The last two days in Bosnia have been emotional and filled with heartbreaking and inspiring moments. We met two people named Hasan and Saliha who shared their incredible stories with us. Both Hasan and Saliha lost family members in the Bosnian war. Hasan, one of a few survivors of the Death March, lost his twin brother and father. Saliha lost her two sons and husband. It was incredibly humbling to hear their stories of survival and loss as well as their resilience.
This experience reminded me of the power of storytelling on not only the listener but the teller as well. For Saliha and Hasan it seems as if sharing their story is a crucial part of their life now. They want to ensure that the truth is told and that people not only hear but also share their story. For me, it is difficult to comprehend the gravity of the war, the intensity of the pain felt, and the amount of lives lost. Thousands of men and boys were killed in the death march. It’s hard to fathom a tragedy of that magnitude, to remember that each person killed had a story. Saliha and Hasan’s stories made the war more real to me. To hear only the numbers of those killed almost allows one to be removed from the intense emotion of this tragedy. Hearing personal stories makes the crimes committed seem so much more real. Walking in the same streets and hillsides as those who were killed paints a more vivid picture of the history of this country. I appreciate having the experience of listening to these heartbreaking, yet inspiring personal stories.
We also visited the memorial in Potocari. Rows and rows of headstones of people who died from the same hands, names and names of people killed; gone from their families. Standing on those grounds, filled me with great sadness, but not one that could ever match the pain the families of those killed still feel today. Although I can never understand the pain experienced by those who were there, I am beginning to have a deeper appreciation of those experiences.