On Saturday, a few of us went up to a hotel with a rooftop balcony to watch the truck carrying the remains found/identified this year of Bosnians massacred in the genocide at Srebrenica. What a somber event, watching this truck, proudly, defiantly displaying the Bosnian flag. Though I am not Bosnian, though I have to connection to Bosnia, no roots, nothing, I felt sad, haunted, watching people lay flowers on the truck. They probably didn’t even know the people inside, but they were fellow Bosnians, victims of a ruthless genocide, killed just because of their identity as Bosnians, as Muslims. The streets were so quiet as everyone stood together in solidarity. I wasn’t expecting to feel much of anything, but I was so moved by the significance, the symbolism, of this small, simple processional.
On Sunday and Monday, we went to Srebrenica for the 7/11 Memorial to watch those remains be buried. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong, that this memorial was not there for my spectacle. I’d heard from multiple Bosnians before I went that they didn’t approve of the media there, people sticking their cameras in the faces of grieving mothers to get a good shot. My Bosnian acquaintances had said this was rude and inconsiderate. I did not observe too much of that while I was there, but there was a lot of media. I was honestly wondering what new story they were getting. This is the 21st year after the genocide. Surely they’ve told all the stories they can tell and can back off a little now and let the people grieve in peace.
Upon my arrival back in Sarajevo, I was speaking with another young Bosnian woman about the memorial and she said she felt it was an embarrassment to the country because it had become so commercialized, with souvenir shops and tourists, and of course the media. I realized that she voiced a lot of what I had been feeling. It was somewhat commercialized, and I felt very much like a tourist. I did not understand what was going on during the burial service, since I do not speak any Bosnian, so I was just staring. I wasn’t “bearing witness.” I wasn’t supporting anyone. I wasn’t learning anything to pass on. I was staring. Although I had been assured by a few Bosnians that we were welcome there, that our presence was wanted, I didn’t feel right about being there. It wasn’t my history, my family, my ceremony to take part in. I agree that it is important to know what happened, especially since there has been a great effort by some (specifically members of the Serbian government) to cover it up and deny the genocide, but perhaps being there on that specific, significant day was not the time. I felt like an intruder.
Here is a link to a video (made by the aforementioned media) that gives a little more background on Srebrenica and the 7/11 Memorial. I did not take any part in this video and take no credit for it.