By Joss Gillespie
In the mountains of Albania, Abdullah did something he had not done in months—he waited. Since leaving Kabul, fear of being caught by the police and determination to reach a new home had driven him and his two brothers forward, never sparing a moment. But at this moment, Abdullah, the eldest of his family, was halted by a greater fear; he had become separated from his youngest brother, Abdullah-Wahrahim, with no method of contacting him. And so, Abdullah waited all night and, as he told us later, began to cry. In the middle of the night, he heard a word being shouted in the distance, a password that he and his brothers had agreed upon to use if they ever became lost. Abdullah followed the call and eventually, on the other end of it, he found his brother. They hugged, and kissed, and found solace in their reunion. But their journey was not over, and soon they continued walking.
On the 5th of August, we went to a memorial event at Trnopolje, a village near Priejdor that was used as a concentration camp during the Bosnia war. In total, over 30,000 people were detained at Trnopolje and yet almost nothing has been done to memorialize the site since. This would be the topic of the second part of the evening, but to my surprise, when I arrived at the event the words “Migranti ili progojeni?“ were projected onto the wall of the former concentration camp. This translates in English to, “migrants, or displaced?” The first speaker compared Europe’s current refugee crisis with the conditions at Trnopolje, using pictures to illustrate his comparison. Next, three brothers from Afghanistan recounted their journey from Kabul to Sarajevo. I found their story candid and heartfelt, particularly the moment when Abdullah described temporarily losing his younger brother.
The three brothers have found a new home in Sarajevo. Although their initial destination was France, what they found in Bosnia was a place that could empathize with their experience. In the last week, I have found Bosnia to be a beautiful and fascinating country, but one that is still stricken by the effects of conflict. The war of 1992-1995 still feels very present, and I think that these three brothers found kinship in a country that also knows the devastating effect of war. What I found most powerful about their testimony was the fierce love and protection that the brothers expressed for each other. Family is important to many Bosnians, and it is something that I keep very close to my heart as well. Because of this, I found the strength of their relationship and love for one another extremely touching. Their story is by no means representative of all refugees in Bosnia, many of whom suffer a huge amount of discrimination, but I hope that Bosnia can learn from its past and provide more people like these brothers the chance to live a good life.