Being back in the states for almost a week, I’m still trying to figure out what I truly think about my experience in Bosnia. The first 24 hours I was back in the states, I noticed that I was explaining what I did in Bosnia. And I felt myself tear up each time, I don’t think it hit me until I left the depth of what I felt after hearing survivors share their story and experience life in Bosnia. Though I may have spent more time trying to explain to Americans that Bosnia is not in Hawai’i and isn’t controlled by Putin. Those were two very common thoughts that have been expressed by those I’ve interacted with. It was also so odd to not see buildings covered in bullet holes. I found myself staring at buildings and trying to figure out why, until I realized that it had become odd to me to not see post-conflict city buildings. The biggest challenge I’ve found that I’m left with is working through finding a way to adequately explain the stories that were shared.
As friends and family have asked about my experience, I’ve struggled with sharing the story of more than one person at once. I stated by telling my parter everything and as more people asked for details, I found that the more stories I’ve shared, the more emotions I experienced when sharing the stories. I want to share each story with every person who asked about my experience, but I’m finding that explaining the lives that were shared with me becomes very different from the words that came directly from each human. Though I’ve found so much passion, and courage and genuineness from each story, I struggle in giving those same words the same passion that I received when I heard them. Though It’s only been a few days since I have returned, I think this will be something that I will struggle with each time I share my experience with another person. As each human shared their experience asked that their stories continued to be shared I will continue to strive to do so, as that is the way each wished to be honored.
Coming back to America, anti-muslim thoughts still seem to stand out. Spending time in a muslim country and experiencing the generosity and selflessness of the Bosnians that I met, was very unexpected in a county that’s part of the former Yugoslavia. Seeing the very negative views regarding those who identify as muslim, I wish there was a way I could better explain my experience. The fact that every person was so welcoming and genuine with all that they had, even if they had little to share, was inspiring.
Thinking of my time in Bosnia, I came in with few expectations. I did not know what to expect each day and I had no idea the impression I would leave with or that it would be so powerful. As our time continued throughout Bosnia, I appreciated the framing of each day. This was something that became so powerful to me when our time brought our group to The Hague. It seemed fitting that after hearing and seeing Srebrenica, we got to see the space where the law came in to conduct a version of justice. Though I do not agree that a 40 year sentence for crimes against humanity is enough, it is a conclusion and consequence of one’s actions as seen by the laws in this courtroom. It gave me a sense of closure, though it will never be enough.
From spending time by the sea, visiting Mostar and exploring Sarajevo, what stands out to me as I finish this was all the references to flowers that seemed to be present in the way the war has been immortalized in the city as Sarajevo roses, to the smell from the roses that grow throughout Bosnia. Its very interesting the ways in which life continues to thrive int he face of extreme atrocities and adversity. I came with little expectations, lost the beautiful vision I had of Bosnia, gained a deeper sense of the scars that are still healing within the city and its people and as time passes I will work on my own need to understand the selflessness and generosity that came from those who experienced deep and lasting trauma.