Where do I even being. I have been sitting here, thinking about where to begin and how to start this blog, and honestly, I have no idea. I feel as if I have emotionally and mentally removed myself, and compartmentalized this past weekend (it was only this past weekend?), and now I have to go searching for those emotions and words again.
Looking back, this trip was one of the most profound and emotional weekends that I have had in my entire life. I was not looking forward to going back, especially after seeing all of the execution sites. I did not want to be in Srebrenica, at all. So in that sense, it was good that we started out at Tuzla. We eventually made our way to Srebrenica where we heard the stories of genocide survivors, we walked around the Srebrenica/Potocari memorial, and we watched extremely horrific, gruesome, and heart-wrenching videos detailing what happened over the course of one week during the war.
Reflecting upon my time there I feel as if my emotional capacity grew to depths that I did not even know existed. I think this is due to the power of one’s narrative. Yes, the week before I had seen places that I wish never existed. Seeing those execution sites was EXTREMELY difficult and horrible. At those places I felt anger, sadness, hopelessness. But after hearing the stories of the survivors, like Saliha and Hasan, those places, those sites, had a whole new background and meaning. Not only were those sites the places were massive amounts of people were mercilessly murdered, but they were where those survivors lost their loved ones, their family. Listening to their personal accounts of the war brought the past to the present. Suddenly, without any awareness that it had happened, this war was not something of the past, but was looking right back at me, in the form of a life. A soul. A soul that was lucky enough to survive, and share their story. After hearing these very personal stories, I felt as if I now had a connection to these places, to those sites, and that feeling, it stirs and digs deep within you. Their narratives tapped into a reservoir of emotions and feelings that I did not even know I had. I felt things that I never thought possible, and still have a hard time putting into words. It is indescribable.
What is this feeling? I feel physically sick… I feel uncomfortable. I feel like I want to cry. I feel angry; I want to scream. I feel hopeless. I feel..
Not only did their stories profoundly affect me, but they also made me aware of how far removed we can be from the inhumanity that exists, and that can occur. We hear, every day, about crises happening all over the world. The crisis in Syria. Attacks at protests and celebrations. Civil wars. We hear and read about all of these things, and yes while many people feel empathetic and feel the need to do something about these things, I feel as if when heard over news or in academic settings, the humanity is somewhat removed. We forget that these things are happening to individuals. People are losing their husbands, mothers, sons, daughters. The most important people to them. In schools we learn the definitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. We learn events academically. We must not remove ourselves so far to the point where we see death as definitions and numbers. We must always keep a human connection. No matter how uncomfortable and hard it may be to hear. It is fundamental to human nature, our existence, that we keep that connection. No matter what.
Never forget. You have to share their story. I must share their story. I have been given a privilege that not many people have, and I must do my part. I promise…
Last Wednesday, after what seemed like eons after Srebrenica, I think we all had what I can only explain as a catharsis. The group was at a BBQ that Wings of Hope (my internship) puts together every year. We were drinking wine and laughing and chatting when the wind picked up. The gusts brought with them gray clouds. And then we heard it; the crackling of lightning and the booming of thunder as it echoed throughout the entire valley that contains Sarajevo. Slowly the rain started to drop. In what was a few minutes we were surrounded by that all-to-familiar sound of water pelting the ground and dripping off trees and gutters of the building. Being from Denver, every summer I am blessed with afternoon thunderstorms amid dark purple and gray skies as purple lightning pierces the sky, so I was more than happy to welcome this thunderstorm with open arms. Which is exactly what we all did. Before I knew it I found myself, Laura, Lindsay, and Rose, with others, dancing and laughing and twirling in the rain. We were soaked. We were cold. But we didn’t care. For me it felt like all of my feelings were being purified. They suddenly felt more manageable. I felt as if I were becoming re-centered. I felt as if new clean air was entering my lungs and cleaning my soul. I even cried. It was one of the most amazing and spiritual (or what comes close to spirituality for me) moments I’ve ever had. As I said, I think it was something that we all needed. Everyone was struggling. People were trying to cope, and the universe, Bosnia in particular, knew this.
Thank you, Bosnia.