The day began dreary and overcast, with thunder and occasional lightening in Tuzla. We were on our way to Srebrenica by 7am, along with thousands of others. There was police men stationed about every 50 to 75 meters the entire 100 kilometers from Tuzla to Srebrenica with heavy military and police presence at the crossing into the Republica Srpska. The roads were packed with buses and convoys, all making their way to the Srebrenica on the small two lane road. Outside of Brautnac the traffic came to a complete standstill as periodic convoys from NATO, Croatia and other dignitaries were escorted through the masses of cars and buses.
We finally arrived in the parking lot, very close to Potocari. The cars were being packed in like sardines. There was no hope of leaving anytime soon, as car after car was parked, blocking each other in. The sky was still overcast, but it was not raining- one thing to be thankful for on the somber day.
There were multiple entrances into the memorial, but we were directed to go to the farthest corner. As we approach, I notice the police separating the men and women, directing the men to walk through the metal detector, but allowing the women in without inspection. The act of separation by gender, although brief, I found very disconcerting in this area. My thoughts immediately went to 10 years ago when the Serbian police were then also separating the men and women in this exact area, but for an entirely different reason.
Once inside, we walk pass hundreds of recently dug graves, many with family members already camped around the site. The masses of people grow and grow as we make our way up to the hill to separate ourselves from the grieving families. I am amazed at the sea of people in this small town. I think about the day, 10 years ago, when all the families were crammed into this small area, not knowing the atrocities their future held. I imagine it was a similar amount of people then, although the fear must have been so thick in the air that day. Today, it is grief and sorrow that loom over the crowd. There are many people with T Shirts made for the day, and some women holding pictures of their lost loves ones.
Once the opening and speech ceremony is finished and the religious portion begins. Thousands of men make their way forward, and the women are behind them. There is a throng of men surrounded by women, all their heads covered in scarves. With fifty thousand people there, you could hear a pin drop when the Imam was calling for prayer.
Up to this point, I hadn’t yet felt the massive push of emotion I expected. However, once they began reading the names and passing the coffins, I quickly became overwhelmed. They read each name and the year of birth, immediately you noticed that entire families were being buried. One woman there was burying 8 first degree relatives- husband, brothers and sons. As I walked closer to the rows of men passing the coffins, I just stood still and watched them pass the coffins overhead towards the grave sites, one after the other on the arms of thousands of men. I felt the tears rolling down my cheeks, and finally felt the gravity of the situation. Six hundred men were being buried today- Boys as young as 12, old men in their sixties and seventies. They were murdered, in cold blood. The most daunting realization for me was this is not even 10% of the number of men killed in those few days. I can’t even fathom the current body count -8,106.
Posted By MacKenzie Frady Arbogust (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Posted Jul 14th, 2005