I considered all of the amazing moments I have experienced since we arrived last year. Oops, 7 days ago when we arrived here. We have filled our time so full of awesome content in those seven days it truly seems as though we have been here six months. There has been so many life changing events that I have great difficulty narrowing it to one. So, I am going to narrow it to an experience rather than a moment. The experience I have chosen to spend a few moments sharing with you is the walk we took from Srebrenica to Potočari.
We took the opportunity to walk in the footsteps the people of Srebrenica took on that fateful July day in 1995. The morning when the advancing units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS), under the command of General Ratko Mladić forced the people out of the city. As the forces continued to push ahead the people fled toward the town of Potočari. To gain a better sense of space and time occupied by these people on that fateful day we walked the entire distance rather than ride in the comfort of the van. The group had many questions about how families got separated, how they decided on the route they would travel, why they did not stay together as groups, why they did not make a plan, and where the men separated to try and escape to the free territory around Tuzla. These questions as well all the other why’s, how’s, what’s one can conjure up when trying to make sense of a senseless event. These were all made a little bit clearer as the journey unfolded
The walk to the battery factory in Potočari where they thought the U.N. troops would provide a safe haven from the advancing forces must have seemed like it took forever. I say this because the stress I was under was nothing compared to what they were experiencing and it was a very taxing distance for me in the heat of the day. The group started at the Bank in Srebrenica where General Ratko Mladić made his little speech about remembering the Turks and ended at the battery factory at Potočari . We passed by the playground where school children had been killed while playing as a result of a Serb attack earlier in the conflict. We came to the fork in the road where a majority of the men seen their loved ones for the very last time. I witnessed how easily it was to create distance between walkers even with a group the small size of ours. I felt near elation when I first spotted the battery factory. The place where they felt a safe haven awaited them. I had no pressure on me what so ever as I walked this distance. It was not even as hot this day as it was on the fateful date in 1995. All the little distractions and challenges we experienced made it really nice to know I was going to be able to sit in the safety of the walls of the memorial and cool down. The people must have experienced a elation and relief to know they had reached the UN base and would have a safe place to avoid the VRS and get themselves and their children to safety. The respite they had been promised from the hell they had been experiencing.
I cannot even imagine the deflation these people must have felt deep in their soul as they were turned away by the Dutch soldiers. A pain which must have burned like hot irons as their hearts sunk with the disappointment now knowing their fate. This walk was the foundation for the strong the strong spiritual experience of touring the memorial, battery factory, and new Genocide information center Hasan presented to us. This experience has to be my most memorable experience at the now midway point of our exploration of Bosnia.
Well, that was my most memorable experience and the prompt was most memorable moment. So, the fine young woman I made this walk together with was born in Bosnia. Her and I share the same birthdate of February 2nd and our brothers both served in Iraq at the same time and probably together in the same division. Through generously sharing her mastery of the Bosnian language she has enriched my experience here by a hundred fold. She has become someone I will call a friend for the rest of my life.
The most memorable moment would be her inviting me along with her group to get a fish pedicure. Sitting and giggling at the sensations of the little critters as they tickled our feet enjoying the simplicity of the moment. Discussing much less serious content than what was shared on the walk from Srebrenica to Potočari. This is why getting this fish pedicure from a spa shop in the Bascarsija Market in Sarajevo is my most memorable moment. This will be a moment I will always bring me smile as it reminds me of the powerful memories of Srebrinica- Potočari!