Week 1: First Impressions

When flying into Sarajevo the mountains were surrounding the city and I could not help but realize the beauty of where I was headed. Almost immediately after recognizing the beauty I was hit with a wave of shame because the same mountains I was calling beautiful and memorable were used for destruction and death not that long ago. This constant contradiction has kept me grounded during my first week in this beautiful city. I had arrived a day before the rest of the group, so I took the time to explore while the rest of my cohort arrived. I walked up and down roads, finding beautiful stores along with buildings with bullet wounds still prevalent. The contradiction of beauty and horror just kept coming into my mind.

As I wandered about, I saw signs for areas of Sarajevo that we had read about in books and articles. This made me more comfortable in the city and helped me gain my bearings while exploring. One of the first recognizable objects I saw was a statue of a man with his hands raised to his mouth, calling out for his son. This statue was on the outskirts of a park along a busy street. A few tourists had stopped but the majority of the individuals walking along this road just continued on. This statue was familiar because our cohort watched a documentary about the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica. In this film the man can be seen, alive, calling out to his son who was hiding in the woods. I could not get myself to move and all I could think was how I had seen this man alive in a video. I knew what he was doing and the circumstances that surrounded the situation.

After seeing these remnants of the war throughout Sarajevo I cannot help but wonder how the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina feel about the constant reminder of the war and the deaths that encapsulated it. Does this perpetuate anger or frustration within families that cannot receive recognition of genocide? Does it perpetuate individuals fear of other? Or, do these memorialization’s create a feeling that this atrocity cannot happen again?

Though memorials and remnants of war are prevalent throughout the city, there is also an incredible resilience as well. Individuals living in Sarajevo, though still plagued with the tragedy that occurred, do not let that keep them down or from moving forward in their lives. This resilience is extremely beautiful. I cannot help but think about the beauty of this city, the culture it possesses, and the history along with it.

Some of the buildings I have seen are around 600 years old! I cannot even fathom that amount of time and how much those buildings have seen. One of my favorite things that I have experienced since arriving into Sarajevo is the Call to Prayer. I have never lived in an area that had mosques and much diversity of religion. Arriving in Sarajevo my first night I experienced the Call to Prayer and have been struck by its beauty ever since. Honestly, I look forward to it every night because it is such a beautiful sound. One I will never forget. Though many times I do need to remind myself that this is not just a song that is being played for my ears to hear. It symbolizes a religion and many things that I do not even understand. As can be seen, I am stuck with many questions and thoughts that I cannot wait to delve more into and learn about throughout my next seven weeks in Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina itself!

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