I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with a handful of incredibly moving and hospitable people here in Bosnia. People who have been complete strangers just moments before and were now going out of their way to help us or explain things. During Marš Mira, there were times when I would walk past a sign or a memorial of some sort and just stare at it in wonder, only able to guess exactly what it meant. A few times, men would approach me and in English ask me if I needed a translation. They would explain to me the tragedies that took place on the beautiful land I stood before and thank me and my group for taking part in an event that means so much.
After the 3rd day of walking – tired and painfully numb from the heat and distance, we arrived back to some bad news. We had to go find the army trucks that held our night bags with all of our belongings. The camp was stretched long and we were unsure where to go or who to talk to. We walked the stretch of the camp 5 times back and forth being given false hope about the exact location of our stuff. We had a young Bosnian woman with us who showed a great deal of empathy and made it her mission to help the vulnerable Americans. The army had lost her bags the year before and she was determined to fight the disorganization. We also had with us an off duty soldier whose face grew doubtful as we searched through every truck. Our bags were nowhere to be found and it was getting dark. Cold, hungry and exhausted, the 5 of us who stayed to collect the belongings for the group were growing very concerned. We took turns with the flashlights walking every inch of the fields, checking through tents and asking anyone who spoke English if they might have seen the missing bags. Over the course of 3 hours we had collected roughly 10 different Bosnians who were determined to help us find our things. I sat down on the pavement feeling defeated while standing above me were the strangers we had accumulated yelling and strategizing with one another in their language about where the bags might be. Every 5 minutes or so one of them would sit next to me and explain to me the newfound inferences and details. The Bosnian woman kept offering us food and clean clothes to change into while we waited, she even brought over a sweatshirt when the temperatures dropped. We received the bags roughly 18 hours later thanks to the kindness of our new friends. These people owed us nothing and without them who knows if we would have ever found our things.
While not everyone shows this trait of goodness, I have been moved and inspired by those that do. A handful of other examples of Bosnian hospitality come to mind as well, but that one was the most impactful.