beauty and its pain.  I suppose in some respects what you see in Sarajevo depends on the lens through which you choose to look.  Both the pain and the beauty are here, always present and at times have become one and the same.  It makes me wonder at the capacity of the people of Sarajevo in being able to do so when it is hard for me and I have not experienced any of their hardship or loss.  When they look at those hills what do they see?  It is surely so much more complex than anything that I see.  Based on the people that I have talked to in my short time here, I think some of them may see a little bit of both.  However, they make a conscious decision to focus on being here today and moving forward for tomorrow.  Perhaps they appreciate the beauty because of what they have survived.  Perhaps they don’t see them as beautiful at all and only see the pain they have caused.  I don’t know, but I am in awe at their ability to do so.

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 This same dichotomy seems to exist between the moving on and moving forward and remembering, reconciling and honoring the war and what has happened.  Between generations, within generations and even within individuals this struggle seems to be very present.  None want to forget the war, how it happened, all of those who have been lost or the healing that will likely never be complete; for how can it really.  However, it seems that there is also a need to keep moving forward and not become so mired in what has happened that it defines the country forever.  How does one who has lived through the war reconcile the need and importance of remembering and honoring with the need to live in the present and move forward, both individually and as a country?  Especially when the effects of the war are still being felt and will be for generations to come?  More than simply adopting a new policy or figuring out how to join a divided government are needed to heal, to recover and to actually consider this war a part of history.  The effects and feelings of the war are still being felt and developing.  People are still living within and amongst the effects of the war.  In some sense, only part of the war is history; part of it is still being lived every day and will be for years to come.  Although the war itself may have ended, the loss of life and the holes that it has left in the fabric of society are not so easily stitched back together.   Embracing both the past and the future, both the city’s green hills and the lives they took seem to be necessary to move forward.  Walking towards the future with one foot in the past and the other in the present; something that the Bosnians are growing adept at doing.

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