My First Week in Sarajevo

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So far I have been so impressed with the beauty, history and kindness of the people in Sarajevo. The green, rolling hills remind me a lot of Vermont and the Northeast Coast. I was not expecting such a beautiful backdrop to Sarajevo. All of the documentaries I have seen of the city depicted a more dark, stark version of the city. Yesterday was my first time hearing the call of prayer while I was standing in an old Jewish cemetery. I thought about how odd this experience is. The unique paradoxes and contradictions of Sarajevo are not so conspicuous to an unassuming outsider, however do not go unnoticed. Within a few blocks I had visited the oldest Mosque in the city, shortly after seeing a Synagogue and a Cathedral that was holding a mass. It is hard to wrap my head around the long history of this city and all of the historical events that have taken place here.
It was only after our tour guide pointed out the splattered red paint seemingly random in the sidewalks and streets, calling them “Sarajevo roses,” does one begin to deeply begin to imagine the henious violence that took place in this city only twenty years ago. Even after studying the war, reading countless books and articles and watching documentaries about the war, I have not fully begun to connect with what happened in Sarajevo until I stepped foot into this country. The sight of abandoned, war-torn buildings make the reality of what happened here even more obvious. It was all very overwhelming, yet I wanted to know more. How did a city that held an international World Winter Olympics not even ten years before experience an atrocious war and genocide? How did the international community stand by when only fifty years had passed after the systematic extermination of some six million Jews in Europe? None of it makes any sense, but I am trying my best to understand it all.

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