Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Quinn Van Valer-Campbell (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Quinn was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She first visited the Balkans in 2007 to work with Bosnian NGOs, and studied abroad in Bosnia while an undergraduate at Fordham University. Quinn was studying for a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in California when she began her AP fellowship. After her fellowship Quinn wrote: “I am more confident in what I know I am capable of. I proved to myself that what I have learned is applicable and relevant in life and not just in class. [The fellowship] has shown me the way in which the cultivation of people to people relationships …can change lives.”



Mars Mira and Srebrenica

18 Jul

Last weekend was one I will never forget.  Even a week later I’m not sure that I am fully recovered.  I was exhausted to the point of collapse and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I had been pushed to my limit both physically and emotionally.

Srebrenica, July 11, 1995

Srebrenica, July 11, 1995

Sunday, July 10, I joined former BOSFAM peace fellow Alison Sluiter and a group of international students on the last day of the Mars Mira (March of Peace) through the Bosnian countryside.  The march is the same route that the Bosnian Muslims took when they escaped Srebrenica and tried to make it to the free territory of Tuzla.  Thousands were killed along the way.  Each year thousands of people hike from Nezuk to Potocari to remember the people who died.  I did not participate in the full three days, but even after one day on this strenuous hike, my respect for those who traversed it 16 years ago swelled.

6,000 participants on the Peace March

6,000 participants on the Peace March

We hiked in 100º F weather for over 17 miles (some are saying it is closer to 20 miles).  While most of the time I struggled to put one foot in front of the other, I surprised myself.  I was not the last one to complete the march.  I arrived almost unable to walk and with blisters covering the soles of my feet.  Only today am I able to walk without a bit of a limp.

Julia and I in our hiking attire

Julia and I in our hiking attire

However, I was able to see a side of Bosnia that is invisible to many.  I met great people and spent a night with strangers who were not only willing but also honored that so many international people had decided to remember the genocide in such an active and exhausting way.  Even though I may never participate in Mars Mira again, I am so happy that I did it this year.

Some of the 613 coffins to be buried in Potocari

Some of the 613 coffins to be buried in Potocari

July 11, 1995 has been inescapable since I arrived in Tuzla.  I knew that it would be difficult to empathize but to also understand the trauma of so many without attending the memorial in Potocari.  This year, 60,000 people crowded around over 5,000 graves as 613 new coffins were interred.  I had never before seen so many emotions in one place.  Sadness, anger, and grief poured out from absolutely everyone.  As four men carried a coffin to its final resting place, several women came toward me.  One was about to faint from the stress and the heat.  In that moment, I was truly able to see the pain that still exists 16 years later.

The Memorial service at Potocari

The Memorial service at Potocari

Even with learning and reading about the Bosnian war, I was unable to receive such a provoking and emotional understanding of the grief and trauma of this state.  Seeing thousands of families burying their loved ones together paints a faint picture of the suffering Bosnia has gone through since the war started.  As I sit here trying to write this blog, I feel as if my words cannot give this country, this weekend, and my emotions the weight and respect that they need.  I am still trying to sort out my feelings and how it affected me.

Remembering the victims

Remembering the victims

Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Posted Jul 18th, 2011

2 Comments

  • Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

    July 19, 2011

     

    It took me over a week to finally sit down and concentrate on last week since it enveloped me completely. It was so intense on so many levels that I almost didn’t want to reopen my thoughts on my experience. That in and of itself gives me a small understanding to how people here deal (or for that matter don’t) with what happened.

  • Milancy

    July 20, 2011

     

    How very little we know of the suffering of others.
    It is great for you to share all of this with us so that our eyes can be opened. Most of your travels have been to a bit more glamourous sites, it seems. I would like to hear of your sleeping accommodations and the families or friends native to that area. We read your postings and enjoy hearing from you. Wishing you well, as always.

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