Day 1: We left our guest house early in the morning to catch the bus from Srebrenica to Nezuk. As we waited to depart more and more people joined us on the bus, everyone from small 6-8-year-old boys and girls to elderly men and women. We set off around 5 am, with a light fog in the air and a mostly full bus. As we drove the driver picked up more and more people along the way, most of them middle-aged or older men with some teenagers, I couldn’t help to think, “Are these men survivors?” It was a very solemn drive with little conversation, just the exchange of pleasantries when people joined the bus.
Once we arrived in Nezuk, the bus driver had to drop us in the middle of the hill, because there was no place for him to turn around at the top. We started uphill with all of our gear for the walk. When we arrived at the ‘starting’ point, the place where the survivors emerged 22 years ago, everyone was in high spirits and ready to tackle the first day.
After some opening remarks, with reminders of listening to and taking care of yourself and body, and the playing of the national anthem, survivors and their families started the march. Everyone followed at the pace that was set. It had rained the night before Marš Mira so many of the forest trails were muddy and slippery, but there were always people there to help you when you fell or to catch you on your way down. There was an overwhelming sense of comradery flowing through everyone. There were ‘trail angels’ every step of the way on Day 1. People distributing coffee, tea, juice, water, and opening up their homes for people to use their restrooms. Families save their money all year just for these three days.
As we entered the camp for the night we were greeted with friendly smiles, sandwiches, donuts, and yogurt.
Day 2: The morning of Day 2 we were awoken to the sounds of the Bosnian Army saying they were going to start taking down tents in 2 minutes. Once we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes we hurried to change and pack up camp. We were warned that the second day is the hardest because of the incline we had to hike up. As we started the day the walk was not too difficult then in late morning there was a forced break we had to take. When we were on our way again we realized why. This was the incline everyone was talking about. Single-file for approximately 5 km with a 1000 feet altitude gain. When I saw the land level out I couldn’t be happier I was at the top. We were greeted with a water truck and a fruit stand to load ourselves up with. Then we started the descent. We climbed a mountain just to come right back down, but we’re used to that in Colorado. When we finally got into the valley there was sandwiches waiting for us again, and the camp was around the bend (or so we thought). We just kept walking, and walking, and walking until we finally arrived at the camp about 3 miles away.
Day 3: This morning we beat the army waking us up. After Day 2 we didn’t think the walk could get any more difficult. Let’s just say we were wrong. The majority of the day we were exposed to the sun, with little shade along the way. The morning was filled with uphill climbs with the sun beating down on our shoulders, we didn’t think it was ever going to end. I could tell we were deep in the R.S. Police officers were stationed along the trail and there was no one outside of their homes to greet the marchers like the days before. Just like there are still Holocaust deniers to this day, there are Srebrenica deniers even though the evidence is overwhelming. At the last check point we waited for everyone in our group so we could walk into Potočari together. As we walked to the memorial there was a line of motorcycles on the side of the road to escort those being laid to rest. Coming from a motorcycle family I was so happy to see riders and organizations from all over the Balkans come together to remember Srebrenica and pay their respects to the families. Motorcycle culture is pretty universal across the world, we would do anything for our community. As the coffins of those who were identified in the past year were brought in I thought of the mothers who could finally lay their loved ones to rest, they finally have some sort of closure of what happened. But then I thought of those families still waiting, still waiting for graves to be found, still waiting for their husbands, fathers, sons, to be found.
In the end, we took approximately 133,000 steps over 60 miles in 3 days but that will never compare to those who survived the Death March 22 years ago. Our small blisters and aches and pains will never compare.