Although I had mentally prepared myself for what was to come during our visit to Srebrenica, no one could ever be completely emotionally prepared when listening to the heartbreaking stories told by Hasan and Saliha. Both survivors of the genocide, had lost loved ones in the forest as they were trying to escape. As I listened to these stories I was overwhelmed by a mix of emotions. On one hand I was extremely upset by the details of their stories but on the other hand I was amazed at the resilience, courage, and strength they have moving forward. They have reached deep into themselves and through the support of other survivors and friends have chosen to live in a way that inspires me. They believe that positivity and gratefulness is the better path over anger.
Over the past two days I have learned so much about the war, genocide, and suffering and I am lucky to never have experienced such tragedy. The feelings that came up during these days were feelings I have never felt before so it has been helpful to have such an amazing group to process with. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn the truth about the events that occurred and I will do my best to make sure that the truth is heard. That is the take away message that Hasan wanted us to have because nothing will bring back his loved ones, especially retaliation. After him saying this to us it reminded me of a quote that William Faulkner said that pit perfectly into his message:
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed”
On another note, BiH has been an incredible learning experience not only historically but emotionally as well. It has not been a typical “vacation” by any means. The seriousness of what has happened here, during my lifetime, can never be fully comprehended but getting to see the places, hear the stories, and build lasting relationships is worth every second of this experience. Having gone through a traumatic mass shooting event during college I can only slightly relate to how survivors are feeling. At home I have a banner that says “We are Virginia Tech, We Will Prevail” and as a college community we have. My experience in Srebrenica has allowed me to see that others will prevaill too, over time. My whole exerience is too much to write but as one student put it we have come full circle in understanding the process of how victims died, are found, and the opportunities families have to gain some closure.