Outside my window, the tall Mosque spires and grimy smoke stacks barely peak over the green mountains. The air is thick and hot, I am in Tuzla Bosnia. Home is thousands of miles away, but somehow the ease and comfort of home holds me here in this valley. It only took me three days to get from Glenwood springs, to Denver to Frankfurt Germany to Belgrade Serbia then by bus to Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. I many ways I cherish long journeys. It gives the spirit time to catch up with the body. After only a few days working at Bosfam, I am glad to have my spirit intact.
In the northeast mountains of Bosnia, Tuzla is the economic hub of the Muslim/Croat Bosnian Federation. For more than a thousand years, Tuzla has been a constant space of resilience. Deriving its name from the Turkish word for salt, Tuzla owes its sustained inhabitance to the salt mines underneath the city. The salt has not only ensured continued economic development, but also the preserving powers of salt has sustained the city through its corrosive past.
Throughout its long history, Tuzla has been a haven of tolerance in a turbulent region. No time was that more evident than during the Bosnian war. Tuza was, and still is a space of respite for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons in Bosnia. During the war, as other parts of Bosnia were falling to advancing Serb armies, tens of thousands desperately fled to Tuzla.
In July 1995, through the heat, columns of ‘ghostlike’ refugees fled the genocide underway in the small town of Srebrenica, some 40 miles away. Thousands of men made the harrowing journey through the heavily wooded mountains, many perishing along the way due to heat, fatigue and Serb attacks. Here in Tulza, the women from Srebrenica were dumped by the busload, with little more than their lives, after being systematically separated from their families and their homes.
Their lives as they knew them had been annihilated under the glare of the July sun. Tuzla was the place where families heard the fates of their families, desperately grieved and struggled to go on. The salt of Tuzla once again did the unthinkable and sustained the spirit of the people of Srebrenica. Bosfam (Bosnian Family) formed out of this resilience, women came together to support each other, commemorate the lost and seek justice. Today I am witness to the strength and determination of the women of Bosfam as they work each survive and thrive with the living memory of the over 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica genocide.
Tuzla is not home, but somehow, within the soft curves of the hills it holds tired strangers.
Posted By Claire Noone
Posted Jun 27th, 2012