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.

Road to Srebrenica: Potocari

14 Jun

Six steps lead to nowhere. Cracked cement foundations contain bouquets of wild flowers and weeds.

In the middle of a field on the road to Srebrenica it is not uncommon to see these vestiges of war – deserted, bullet-riddled frames and collapsed, red-tiled rooftops.

It is hard for me to distinguish between new and old here. New houses have clotheslines dangling across wall-less rooms and potted plants marking the edges of balconies without railings. Buildings along this stretch of road are open and unfinished. Post-war reconstruction clearly comes in pieces.

These simple structures are suddenly broken up by the large iron fence that lines the perimeter of the memorial site at Potocari.

It is here where 2,000 bodies from the massacre that occurred in the surrounding hills are buried. There hardly seems to be enough room for the additional 6,000 bodies that are expected to be laid to rest here.

Many of the bodies of those killed when Srebrenica fell in 1995 may never be found. Some that have been found may never be identified as there are no longer family members left to claim them. Still, there is hope that they too will someday be memorialized here.

There is a stone wall that creates an inner circle in the memorial site. Over 8,000 names are etched in alphabetical order followed by date of birth. I stand towards the end of the alphabet and skim the names. It is clear where both father and son were killed, and sometimes there is more than one son.

I wander to the underground photo exhibit. Black-and-white photos depict the aftermath of war – a dirtied doll’s face staring up from a grave, a drop of blood on a fingertip from DNA testing, and wire handcuffs wrapped in a plastic bag marked “Evidence.” These images mark only the beginning of a very long process of discovery, identification and reburial.

Across the street from the memorial site is a small souvenir shop. Among other items it sells small carpets, each with a giant “S” woven in the middle, made by the women of BOSFAM.

The proprietor is a middle-aged woman who lost her husband when Srebrenica fell. She now watches over his grave from her shop across the street. At the end of the war she and her son, who had fortunately escaped, returned to their home just outside Srebrenica.

Her son was killed by a landmine planted inside. She is slowly rebuilding her life, hoping that visitors to the memorial will give her enough income to survive.

The emotional landscape of the people who survived here mirrors that of the physical – shattered, exposed and abandoned, yet slowly gaining the pieces needed to rebuild.

Each year approximately 500 bodies are buried on July 11th at this memorial site in Potocari, bringing closure to some families. This year will be no exception. However, at this rate, it will take 12 years to complete the burials for those who lost their lives here. Even to an observer of such loss this wait seems agonizingly long.

Posted By Alison Morse

Posted Jun 14th, 2007

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