1980 -the same year I was born. While I was in the last weeks of my freshman year of high school teenagers here were emerging from four years of war – curfews, bombings, and refugee camps. I strolled by their graves – row after row etched with birth dates so close to mine. Seventy-two graves in all.
Each grave is carefully tended to – pots of recently-watered flowers, teddy bears and trinkets lay at the base of many of the tombstones. They are identical – white with no symbols of religion to separate them. A picture of each victim hangs above their name – all teenagers and twenty-somethings. The youngest victim – a three-year-old boy – was sitting on his mother’s lap when the grenade hit the center of Tuzla.
There is no escaping the images of war here. An innocent afternoon stroll through the city park in Tuzla brought me to the memorial for the young victims of a grenade attack in 1995. The war had nearly come to a close and the people of Tuzla, having spent countless nights tucked inside their homes, again started to gather in the city center. A group of young people filled the tables outside the cafes – and were the unlucky victims of one last attack by the army of the Republic of Srpska.
Serbs and Bosniaks are buried together on this small hillside surrounded by pine trees. In death they are all the same – innocent victims of war. The families of the victims made a bold statement towards reconciliation in allowing them to be buried together. Neighbors heard the whispers in the middle of the night when the families gathered to bury the few remains of these young victims. The war allowed no other option. There was no way to gather during the day without attracting unwanted attention.
There is a memorial to the victims in the center of the Korzo in Tuzla. It often gets lost amid the throngs of people out for an evening stroll. However, on my way home at night, when the crowds have dissipated, the memorial is often the lone light in the square. Watching the last groups of young people stroll home after a night on the town and passing by high school couples camped out on the park benches, the memorial stands as an eerie reminder of a similar summer night in the not-so-distant past.
Posted By Alison Morse
Posted Jul 23rd, 2007