Some pieces I have been working on that you can find on my Pinterest for now until I get the new website up
Monday, July 22, 2013
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
"...when Srebrenica fell, that automatically meant that Zepa would fall,” Palic said.
Death of a community, the fall of Zepa
The Serb army had just finished up their most recent killing spree in Srebrenica, as thousands - men, women, children, families and elders were fleeing for their lives from one village to another hoping to spare themselves the same fate. In a small village outside of the UN protected 'safe haven' of Srebrenica, some villagers took the road that led into the town of Žepa. There they were quickly repelled by the oncoming column of Serb soldiers entering the village from the other side. At the entrance to Žepa, in obvious danger the refugees fled to the hills, into the forest, to save themselves.
Caught a short time after, the women and children were put on buses and dropped off at the front lines. The survivors found their way to refugee camps in Bosnian held territory at Zenica.
The men and older boys were taken prisoner and brought to concentration camps in Serbia. July 25th, 1995.
Some survived and were liberated from those camps by the Red Cross, who then gave them safe passage as refugees to host countries around the world. In Denver, eight months after Dayton was signed, I was visiting one of the refugee ghetto's on Beeler Street and bore witness to stories of horror and pain. The stories, whispered in long sentences between terse puffs of cigarettes in broken English and halting Bosnian affected me deeply and I would never forget them.
In remembrance of friends and family now gone, and with respect to the Ramic family along with thousands of other people, like my parents and also my dearest grandparents who repatriated to countries, not their own and lived to bear witness. Lived to eventually reemerge victorious, if broken-hearted and create a new life for themselves and their families.
Conquerors over death and destruction. Refugees. Survivors.
"As in Srebrenica, Serb nationalist leaders offered to expel Muslim women and children from Zepa, but detain the men as "prisoners."Serb forces have blocked all attempts for aid workers to visit the Srebrenica men supposedly taken prisoner.
Serbs overran Zepa a few days after an emergency international conference called after Srebrenica was seized. The conference issued a warning to Serb nationalists that they faced serious consequences if they attacked the third "protected zone" of Gorazde. However, no mention was made of Zepa; the international community decided to write off the town -- and its 16,000 inhabitants -- as lost,despite a UN Security Council vote pledging to protect it. Gorazde is the sole remaining Bosnian enclave between the Serbian border and Sarajevo."
originally posted on SilvanaMondo 7/26/12
Sunday, July 7, 2013
I have a friend. She is like my sister. Our grandfather's were very good friends too. They were born in the beginning of the 1900's in wild Bosnia, under Austro-Hungarian rulers and both their fathers owned large tracts of land. They were in business with the mills. Often, they worked together in the wild forests. They had different backgrounds but respected each other and by extension, each other's culture. Their friendship endured the two Great Wars and more. Hadji made his pilgrimage to Mecca, hence his name, and my grandfather, who was forced to leave Bosnia during the big war, ended up with his family, in Germany.
The summer of 1990 I went on my first visit to Bosnia with my grandparents. They came down every two years to take the baths, at the hot springs somewhere in Croatia and then went to their ancestral home in Central Bosnia. On this trip, I met Hadji, my grandfather's childhood friend, about whom I had often heard stories throughout the years. I also met his granddaughter, Suada and as it was, we got on right away. She was the youngest of five sisters and had a fashionable 90's hairstyle though like her older sisters, wore the traditional dimije of the countryside.
She and her sisters were shy with the exception of the oldest one, who had the most experience. Smoking cigarettes like they were going out of style, she laughed and told jokes and pressed me on every subject; married or not, kids, school - the whole litany. The sisters had clear, happy eyes the color of sky light. I could see they treated my grandparents like royalty throughout our visit. Given the history the two old men shared and the sacredness of Bosnian hospitality this was natural. Everything became even more special because it was also the first day of Bajram.
My grandparents and I left for Germany the next day and Suada and I promised to keep up our friendship. Unfortunately, not soon after that summer, in the spring of '92, the dark period came to Bosnia and we lost all communication. There was terrible fighting, all around my family's town too. We had no news for almost a year.
The rest are stories everyone knows. Soon it will be the anniversary of the concentrated horror that happened all over Bosnia; Omarska, Srebrenica, too many others.
No one knew anything about the old man or the grand daughters. Relatives living in Bosnia said things were different 'than before'. It was fierce for those who lived through the war. Regardless of which 'side', the lines were drawn. I lived in America, it seemed far away.
After Dayton, I asked about visiting our friends.
I went on a trip to see my grandparents in Munich and slipped into Bosnia via Zagreb. It was the longest and saddest bus ride of my life. I was going to Sarajevo, hoping to film and get some documentation for my book. I would visit the family in Central Bosnia on the way there. It was also important to me, to find out what happened to my friend Suada, Hadji's granddaughter. When I asked about her, everyone had tense, worried faces, their heads shaking.
Don't look for her. We haven't seen them in years. No one knows if they are alive. You don't know if there are mines on the road. You won't be welcomed. We had a war. It's too early. You don't understand.
I understood. The fighting and upheaval that had just ended a short two years before was still a terrifying ball of pain in everyone's stomach.
When I arrived at the bus station in Vitez, my gentle cousin told me to ask the unprofor soldiers or the police for information if I wanted to know. I naturally shrugged this suggestion off.
Arriving at the front gate of my grandmother's old house, from the road that leads into Sarajevo, I was greeted by my Bosnian family. The neighbors were hanging out of their windows, peering from behind doors. Off to the side by the shed there were three people delivering wood ordered for the coming winter.
After a decent time interval I began asking about Suada, trying to find someone who would give me information.
To no avail. I realized I was being annoying. And rude. We sat drinking coffee and rakija, exchanging pleasantries. I asked again.
Imperceptibly, a space opened and though nothing out of the ordinary happened to indicate a change, suddenly, she was right there.
My friend who I had been looking for all those years, was part of the crew delivering wood to my Auntie's house.
Quiet, as always, going about her business with the wood, Suada spoke up only after she heard me asking about her over and over again. As we hugged and laughed, time was suspended. It was magical and surreal, not to be questioned.
We had called each other through the unseen and been brought together again.
It could not have been any other moment but that one.
Sudbina, as my grandfather would say. Kismet.
August, 1997. Central Bosnia Hercegovina
originally posted 1/16/13
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
A big protest was called for in Sarajevo, Bosnia on the 1st day of July. I got this information from Twitter and Facebook. Even after three weeks, most mainstream media hadn't picked up the story yet and best bets to find information were on Twitter. The protest seems to have developed organically from an original gathering on June 5th regarding a lag in the issuance of identification, or pin numbers. Temporarily, this group of baby-carriage toting mothers (and eventually other hundreds of ordinary but supportive citizens)surrounded the Parliament, complete with Parliamentarians inside and pushed their weight around a bit. They were angry, frustrated, fed up. Justifiably so, considering that Bosnians are treated like shit, very obviously taking the back seat to the Croatians, the Serbs and often, even the hate mongering rattlers in the neighboring canton, Republika Srpska who are routinely invited to the party, as if nothing had gone on, those long, 22 years ago.
Eyeing a great opportunity is not enough, action has to be taken. So it was that someone, somewhere convened under the #JMBG hashtag, promoted it through Social Media, got a few more thousand people excited, called for a non violent /’let’s show them who we are’ mash up and soon, a revolt, of sorts, was born. Similar to Bulgaria,Turkey and Brazil, there was a collective consciousness that moved people into the streets. It is not clear if there there is anyone person or tight group guiding anything at this stage of Bosnia’s nascent activism. No one at least, who was willing come out to stake a claim or take the lead at yesterday’s protests.
Unlike Bulgaria, where citizens are just not giving it up, the ‘official’ day of civil disobedience scheduled for yesterday in Sarajevo was a bit of a flop. Someone lamented on Twitter that, no real goal was attained, a golden moment possibly wasted.
Truth. There were the 15 people in front of the UN HQ in New York, holding up signs in solidarity which was posted online. Then, of course, the adorable underwater divers carrying JMBG cards, the video of the lone plane that dropped a case load of flyers onto the city, letting people know to ‘come on down’!, the hundreds of well wishers from St. Louis to Korea who posted on FB and more. There was support.
Where was everybody else?
The original ‘up to ten thousand’ from the 11th of June?
The famous Sarajilje….. We saw you there, right?
Call me a crazy romantic. I believe in you. Make it happen Bosnia.