It is four days before the anniversary of the massacre at Potocari (Srebrenica) and everybody’s focus seems to be on preparing for the memorial burial taking place on that day (July 11th). The International Commission on Missing Persons (icmp) has identified another 335 bodies which will be buried by family members on Sunday afternoon.
There isn’t much talk of anything else these days: during Bosfam’s coffee breaks, in conversations amongst the weavers, in stories in newspapers and on TV, and even in discussions at my weekly bbq’s – it all revolves around what is happening this coming weekend. There are more tears as well these days.
Women are preparing to bury those they have kept alive in their memories, hoping against all odds that somehow their husband or son had escaped abroad and for some reason hasn’t been able to contact them. I have even heard mumblings of prisoners of war kept in Serbia – as unlikely as that scenario is, I think some women prefer to think of their family members as POW’s instead of dead.
I will join the hundreds or thousands of mourners on Sunday. I have no idea what to expect nor how to properly pay my respects to the dead. I am also a little nervous about intruding in such a personal ceremony. I have heard so many different stories about previous similar events, yet I am sure nothing will prepare me for the actual thing. I have been to funerals before, but I have never been to a funeral where over 300 families bury their loved ones at the same time, the cause of death being almost the same for all of them. Killed because of a war which to me seems to have been so pointless.
Bosnia still needs to heal. These ceremonies are aimed at facilitating this process. I am not sure it is – while some families find closure by finally saying goodbye to those long missing, others find that the pain of not knowing what has happened to their missing is stirred up all over again.
Yet this ceremony is essential. It reminds the world of what happened nine years ago and maybe one day, we will learn from this to prevent similar tragedies. But until then, this ceremony is aimed at helping those directly affected. I will join them on Sunday, witness their pain and suffering and spend next week reflecting on what it all means.
Posted By Pia Schneider (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Posted Jul 7th, 2004