Bosnia Trip – Day 6European Union, Summer 2012
We start the day off with a nice breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I got an omelette. It was delicious. I’m really glad that breakfast is included in all our hotel stays because I didn’t bring much money with me and I have no idea where the nearest ATM is.
Our first event of the long day is a tour with Vesna Samoukovic, a native of Serbian descent. She takes us to the memorial of Ivo Andric, the famous author of The Bridge on the Drina. He is the only Nobel Prize winner in the former Yugoslavia region and considered a local hero here. There is a sofa on the bridge which gives an absolute perfect view to the Drina River just below.
After the bridge we go to Ivo Andric’s classroom. It has been preserved almost like a museum except for the fact you can actually touch everything. We sit in the desks and admire the miniature chalkboard notebooks and feather pens. School must have been tough, especially math class with an abacus.
Next we walk around the city. We see stray puppies and kittens, I wonder where their parents are. We walk to a Serbian cemetery which is the first non Muslim cemetery we’ve seen in BiH.
Afterwards we go back to the hotel for next meeting. After a short while Ms. Bosa Miletic arrives. She is from the Women’s Association NGO which helps women of all ethnic groups. She informs us that the level of domestic violence in Serbian households is just about equal to that of Muslim or Croat households which goes to show that after a conflict like this one everyone suffers. The Women’s Association has set up various programs for battered women as well as programs for their husbands, who are often suffering from PTSD. Of the NGO’s we’ve talked to she has had the most social impact including changing the legal system to protect women from domestic violence. Vesna translates the entire conversation because Bosa does not speak very good English. After a while, Alma, Bosa’s colleague joins us. These women are strong, as are many of the women we’ve seen so far. I can honestly say that my perception prior to coming to BiH is that in a predominately Muslim culture, women would not be as outspoken and driven as these I’ve met.
Next we eat lunch and then talk to Mr. Bilal Memisevic, the chair of the Municipal Council and Muslim community. Vesna was needed to translate once again. He had a lot to say but once again it was hard to hear. These meetings have been outside the hotel on the patio and helicopters have been flying in and out of the city constantly. Nonetheless, it was still good to hear a politician was able to gain support from other ethnic groups. We’ll see if it happens again this October.
For our next meeting we decide to go inside, the helicopters have not stopped flying and other noise such as the hotel’s music makes it difficult for anyone not near the translator to keep up with the conversation. The next talk, was the most interesting of the three. We talked with Serbian war prisoners; Janko Samoukovic (Vesna’s husband, age 44), Dragisa Andric (age 64), and Slavko Heleta (age 84). These were men who were had been taken prisoner during the war here in Višegrad. We were able to see another side of the story. The Serbs were the victims in this case. This is what makes conflict resolution so difficult in this region. There were genocides and war prisoners from each side; Muslims, Croats and Serbs. The constant argument is that the percentages were different. Because the Serbs killed more Bosnian Muslims there is often times more fault placed on them and also because the killings were orchestrated from the top rather than the bottom level. I honestly don’t think any of that makes a difference. When you start saying that one wrong is worse than another you’ll never be able to reconcile differences.
We are forced to cut the meeting short because we are unsure of how long the bus ride will be to Sarajevo. I would have loved to stay and finish hearing their stories, or at least as much as they could tell us. Nonetheless, as we were leaving we saw Emir Kustarica (Oscar Award winning Serbian film director) and Milorad Dodik (President of Republica Srpska). It is impossible to get a picture of either of them because of all of the security. At least we know now why those helicopters were flying in and out of the city.
On the ride home I fall asleep as usual and awaken to find that we have been pulled over. The Serbian officers claim that the bus driver was speeding but he says he was not. They use a previous tracking of another car and tell him that it was his speed. Our bus driver is a native and knows how to deal with this. He gives the police 20Km and they let us go. This is exactly what we learned in class. The level of corruption among road police is extremely high and being here less than a week we’ve experienced this corruption.
The rest of the ride is peaceful and we arrive at the hotel an hour earlier than expected. We head to the outdoor seating to watch the Germany vs. Italy game. On the way we grab some cheap Burek and corn for dinner. Afterwards Sarah and I get ice cream from “Mr. Big Scoop”. This is a nickname we gave him because he is the only ice cream vendor that gives us enough ice cream to fill up the cone. Unfortunatley, Germany looses to Italy 0-2. Mario Balotelli, a 21 year old Italian of Ghanian descent scores twice. I have a favorite football player now.
This concludes my 6th Day in BiH.
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