By Caterina Bonora
The best preparation for my short visit to Kevljani during the Most-Mira camp, was to watch Kemal’s documentary film “Pretty village” (David Evans, Kemal Parvenic, 2014). When I arrived in this small village located southeast of Prijedor and just next to Omarska, I recognized the landscape and the house that appear in the film. There, they are most of the time covered in snow; or maybe that is how they remained impressed in my memory after the film, as metaphorically frozen in the negative remembrances of the past— the sufferance experienced at Omarska, the loved ones who never came back, the betrayal of neighbors and friends.
So it was a nice contrast, when I arrived last Monday, to see the same house and landscape shining in the heat of mid July and full of young people who want to be part of a better future. By which I don’t mean, of course, that the solution is to look only at the future, and stop remembering the past. Kemal’s film gives quite the opposite message, that the struggle for the right remembrance can save people from becoming prey of the past.
In the documentary, Kemal, who survived the Omarska camp, gives voice to his and other survivors’ memories in an effort to understand and to share their past. One of the most emotional scenes is when he goes to meet one of his former professors who participated in his interrogation at Omarska. They had recognized each other there, the professor had been a role model for Kemal, but had not recoiled from his new role of interrogator and therefore accomplice of the crimes that followed in the camp. When Kemal meets him twenty years afterwards, the professor appears thorn between shame and self-justification, “I was just a small clerk.” Kemal then told us that the professor had died recently, so there had been no time for further encounters, but through the film he had been able to initiate a dialogue about the past with the professor’s son.
And, like the film, this is what the initiatives of Most Mira are also about: initiating a dialogue about the past, sharing what happened back in 1992, and fighting against the denial that prevails in the Prijedor municipality: against its false memorials.