Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Quinn Van Valer-Campbell (Bosnian Family – BOSFAM): Quinn was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. She first visited the Balkans in 2007 to work with Bosnian NGOs, and studied abroad in Bosnia while an undergraduate at Fordham University. Quinn was studying for a master’s degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in California when she began her AP fellowship. After her fellowship Quinn wrote: “I am more confident in what I know I am capable of. I proved to myself that what I have learned is applicable and relevant in life and not just in class. [The fellowship] has shown me the way in which the cultivation of people to people relationships …can change lives.”

The Beauty and Pain of Tuzla

09 Jun

Walking through Tuzla, I am struck by how colorful and beautiful this place is. It’s situated in a valley and surrounded by green hills. The buildings are pink, yellow, and blue and decorate the main square like flowers. However, the past is inescapable here. Some, not all, buildings are riddled with bullet holes and I can see two large cemeteries from my bedroom window. I briefly visited a park up in the woods that is home to over five different memorials from World War II to the most recent pain that the Balkans felt in the 1990s. It all looms in the background, as a reminder that there was a time when this small, beautiful town saw horrors that no one ever thought would ever surface.

Yesterday consisted of a visit to the International Commission on Missing Persons and a tour by their forensic anthropologist and my newfound friend, Laura Yazedjian. Seeing the 3,500 plastic and paper bags holding the bones of those massacred in this beautiful country 16 years before brought a new perspective. Maybe it was just in my mind, but I could smell a faint presence of death in the refrigerated room as I tried to put myself in the place of the victims and those affected.

Inside of the refrigerated room.

As I left the facility with my colleague, there was a strange silence between the two of us. We tried to make small talk, but in light of what we had actually witnessed, it was difficult. While Laura spoke, the leg, hip, and skull bones of a 19-year-old boy lay stretched before us on the examination table. During the war, the mass graves were dug up and reburied in other places to conceal the remains and to make it much more difficult to find and to identify in the future. This pivotal visit turned what was a myopic and detached perception of the war into a much more personal and informed understanding of the traumas I will be facing with the strong women of BOSFAM.

The bones of the 19-year-old boy in front of us.

I have gained neither the trust nor the language capacity to be comfortable to approach the women about the unspoken past. However, in light of the upcoming preparations for the annual visit to Srebrenica, I know that it will only be a matter of time until I am called to upon to simply be a warm and open force available to listen and learn from these incredible people.

Posted By Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

Posted Jun 9th, 2011


  • Angelo

    June 9, 2011


    Wow.. Quinn this is impressive I had no idea Bosnia had bodies still welling around.. Why not buried to rest.. Why hasn’t Bosnia step n putting the effort.. In why don’t big countries like USA Russia britian France aid Bosnia in finding the remains identify.. Shows me they don’t care.. I can say one thing: the balkans langauge is hard but not impossible to learn with your drive your will an your giving motivation. I hope the extra time you have on your hands you are sleeping eating good sometimes. forcing your self to do something is very tiring … I hope all is well.great warrior never surrender or drop your sword because retreat is earn.. And I know Quinn will never give up on peace because every she is closer to victory not for just the balkans but for us all.

  • Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

    June 9, 2011


    🙂 Thank you! It’s difficult because during the war, the remains were dug up and thrown about the country, so the identification process is very slow. And that is one of the problems Bosnia had with the US, among other countries, was their lack of a fast response. Thank you for reading!!

  • Despina

    June 12, 2011


    Wow Quinn, it is incredible to me to even IMAGINE being in the places you have traveled through thus far on your journey. Reading your words is bittersweet for me, as I become mixed with emotions of excitement & sadness. All that you are doing/learning is absolutely thrilling, and at the same time the places you visit can be tragically eerie, to say the least. These pictures really strike emotions we tend to easily forget can be stirred.

    Your passion in taking action and going through this experience makes me admire you even more than I already always have. Your motiviation and genuine drive to particpate in all that you have for this cause is indescribably beautiful to me.

    Your adventure is one to cherish.

  • Quinn Van Valer-Campbell

    June 13, 2011


    Thank you for your support, Peen. It means a lot to know that even in New Jersey in my best friend’s house I am appreciated and that this isn’t for naught. It’s a roller coaster for sure, but one that should be ridden and one that will hopefully take me places to meet and be touched by people that I can only hope to learn from.
    I have a feeling this adventure will be one that I hold near and dear and will be able to apply in many different areas.

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