I have worked in other post-conflict situations, but am struck by how omnipresent the ghosts of war are here. Everyone with whom I have spoken has mentioned the war and the myriad of ways in which it affected their daily lives. No one has mentioned personal tragedy, just the daily humiliations and deprivations that strangled their existence in the 1990s and that continue to mark their lives. Friends from Bosfam explained the layout of Tuzla to me as a map of war tragedies and changes – the site of a massacre, the site of destroyed buildings, the site of a former Yugoslav monument. My AP colleague, Peter, showed me around the outskirts of the city where Partisan monuments from “that war” are slowly being vandalized to death, and new monuments to “this war” are still being completed and command the respect of fresh graves.
At the same time, many of the very visible scars of war are gone; most buildings, churches, and mosques have been rebuilt. People’s discussion of the war and the present situation are not urgent and fresh, but are more descriptions of how life is now refracted through the lens of past violence. Loved ones are gone, jobs are scarce, social dynamics are changed, old neighbors have been replaced with new ones, and many war profiteers are still on top. Some of this is irrevocable. One new friend explained to me that Tuzla is a nice place to live, but that the city has lost some of the vitality that made it special. Residents are tired and traumatized, and are not as friendly or open as they were before the war.
The women at Bosfam are emblematic of these changes, in part because the function of the organization is to address the consequences of the war. Beba, the Director, is struggling to keep the organization financially viable, in part because she feels a responsibility for the women weavers whose post-war existence is tenuous. Her communication with me and with a donor who visited yesterday reflect this urgent sense of duty and feeling that war marks every moment of existence.
Posted By Marta Schaaf
Posted Jun 12th, 2003