By Anes Hodžić
Omarska. The year is 1992. Today, the mine is closed. People are coming from all around the region. There are buses outside. Police of Republika Srpska are guarding the site. You can hear different people being called out. People are looking for their relatives and friends in the factory’s yard.
Omarska. The year is 2018. Today, the mine is closed. People are coming from all around the region. There are buses outside. Police of Republika Srpska are guarding the site. You can hear different people being called out. People are looking for their relatives and friends in the factory’s yard.
On the fifth day of POP, we visited the iron mine in Omarska which was the site of a concentration camp for non-Serbs. It was 6th of August, the day of the beginning of the camp’s closing. The camp was open for two and a half months from May til August 1992. During this period, thousands of people, mostly Bosniaks and Croats, were held captive and 700 were killed.
Hundreds of people, former inmates, their families and other people that lived in this area before the war came to Omarska to see the sites where they or their family members were imprisoned. Among those, there were also the Project on Peacebuilding partcipiants. We started our tour at the white house: the building in which inmates were tortured and killed every day. Kemal gave us an emotional testimony in which he talked about his experience in Omarska. Today, in the white house, two rooms were filled with ballons that were carrying the names of Omarska detainees that are yet to be found. The third room contained an art installation that was made out of 5000 bullets that were fired in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992. After the white house, we spoke about the red house: the place where the attrocities were so horrifying that to date there is just one person known to have survived it. We then continued to the hangar building where the detainees were held and to the administrative building while the survivors of the camp were retelling their stories over the intercom.
For me, the visit to Omarska was a part of a painful experience of confronting my family’s past. My relatives lived in Prijedor prior to 1992. They were detainees in Omarska and Trnopolje. The day before our visit to Omarska, I saw the house in Prijedor where they used to live and later that day we went to Trnopolje. These visits and the whole of the Project on Peacebuilding helped me to better understand what happened, not only to my family members, but also to the thousands of people in this area and to come to terms with my family’s past.