I have just returned from Srebrenica, my first visit to the site of the July 1995 massacre. Beba, Iain and I visited the commemorative center that has been constructed at Potocari (the actual site of the massacre), took photos of the UN site where the Dutch troops were stationed, and toured the village itself that had been besieged by Serbs in the months preceding the massacre.
It’s amazing when history comes to life in front of your eyes. As we were walking through Srebrenica, located in a valley surrounded by hills on all sides, I could almost picture the Serbs perched above, snipering at the Muslims trying to carry on life in the town itself. The bullet holes in all the buildings are obvious enough; many people have tried to patch them up and move on, yet those marks are a reminder of what life was like almost 10 years ago.
Then there are the destroyed houses, both on the road on your way to Srebrencia and in the village itself. You can’t miss them, they are everywhere. Some still have a roof, but hardly anything else besides the pillars holding up the building, some have burnt out windows and holes in the walls while the only thing that remains of some others is the garage downstairs which points to the original foundation of the house. Yet there are signs of rebirth; reconstruction is the key to the town’s revival.
According to the UNDP, 60% of the houses being rebuilt are for the Muslims, while the remaining 40% are for Serbs who need to move out of Muslim homes so that the previous tenants can move back in. Srebrenica is a construction company’s dream, although in reality, many more houses need to be rebuilt for the city to really stand a chance and to attract more returnees.
Yet the donors have lost interest, most of the organizations on location to aid reconstruction have left or are leaving within the year. I guess they are moving on to the next crisis area, maybe Afghanistan or Iraq, I am sure the world is not lacking new crises.
Yet in Srebrenica you feel the underlying current of determination; these people are not ready to give up even if the international community has given up on them and moved on. Its people are determined to rebuild, not only the buildings in the village but also their lives. It is for them I am here.
I may be only one person and can achieve only so much, but Srebrenica and its citizens have given me the motivation to do the best I can. If only I could convince more people to come visit, I am sure the donor community would reassess its original decision and help these people rebuild their community.
Posted By Pia Schneider (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Posted Jun 11th, 2004