It’s been two weeks since I landed on U.S. soil and being home is exactly like everyone said it would be.
“How was your trip?” “Great.” (Actually it was an amazing and indescribable experience that I cannot put into words.)
“Did you have fun?” “Yes” (and no. The beauty of the country is intertwined with the all-too-recent tragedy of ethnic cleansing.)
“Wait, there was a war there?” Oh man.
Though it’s difficult to explain my Sarajevo summer to family and friends from home, I was in the same boat once. Last spring, I remember sitting in the DU library, thinking ‘I’ll just put my headphones on, quickly watch this video that Ann assigned, and then I’ll finish my Stats project.’ Three minutes into “Cry from the Grave” tears were streaming down my face as Saliha told her story. Other students quietly studying at surrounding tables started giving me weird looks. After an hour of intense, raw, emotional footage of Bosnia from 1991-1995, I had no intention of touching my Statistics homework. Instead, I rushed out of the library into the drizzling rain and walked the thirty minutes it takes to get home. I remember the feeling of needing to decompress and compartmentalize what I had seen. I also remember feeling very ignorant, and asking myself, Why am I not more aware of this genocide?
Towards the end of our program, I watched this film again in the battery factory in Srebrenica. This time, having participated in the Peace March, having embraced Saliha at her home the day before, having heard the first-hand testimonies of survivors, and having established relationships with warm and welcoming Bosnians over the summer, the footage hit me hard. It was overwhelming. When we walked across to the memorial cemetery, I found the first secluded spot under a tree and sobbed. Looking out over the thousands of white tombstones I couldn’t think of anything to say except I’m sorry. I just kept saying those words over and over in my head. Sorry to those who had lost their lives. Because none of this had to happen. I also remember the overwhelming urge to call my mom and dad, to talk to my sister. I think I hugged them all a little tighter before flying back to Denver.
I am different from the girl in the library that spring. I have had experiences that I will remember forever and have met people that will never be forgotten. I have lived in a city that is truly like no other. I am so grateful for my Sarajevo summer.