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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Posted Jul 18th, 2011