Our journey to Srebrenica began with a trip to Tuzla and the ICMP (International Commission on Missing People). There they continue to receive bones of unidentified bodies, where the forensic anthropologists then spend an immense amount of time getting DNA from each bone in order to make a complete match. Once that is done the family is then contacted and they can finally bury their loved ones. The ICMP is still very busy to this day, and while we were there they had an emergency where our guide had to step away to do a ‘re-identification’ on some bones they were working with.
From there we moved on to the ICMP identification office where they match DNA, either by blood or drawing from the bones. Forensic anthropology is incredibly interesting and seems to be a very thorough process. Unfortunately, funding is increasingly difficult to come by, and there is concern that they will not be able to continue their work.
Next we went on to Srebrenica where several stops were made that told the story of Hasan Hasanovic’s escape during the war. One of these locations was where Hasan got separated from his father and brother, the last time he ever saw them alive. Another place he showed us was the road up to the mountains where he escaped through the forest. It’s impossible to imagine the fear and exhaustion he must have been feeling throughout his journey.
Drove to Saliha’s for dinner, another victim of the war who lost both her sons and husband to the genocide. Saliha lives all alone, back in the home from which she had fled with her family. She talks about the difficulties of continuing on with her life, but feels that she must. Her strength and generosity is amazing and it was difficult to say goodbye to her.
The next morning the group walked the ‘March of Death’ from the town to the UN headquarters and what is now a memorial and museum. This route was where thousands of people were forced to walk to what they thought would be a place of safety, but for many was where they would end up being separated from family and eventually killed. Along the way we saw the playground where Hasan was sitting when a grenade came down on them and killed many of the children innocently playing there. It was easy to get distracted by the beauty of the mountains around us and to forget what this walk signified. I appreciated that Ann got us back on track to the importance of what we were doing.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the memorial where many of the bodies were buried. Walking to the top of the hill and looking down on the thousands of gravestones was overwhelming and very hard to comprehend. The museum had the same feeling, and you could see how we were all affected in very different ways from what we were experiencing. It was a difficult two days, but I feel very lucky to have been a part of this. It is very difficult to describe without experiencing it, and it is something I will never forget.