Seen from Jewish

Woke up to Bosnian sun streaming through the window. I could hear the faint language of Bosnian and the people of Sarajevo beginning their day. After hazily coming out of my dream, I remember where I am. Today is the second day of our trip. I am sharing a room with three other women out of the Denver School of Social Work program. After a full night of sleep and an exhausting first day, we feel refreshed and stir with excitement of travels to come. We exchange an idea of walking to the market and getting fresh fruit, vegetables, and that delicious butter, kajmak, that I had tasted the previous day and went to bed thinking about. After a lazy breakfast and two cups of coffee, the group packed our day bags, filled our water bottles from the Bascarsija fountain, meet Jadranka our tour guide, and head to the tunnel. The tunnel is the most visited place in Bosnia. It is a historical place where Bosniak Muslims moved goods during the war. It was sheltered from the Serbian snipers and thus people were able to safely bring sugar, tobacco, and other miscellaneous goods into the city. We walked into part of the tunnel and hear from Jadranka about her experience living during the war. She spoke of rationing her food, trading cigarettes for haircuts, and surviving with fear of the unknown knocking on her doorstep. I cannot fathom how that felt. To see her survive, and thus understand her resiliency is moving. The tunnel was small, and we were reminded to duck our heads. I thought of the tall Bosniak men, with giant bags of goods tied to their back, crouching through the tunnel, and walking the entirety of it with no other choice. Sciatica comes to mind.

Our group returned to the bus, and we headed to the 1984 Olympic bobsled track. We brought spray paint because we are told we could paint a part of the track. The experience was one of a kind. We had some trouble deciding the perfect mark to leave. We decided on a large female symbol with a spiral in the middle and “GSSW” (Graduate School of Social Work) written at the bottom. It was dope. We gave the other passing visitors the remining spray paint. One after another they painted “peace” in their native language. We created a community of peaceful vandalizers. We laughed and took pride in our new found rebel identities. We left in high spirits, and hungry for lunch. Lunch was delicious and sitting with the group, reflecting, and cracking jokes is truly life’s simple pleasures. We then had a lazy afternoon, filled with after meal coffees and views of both the old and new cities of Sarajevo. I must also mention the bobsled rollercoaster ride, in which I did not participate because of fear of motion sickness. However, some of the other women did and I took joy in watching them scream in happiness.

We loaded up the bus once more to head to our final destination, the Jewish cemetery. This cemetery was a nest for snipers during the war. The cemetery looked almost abandoned. Tomb stones where knocked over, bullet holes punctured the graves, and a space which should be holy was stripped of that claim. I was upset. Being a Jewish woman, genocide and truths of anti-Semitism has been built into my upbringing, culture, and education. Feeling upset in this capacity is unfortunately just a theme in my life. Jadranka tells us that Bosniaks where weary of living near and being seen from the cemetery. They feared losing their life for if a sniper was perched behind a tombstone, they could easily have been amongst one of the many targeted civilians during this bloody war. They warned each other to steer clear. It would certain death if they were to been “seen from Jewish.”

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