Journal 6: Photograph of the day

 

 

Journal 6: Photograph of the day

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For this week we had select a photograph and write about it. I decided to pick a picture from my trip this past weekend to Montenegro. I went with a few of my friends from the program here and we had a fun time exploring the cities of Kotor and Budva. In Kotor we walked around the city, which was surrounded by cats, and even went to a cat museum! The cats are apparently descendants of cats who were on the trading ships back in the day that were left behind. In Budva I wasn’t feeling very well, but I did manage to take this photo. I also had some amazing Pad Thai there too… who knew. Throughout Montenegro we were greeted by winding narrow streets and green doors. I’m not sure why I became so obsessed with the doors, but alas. 

 

Anyways, so I chose this photo because I feel that it represents my summer here in Bosnia-Herzegovina… with the door representing all of the opportunities I’ve had and experienced on this trip. I’ve met new DU people from a range of disciplines, worked at an amazing feminist organization, and met some truly amazing people along the way. I’ve had the chance to visit Tito’s bunker, the war crimes court, and go on a crazy hike in the rain in Lukomir. I had the chance to attend the Srebrenica burial that occurs every July, and visit Srebrenica genocide- the failure of the international community and memorial. I’ve visited the ICMP center in Tuzla and met Ramis, the bone man, whose takes time out of his day to collect remains from people who were killed during the genocide.

 

All of this to say is that this trip has opened many doors for me. From shifting my focus away *momentarily* from the South Pacific, I’ve gained a broader perspective on development and what that looks like here in BiH. I’m grateful that I randomly stumbled upon the Global Practice Bosnia handout with Kovaci’s shining face on it and decided to apply, even though the deadline was way long gone. So here’s to new opportunities and life experiences here in BiH. 

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Journal #3: Srebrenica

Journal #3: Srebrenica

 

Last weekend we visited Srebrenica to commemorate the lives lost in the genocide, where over 8,000 people, mostly Bosniak men and boys were killed. I’m not the best at feelings, and don’t really know what to say, so I wrote this.

 

Seeing the white headstones, all in a line

Rain falling throughout the town

Examining what was left of the town, burned out buildings and graffiti

Burning up in the sun/Blemish on the U.N

Racking my brain with how such evil exists in the world

Embarking on a walk to the cemetery and memorial center

Never again

I don’t know what else to say…

Coffins, draped in a green cloth

Anxiously waiting the return of the Peace Marchers

 

Nestled in the town, over run spas remain

Exchanging stories and enjoying dinner with the Peace Marchers and people from all walks of life

Viewing the coffins, being brought into the cemetery from the battery factory

Enforcing the barricades to the cemetery

Renouncing hate in all its forms

 

Feeling a haunting presence in the battery factory, where many lives were lost

Organizing thoughts and feelings

Reflecting on the lives lost in the genocide

Getting a ride back out of the cemetery

Enjoying the company at Annessa’s

Together we remember the lives lost

New Ideas and Affirmations

This past week was a mix of all sorts of new experiences ranging from visiting a war crimes court to my first time crossing an international border by car; of course, the latter was decidedly more upbeat. To start with the war crimes court, we initially visited the UN ICTY Outreach Program, where the international criminal court is able to extend its breadth from Holland to Sarajevo. Here we received a presentation on the functioning of the ICTY and the outreach program, and it truly opened my eyes to the atrocities that were committed during the war. While it is hard to imagine that mass murder in the context of genocide is not as bad as it got, it was explained to us that many of the crimes were – in my opinion – worse than murder. The offenders sometimes capitalized on the physical and mental weakness of the prisoners for the purpose of shaming them in various ways, which is decidedly a more severe method of torture than death. It was truly shocking when we were given concrete examples of some of the crimes committed, and I found myself struggling to comprehend how people can commit such crimes.

The following presentation at the war crimes court was also quite interesting as it focused not on the criminals but on the victims. Specifically we were shown how psychologists at the court are responsible for ensuring that the victims who testify are cared for, as needless to say much of what they speak about is extremely emotional. Considering that one typically only hears about the defendants in a case and their punishments, it was interesting to hear the other side of the story.

On a brighter note, several of us went to Dubrovnik, Croatia to watch and celebrate the World Cup in one of the participating countries. While I am a soccer (football) fan only once every four years, I am consistently a fan of international sports as a whole, and hope to pursue a career where I can combine this interest with my learned knowledge in the security realm. I feel that sports are something that bring people together like nothing else in the world, and I was incredibly excited to get to experience this huge event in Croatia. While Croatia did not beat France, I was both surprised and impressed that the attitude of the thousands of fans in the streets of the Old City of Dubrovnik was nothing but positive. While of course people were sad, at the end of the game there was widespread clapping for France, and a much louder round of applause as the Croatian players were shown on screen. The people of Croatia were so enthused that they had made it that far, and it was truly inspiring to see this much positivity in a scenario where I imaged people would respond with negative energy. This experience built upon my philosophy that sports bring society together and do not divide it, and I’m so glad that I got to experience that for myself.

Beyond this experience I was able to explore yet another country by bike, spending two hot summer afternoons cycling up and down the coast of Croatia while more rational people were relaxing on the beach. I did make sure to get in some beach time as well, but it was not my priority. It would be incomplete to wrap up this blog post without mentioning the eleven hours we spent in the car; not only was it a great opportunity to get to know a couple of the others here, but also a great way to work on my patience while sitting in the border patrol line for 2.5 hours. We got to experience many of the winding mountain roads that Bosnia has to offer that we may not have seen otherwise, as well as several stunning lakes and Dolomite-looking grey rocky mountains protruding well beyond the tree-line. Each of the small towns we passed through each gave us something, whether that was ice cream or human interaction. In short, this week was one for the books, whether that was the beauty of Bosnia, the coast of Croatia, or the confirmation of the rationale behind my fascination of international sports.

Journal #2: Free Write- A Place at the Table

Journal #2: Free Write

 

For this week’s topic, it was free choice, so I decided to write about the hospitality I have encountered during my short time here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No matter where you go in Bosnia, you will be treated to coffee (Kavah/Kafa) or tea (chai), often accompanied by cookies or chocolates. My favorite tea so far is called grandmother’s soul. If i’m not mistaken I think it’s a version of Thyme tea. It’s magical and comforting, whatever it is. All of the chocolates are my favorite. 

 

At my internship, we start the day with tea and coffee, and take breaks to socialize and share a meal with each other. Everyone brings something, and somehow it ends up being enough for everyone at the office. I have really come to appreciate this time of socializing and sharing with my coworkers. It reminds me of the magic wardrobe in the hostel- there is always something for someone in need.

 

Another instance of sharing and hospitality I encountered this week is when the group (who did not participate in this years Peace March), drove down to Srebrenica (more on that next week) to meet up with the Peace marchers and commemorate the lives lost in the genocide in July 1995. At Annessa’s Guest House (where we stayed), we were greeted by the most gracious family. They had essentially turned their house into a hostel, and hosted people from all over the world. Their house was especially busy during the Srebrenica memorial time (the weekend we were there). Anyways, what I wanted to talk about in this blog is the dinner table. After a day of traveling from Sarajevo we put our belongings down in our room and moseyed along to the dinner table in Annessa’s living room/kitchen. It was a spread… pasta, chicken, fresh tomatoes, a delicious veggie soup, fresh bread and pita. You name it and it was there. So we stuff our faces with the wonderful meal, the Peace Marchers stuff their faces… some of Anne’s friends show up (notably Hasan Hasanović, friend and supporter of the DU program), show up… and there is still enough food for everyone. It was mind blowing. Did I mention how delicious the food was? It was really nice to gather around the table and simply have a conversation with people (without people checking their phones every 5 seconds…wow, I sound like i’m 90 years old) and hearing about their connections to Bosnia and what the Peace March and this time means to them. I enjoyed listening to the different languages and accents flowing around the table. I felt like I was at my grandparents house in TN, but instead I was world’s away at a guesthouse in Bosnia. It’s a weird feeling to explain because I was only there for 2 days, but I definitely learned from my time at Annessa’s. Maybe because it reminded me of my grandparents house. How they always make sure that everyone has something to eat. The Southern hospitality. How the mother worked and prepped all day to create a meal for us. She also made breakfast for us the next day, before we left to observe the burial at the cemetery. I wish people in the States would share more. Share their time, energy, and meals with other people. I’m not talking communism (we know how that ended) but just recognizing the humanity we all share.

Thanks for reading through the rambles.

 

Dovidenja.

 

Second Impressions

This week, having been given complete freedom on what to write about, I think it is appropriate to simply talk about the primary component of my week; cycling from Bihac to Srebrenica in remembrance of the genocide, and to remind people of the perils of nationalism and hatred. While many of my companions here in Bosnia took on the (arguable, more) challenging-60 mile hike to the memorial, I was invited to cover 300 miles from the northwest edge of Bosnia on the Croatian border town of Bihac, through Jajce, back to Sarajevo, and on to Srebrenica. Being an avid cyclist, I was excited to do so. Three days were spent on the bike, with roughly eight hours of moving time per day as well as four or five hours spent relaxing, recovering, eating, and learning between portions of the ride. While initially the slow pace of the ride was difficult, I had to remind myself that times had been much, much, worse for the people who we were memorializing, and that it is nothing short of trivial to complain about the ride being too slow.

Beyond the beauty of the country and to experience the winding and “bumpy” roads of Bosnia, I was able to interact and identify with many Bosnians (and a few from other countries, including a handful from Texas) both by verbal communication and when no language was mutual, smiles and handshakes. The most prominent figure for me on the ride was the orchestrator of our three-person group (and two who drove the van and took care of us at each stop, whose importance cannot be overstated), Thierry. Thierry moved to Bosnia in 1992 to assist the many Bosnians who were in need of assistance, and that he did. Thierry became so attached to the people, and from my understanding felt as though he needed to stay here longer than he initially intended to. 26 years later he is still here and now runs Green Visions, and eco-tourism company that focuses on promoting travel to Bosnia and exploration of the many hiking and biking opportunities that it offers. His friend, and now mine, Tamas joined us from Hungary and apart from being a wonderful person to ride with, was also able to experience confusion with me as neither of us spoke or understood more than a hint of Bosnian. Each time someone approached us and said something, we would typically make some sort of noise, smile, and hope that that was sufficient for them to move on – if it wasn’t, one of us would say “English” and we’d all have a good laugh. Sead and Haris, our support team, truly highlighted everything that is good in the world, and the generosity of the Bosnian people. The effort they went to to ensure that everything was perfect, all the time, was noted, and wholly appreciated – especially on Monday when we spent 106 miles in the pouring rain.

While I recognized the intention of the ride across the country from the beginning, I did not anticipate the warm welcome that we received virtually everywhere we went. Whether it was people standing from their balconies clapping, families cheering from the sidewalks, or women crying – knowing that we were there for them in recognition of the war where they likely lost their husbands or sons, we were always welcome. Midway through each day all three hundred of us plus support persons would be welcomed into a town to enjoy lunch prepared for and paid for by the townspeople. This ride was almost entirely unfunded, yet it felt like a ride one would pay hundreds of dollars for in the United States. The people who would line up near the edge of town to applaud us in was incredibly special, and knowing all that many of them went through resonated quite loudly. One woman who I recall standing just after children handed out water and threw flowers on us as we rode past was standing on her porch, gesturing with her hands as if she was giving us her heart, and bawling. This moment made me tear up completely, as it was so emotional and frankly heart-wrenching to imagine the pain she went and continues to go through, and seeing how much it meant to her that we did this ride for people like her. This woman, some 250 miles into the ride, was the most dramatic example of when it hit me that this ride means so much to so many people, and that I was honored to be able to participate. Solidarity in healing I found is extremely important, and I am so, so glad that I was able to show some degree of solidarity to all of these people from Bihac to Srebrenica.

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Blog #1: First Impressions

First impressions.

 

My first impression of Bosnia-Herzegovina was, “Where will I find a jacket for this never ending rain?”. After several attempts moonlighting as a old Hollywood actress with my pashmina draped over my head, I finally broke down and bought a cardigan that I could use as a jacket. The moral of that tale is that I did not expect the rain, much as I did not expect the different architecture styles here. It was interesting walking around with our guide and seeing the Ottoman style buildings and Austro-Hungarian buildings co-exist in the old city. It’s interesting to see the city slowly rebuilding after the war, with scars and all. It was exciting to ride in the cable cars, that just recently reopened after being destroyed by the war. The city is slowly putting itself back together after a devastating war and countless suffering. It’s interesting to see the graffiti on the buildings and remnants from the Olympic games, from the eternal flame that I pass everyday on my walk to my internship, to the bobsled run… that was used as a “sniper’s nest” during the war. Also, we visited the Sarajevo History Museum, and toured the collection of artifacts donated and collected from members of the community who lived through the siege during the war.

 

More impressions.

 

When I went to my internship at the CURE Foundation and was greeted by Vedrana, I was immediately put at ease with her easy going nature. We had a tea called Grandmother’s Soul, that I really enjoyed, and finally tracked down at the grocery store. The smell is really calming and relaxing. Ann was saying how the tea always reminds her of Bosnia. The work I will be completing at my internship is similar to my past work with the Talitha Project in Tonga, so I’m excited to see how all of that comes together. I am excited to learn more about what feminism looks like in a post-conflict society such as Bosnia-Herzegovina. The CURE foundation serves as an outlet for the promotion of human rights and feminism throughout the country. The foundation organizes multiple festivals and outreach events throughout the year, and I am thankful that I’m able to work on their largest event- PitchWise. PitchWise is an annual festival which celebrates women’s art and activism here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During my time at the organization, I have spent my time editing grant proposals and educational materials. The most important thing I have been trying to do is form relationships with my coworkers and supervisors. I like how we start the day with tea and coffee time, and take a break for lunch to share food and talk about our day so far. I’m enjoying my internships focus on community, and how the organization steps in and helps people who are marginalized in society.

 

It’s interesting to see the old contrasting with the new here in Sarajevo, from the new hotels and malls, to the old city with the coppersmiths who have been in business for over 400 years. From the “Sarajevo roses”, some that are original and others that were newly reconstructed after the war to the cable cars, things are slowly rebuilding here and taking shape once more. It was interesting seeing how the Ottoman bath was turned into a marketplace that is used today.

 

A final takeaway for this rambling blog, is that I really appreciate the cafe culture here in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I love that you can spend the day in a coffee shop or cafe engrossed in a book or hanging out with your friends, without any pressure to leave. We visited a tea shop run by a kind old man who looks like a magician and he was so friendly and knowledgeable about his tea products and I can’t wait to go back to see what magic his tea shop holds.

 

Well, you made it this far through the rambles.

 

Dovidenja!

First Impressions

I’ve had such a good experience at my internship at the Center for Healthy Aging so far. On the first day, the center celebrated its seventh year of operation with a party and an art exhibit by its oldest member, a 92 year-old man. His paintings were displayed around the center and they’re going to be exhibited in a museum in Sarajevo pretty soon. Members of the center sang and one of the highlights for me was when a man played the accordion. The director of the center handed out awards to members and staff and Ann was recognized for the work that she has done. After the party, we had cake and as I left, I noticed that some of the members formed a circle were dancing to the accordion music. I really wanted to join in so I’m hoping there will be an accordion at the next party.

My second day at the center was really nice and relaxing as we spent time getting to know the staff and some members. We helped transport artwork from the exhibit to the painter’s home and I was so excited to be welcomed into his apartment. The walls were covered with really amazing paintings and he gave us copies of a large piece that took him four months to paint. I had such a lovely time at his apartment where we chatted with his wife and looked at family photos.

Another highlight of the day was watching one of the center’s staff members make sirnica, which is one of my favorite foods so far. It’s referred to as cheese pie but it’s more like cheese rolled in phyllo dough. I’ve been really curious as to how it’s made so I was fascinated to watch the process. The dough was made from scratch without measuring the ingredients because the lady just knew exactly what to do since she started learning the process when she was eight years old. She stretched the dough out on a tablecloth until it was paper-thin. Then she spread a cheese and egg mixture along the edge and then picked up the tablecloth and shook it so that the dough rolled down. Next, she cut the roll into smaller pieces and formed them into spirals. She also made a meat and potato version. The food was made to celebrate the July birthdays of the staff members. Staff from the other centers came for the party and it was lovely to see the sense of community.

There are four Centers for Healthy Aging in Sarajevo and we spent the first two days at the original one. We’re going to be interning at a different center each day of the week, which I feel like will give me a good opportunity to explore different parts of the city. Today, we went to the second center and we partook in a group exercise activity right off the bat. We did stretches with rubber exercise bands and we definitely worked up a sweat during the 20-minute workout. Afterwards, we hung out with the staff and some of the members of the center and played cards. I had a really nice time just chatting about random things and everyday life. They gave me some tips on good places to get sirnica and other types of local food that is vegetarian friendly. They also mentioned some really cool places around Bosnia that I want to check out while I’m here. Overall, I’m really excited about interning at the Center for Healthy Aging and just getting to know people and hear their stories. I feel like this is going to be a really great cultural experience that I definitely would not have been privileged to have if I had just traveled here on my own.

First Impressions: An account of a first timer’s first week in Sarajevo

I am not going to lie, it was difficult to get to Sarajevo – lots of flights over the course of several hours. However, as soon as we landed I felt instantly comfortable. Having had just under a week to get acclimated and know the city a bit more, I can confidently say I am overwhelmingly ecstatic to be here. A theory that comes to mind is that of cognitive dissonance, the theory that a person can hold two opposing or inconsistent beliefs, thoughts, or attitudes at one time. I don’t think there is a better way to describe my first reactions to Sarajevo. It is overwhelmingly beautiful! Even with a day full of fog and rain, we were able to take in the landscapes and views of the mountains. Immediately following this, we went to the Sarajevo History Museum, where the poetically curated exhibit on the siege devastated me. I was particularly struck that the series showed individuals, including children, trying to flee sniper fire and the heartbreaking result when they couldn’t. I am both a tourist and a student here. I am an outside observer who can only begin the fathom the oppression that people experienced during and after the war. I have only touched the surface of what I am about to learn and experience.

My first impressions of this city are so much more than I thought I would get. I came in holding high expectations of how this trip would set the trajectory for my future career and dramatically increase my knowledge surrounding the region that my family comes from. I knew I would also be affected, but that was marked under uncontrollable uncertainty. Admittedly I have lofty goals set forth, filled with random activities and sites I plan to visit. However, even after a week spent only briefly walking around my home for the next seven weeks, I feel that I have just barely started to chip away on these goals and yet I am so far from experiencing everything I could be.

On another note, the opportunities that we have already been offered at my internship, Wings of Hope, are incredible. It is amazing to see how willing people are to take me in and trust my opinions and abilities without knowing much more about me than my resume. It’s wonderful to see such an effort towards cooperation and collaboration; I wish it were more widespread. I look forward to diving into the many projects I have been assigned and am determined to meet their high expectations.

Additionally, there are the first impressions of all the wonderful people I am traveling with and the experience of being put in a house with people that I have only met for about 18 hours over the course of 10 weeks. I had little expectation of how the relations and living arrangements would go down. However, I have been surprised by the flexibility and ease that we have worked together. It is true what they say about congregating in the kitchen. After living alone since starting graduate school, I typically eat dinner standing or on the couch, but here, even having separate meals, we still eat together. It has been a game changer to have instant support with seven other individuals who are also experiencing Bosnia for the first time. As we all come from different focuses, it is interesting to see our similar and differing reactions to this city and how we are interpreting our surroundings. It is these individuals that are helping me see things I would never have seen before.

Needless to say, Sarajevo has already provided me with wonderful opportunities and resources. I am finding myself feeling pulled to explore more and more each day. Although I made sure to drink from the infamous fountain in old town to make sure that I will be back, I plan to extend my explorations week by week and absorb as much of the city, culture, and people as I can in the short time I have been allotted.

First impressions

After arriving with slightly less luggage than I had brought to the airport it became quickly apparent that language incompatibility may be an issue – while the luggage was soon found and returned quicker than I have had happen in the States, the inquiry about its location and the resulting response were not particularly confidence-inspiring. The first night was quiet, with most of us exhausted from travel and so on. The next day was the first of many with gray skies and rain, but this was not a deterrent that kept us from exploring the city as planned. The old city was immediately quite beautiful and it wasn’t until I glanced up from the awnings and windows that I noticed the scars from shelling and machine gun fire that still plague nearly every wall. It is apparent that life goes on and the conflict is not likely at the forefront of the minds of locals, however to foreigners such as myself, it is all but impossible to ignore what has happened when the architecture remains a constant reminder. I think that the gloomy weather experienced the first several days in the city inspired a greater degree of recognition of these scars, as the sunny skies and warm air that followed seems to have dissolved the constant sadness that initially seemed inescapable.

Living with a group as a whole has provided insight into the situation greater than I would have been able to experience individually, as each member of the program has their own experiences, insights, and knowledge to share about the past and present state of Bosnia. I’m sure these varied perspectives are only likely to broaden as we spend more time together; something that I am looking forward to.

Thursday we began our internships, some more brief than others. Personally, my experience as Atlantic Initiative (for the thirty minutes I was there) was exciting and slightly overwhelming, though I also experienced the laid-back nature of the people of the Balkans, even in the context of an important security analysis firm. The first task assigned will certainly test my research skills, and after a couple days of research I find myself becoming increasingly knowledgeable on the region, Russia, Serbia, various members of the government, and the issues that locals are likely quite familiar with but as an American I had little-to-no knowledge of. I think that it’s a really cool scenario to be placed in as my assignment is two-pronged; firstly, I am able to assist in security research which may have significant influence in meaningful work (a first for me), and secondly, I am able to broaden my knowledge base. In short, I am both providing, as well as gaining a lot of information for and from Atlantic Initiative. My first impressions of the think tank are extremely positive, and I hope that I am able to provide for them something equivalent in value to what they are providing for me.

Outside of the requirements and the program as a whole I have had the opportunity to explore the mountains and neighborhoods surrounding Sarajevo by bike. Nearly every direction I go, the blue and yellow national flags of Bosnia become quickly replaced by the red, white, and blue flags representative of the Serbian population. While the people look the same and speak (essentially) the same language, it is clear that their sense of identity falls with their Serbian heritage rather than BiH as a whole. To be able to experience the geography by bicycle is unlike by car and I think that it is the best way to experience an unfamiliar area. The steepness of the roads here is unlike anything I’ve experienced in America, and that says a lot, coming from Colorado. It made it immediately obvious that the roads were note designed for bicycles, or anyone who wishes to get anywhere quickly, but also is a reminder of the difficulty of the mountains that Bosnians had to pass by one means or another during the war. To quote Ernest Hemingway, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them…. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

Final Reflections

I debated writing my final blog from Bosnia, that night, after I packed my suitcase in preparation for the long trip back to Colorado. But sleep won out. And I am glad, since it turns out that I needed several days to even begin processing what we experienced in Bosnia.

When asked about the “highlights” of the trip, I find myself internally wincing. Throughout the trip it was emphasized over and over by everyone we spoke to that the hatred, polarization, and othering that tore Bosnia apart can happen anywhere. No country is above it or beyond it. Discussions with other students about the similarities between what happened in Bosnia and what is happening here in the United States were very sobering. And honestly, now that I’m back I can’t stop thinking about it. When discouragement about the state of our country and the future of Bosnia threatens to overwhelm me, I want to remember that there is more than hatred and inhumanity in this story. There is immense kindness and resilience too.

The kindness of Saliha, Hasan, Nino, and so many others we met will always stay with me. They demonstrate such courage and generosity of spirit despite the heartbreak and sorrow they have experienced. After telling us horrible stories of barely surviving the war and losing many loved ones, each survivor thanked US (us!) for being there and wished us well. Many said they hoped this would never happen to us and that we would live happy, healthy lives with the people we love. The survivors of Bosnia asked us for only one thing: that we would tell the story of what happened there, share what we learned, and never let this happen again. It seems like a staggering request, but one I’m already trying to fulfill here at home.

Resilience was the overarching theme I took from the War Childhood Museum. It was a fascinating display, an idea originated by a man who grew up in the war and wanted to tell what being a child during wartime was like. As the story goes, he asked the question to the internet, “what was being a child during war to you?” and got thousands of responses. He began to compile these short answers into a book, and then decided to visit a few of the people who had responded. As he visited and spoke with them, he began to notice that people, even as successful adults decades afterwards, still had relics and remnants of growing up in the war. He realized there was something really unique about a childhood during wartime, and wanted to share this with the world. He collected these relics for a museum display, right alongside the stories of their owners.

One group of children banded together with others in their apartment building to publish a full-on magazine complete with articles and hand-drawn illustrations that was printed in 50-100 copies each month and delivered around the neighborhood. Other exhibits pictured stuffed animals alongside stories of how siblings learned to be friends playing with each other when they had no electricity and were bored. Chalkboards with shrapnel holes and bikes that were used to race through the streets collecting life-saving water were also included.

I appreciated leaving the War Childhood Museum with a feeling unlike that of all the other museums I had encountered. Rather than just walking away with a heavy heart, I found myself in awe of how children are able to process and experience war so differently from adults. And to see the reassurances that the children of these stories were going to college, leading successful careers, and living happy lives was very powerful for me. The entire experience was an encouraging testimony to the ability of children to “bounce back” and make the best of miserable circumstances.

I continue to process all these often-competing concepts of good and evil in the world. And as I tell the story of my trip to friends and family, I discover new bits of the journey that astound me and remember stories that bring me to tears. Bosnia has become a part of me, and I will never forget.