Kelsey Bristow

Kelsey Bristow (Bosnian Women – BOSFAM): At the time of her fellowship, Kelsey was a rising senior at Georgetown University majoring in English and Justice and Peace Studies. Kelsey’s interest volunteering began at High School when she worked with at-risk children in Appalachia. Kelsey as one of two undergraduate students in the 2009 cohort of Peace Fellows and worked closely with her advisor at Georgetown University to turn her experience in Bosnia into a thesis paper.

11 June 2009

11 Jun

One of the many amazing aspects of BOSFAM and the women who come here everyday is their resilience and will to keep on living despite great tragedy.  These are qualities I have observed in many Bosnians I have met so far, but especially in BOSFAM’s weavers.  Everyday these women come to BOSFAM, sometimes traveling over an hour each way and arriving at 6:00 AM by bus, to weave and heal.  In a country where most of its citizens have experienced profound loss, it is easy to dismiss what individuals do to overcome their grief and transform it into something positive.  In the case of BOSFAM and its weavers, their grief is transformed into awareness for the atrocities that occurred during the Balkan War and specifically the genocide at Srebrenica.

I mentioned in my first blog entry that I would try to share some of BiH’s history.  In one month from today, people from BiH, Serbia, and Kosovo will come upon Srebrenica to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the massacre that occurred there.  In addition to those still residing in the Balkans, many relatives of the dead and missing persons who have left the area will visit their homelands and take part in commemorating victims of the Srebrenica massacre.  Because the victims were buried in mass graves, they are still being identified and those who have been identified this year will be reburied on 11 July.

I realize that I cannot imagine the heartache of an entire region still grieving the loss of thousands of family members and friends.  I also know that words that I write, pictures that I post, and even video that I take will not express the feelings of those grieving on that day.  All I can promise is that I will do my best to relay the events of 11 July 2009 at Srebrenica and respectfully portray what is sure to be deep mourning.

I write of this a month before the 14th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, because it is truly an event that defines the lives of the women at BOSFAM.  As I write this two of the women here, Tima and Sajma, are weaving quilts in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre.  Many of the women who work at BOSFAM lived in Srebrenica before the war.  All of the women here lost relatives in the war and many lost relatives-husbands, brothers, sons, and daughters-on 11 July 1995 at Srebrenica.  During and after the war, they sought refuge in Tuzla, where many still remain displaced from their homes.  Because 11 July 1995 is a date that still looms over BOSFAM as a constant reminder of the loss and tragedy so many people of the Balkans endured, I felt compelled to try to begin to express the significance this date holds.

With all the gloom in this post, I think I need to briefly share-I will elaborate in later posts-something else about the women at BOSFAM.  While many of us-I certainly have-experienced the loss of someone dear to us, the women here have lost multiple relatives and friends at the hand of another human being (okay, so that is still very gloomy).  But everyday these women get out of bed (often not an easy task when your heart is aching for a lost loved one), come to BOSFAM to weave, talk, and laugh.  Their laughter is contagious.  I speak no Bosnian (okay, I know about 8 words), so I don’t understand what the women are saying or the stories they are telling, but their laughs are so genuine and hearty that I cannot help but join in their laughter.  It’s an amazing and hopeful sight to see these women, many of whom lost everything, to continue with life and continue laughing.

Posted By Kelsey Bristow

Posted Jun 11th, 2009


  • Kate

    June 11, 2009


    I can’t even begin to imagine how awful it is lose so many loved ones in such a tragic way. It truly is amazing how these women have managed to forge ahead and help each other through their profound grief.

  • Big Dave

    June 11, 2009


    Sounds like a wonderful experience- we will want all the great stories when you return. Be safe

  • Annette

    June 12, 2009


    Kelsey – this is sad but beautiful. This truly makes me reflect on our daily blessings – most importantly – family. Thank you for sharing… can’t wait for your next blog.
    Love, stay gold (and safe!) Aunt Annette

  • Tom Kange of Fiji

    June 12, 2009


    Great writing Kelsey, I appreciate the background info and the personal stories about these two ladies. Keep up the good work and stay Gold!

  • Dave B.

    June 12, 2009


    My thoughts and prayers go out to Tima and Sajma and the other good people of Bosnia that were so severely impacted by the war. Their stories are inspiring. Their quilts and rugs are very beautiful! Do they ship to the U.S.?

  • Stephanie

    June 30, 2009


    Say hello to Beba for me. Your willingness to work in Bosnia means a lot to the people there.

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