Alison Morse

Alison Morse (BOSFAM): Alison graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in international relations. Alison worked for the International Institute of Boston, a nonprofit that helps refugees and immigrants in the Boston area. Alison worked with survivors of human trafficking, torture and domestic violence. At the time of her fellowship, she was pursuing a Master's degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University's Fletcher School, focusing on development economics and human security.


30 Jul

A loose-fitting floral shirt and matching skirt hide Nura’s small frame. She sits in a swiveling office chair with one knee pulled to her chin. Her other foot dangles over one of the wheels of the chair. Her hair is covered by a beige floral scarf, tied loosely at her chin. I sit across the table from her, slowly sipping at my morning coffee, thinking that the computer screen behind her is an inappropriate backdrop for her traditional attire.

Her speech slows and her eyes glass over. She brings her hands to her forehead and gently places her palms over her eyes. She looks up with tears in her eyes. Yesterday she went to Srebrenica for the first time in nearly a year.

July is a difficult month for the women of BOSFAM. Although it is a time to reconnect with family members who are visiting from abroad, many of these reunions are not happy ones. Many of the women take the month of July to visit family and friends, primarily to pay their respects for loved ones buried at Potocari. These are not typical family vacations – days at the local pool are interspersed with days of mourning.

“I hate it there. It is no longer home.” Srebrenica is an abandoned town: there are few residents and fewer jobs. Nura grew up in a small town just outside Srebrenica. Her husband left before the war to work in Serbia and never returned. She fled with her children during the war, moving regularly between refugee centers. Her brother is missing along with her brother-in-law and a cousin. Her father and father-in-law are buried in Potocari. All were victims of the massacre.

“How does one go to the bakery and not think that the person selling bread did not kill my father?” In a small community where everyone knew their neighbors prior to the war, it is of little comfort to know that these strangers now occupy their homes and streets. There is little trust and therefore little incentive to return.

Neighbors changed during the war. Those that once shared garden vegetables later set fire to apartments after stealing everything inside. How does one forgive their neighbor after witnessing such acts of violence? How does one walk the street knowing that those out watering their gardens were not in fact the same people who committed some of the most ruthless, gruesome acts against humanity in recent history?

“Those who are lucky got out.” Nura bows her head and continues to cry. She gestures with her hands and her voice gains strength. She repeats the same story – this time with more anger than sadness. She is trapped here. Her relatives who visited from the U.S. do not have to live with the daily struggle of putting food on the table or finding work. They do not have to walk by bombed out buildings and watch images of mass graves on the news.

This is BOSFAM. It has been a quiet month of work with many of the women gone, but this one exchange over coffee is what is at the heart of this organization. Listening to this story is a small gesture, but to Nura it is a safe place to express her anger and her loss. Her family members have returned to the U.S. and she now must rely on her family at BOSFAM to support her.

Posted By Alison Morse

Posted Jul 30th, 2007


  • Mary

    July 30, 2007


    What an important support group for the women of BOSFAM. I can’t imagine having lost so so much and having to re-live it every single day. Anything else I think of sounds trite in the face of what these women endure – my thoughts are with them

  • Fareen

    July 30, 2007


    Thanks for sharing the story. I feel Nura’s pain has lasted long after the war had stopped. I wonder what stories does Nura tell her children at night? One of fear, anger or one of hope?

  • alison

    August 1, 2007


    Fareen, thanks for comment. Your question is something that I have tried to figure out while here. Many of the women say that their children have no interest in going to Srebrenica – though several have gone to attend the ceremony at Potocari. This seems partly because they left when they were very young and therefore have few memories to return to and partly because they lost their fathers, brothers, cousins etc. there. There seems to be very little hope for return. The younger generation seems to want to move beyond the war, but fears and anger still seem to linger in families that lost loved ones during the war.

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *