I went on the Peace March between Nezuk and Potocari, Bosnia in remembrance of the route that many boys and men from Srebrenica took to flee genocide.
I hiked for 3 days in the heat and up difficult hills, yet I enjoyed the luxury of having water stations and a tent to camp in at night. Many of the individuals who took this journey did not have that access and in addition were constantly fearing for their lives. Some were in the woods for 7 days, some for 35, none of them had been able to adequately prepare for such a trek. While after three days I experienced some pretty intense back pain just from hiking for so long, I had to realize that I have absolutely no idea how these men were able to survive this death march, as it is dubbed, over a much longer period of time. I passed by mass grave sites where men were taken to if they were caught along their way and the images of bones found with wire handcuffs wrapped around their wrists has stayed with me. I thought that by making this trek I would find a way to be in solidarity with the Srebrenica survivors, but actually, experiencing the wilderness and seeing the trials that people had to endure along the way, I have realized that I will never truly be able to understand what these men went through or how they survived.
I did discover however that you have to keep moving and keep going because there is no other option. On the Peace March I was told, we keep walking because we must, even when we aren’t sure if we can keep going. I think that is so true and perhaps that is how people were able to make it, even though not long before the fall of Srebrenica they had already endured hunger and sickness due to limited resources.
At the end of the march, I saw the gravestones. While it is estimated that over 8,000 people were killed within a matter of days following the fall of Srebrenica, many bodies have not yet been found. I was told that less than 5,000 bodies were currently buried and yet there were over 5,000 people who marched for three days to commemorate this event. The day of the actual burial there must have been many more people than that. It just goes to show that when one person is killed, there are so many more people affected. That person has family, friends, and fellow countrymen who care about what happened to him and who will not stand for the atrocities committed in their homeland. It is beautiful to see the amount of support and yet sickening to see the loss of so much life.
I am glad I had the ability to be a part of this march and hopefully this experience will help me remember all of the trials that humans have faced throughout history and how resilient the human spirit is, as well as be a warning for how dark human potential can be.