By Adna Adrovic
On August 3rd and 4th, we went out to Kevljani and Prijedor to survey the community. From house-to-house, person-to-person, stories from over 20 years ago began to come alive. People opened up about their experiences during the war without even having to question them. It was interesting to see that they felt the need to backup their answers on the survey with situations they experienced not only during the war but before and after the war. At first, most of the participants held back on how much input they had on the politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina but once they felt comfortable they went deeper than I expected.
I was surprised to hear that—no matter the ethnic group—people almost all agreed that state and political actors were not doing their job in Bosnia. Most people checked the “weak/poor” box on the chart. For the Hague Tribunal, both Bosniaks and Bosnian Serbs agreed that the tribunal had performed poorly—however their explanation behind their choice was completely opposite. Bosnian Serbs in Prijedor believed that the decisions made in the tribunal were unfair to Serbs and that the Hague only prosecutes the Serb leaders. On the other hand, Bosniaks explained that the Hague Tribunal was “weak” because they have not done enough to convict those involved in war crimes. To me, this represents the widespread denial in the Republika Srpska, where Serbs don’t recognize and will not admit the atrocities that happened to Bosniaks.
During the community survey, in addition to discussing politics, I also had some emotional talks with the people. One of the older ladies in Kevljani told me that most of the year she is all alone because all of her children and grandchildren are in other countries, except when they visit her during the summer. This broke my heart because this is the reality for most families in Bosnia, including my own. Some have stayed behind, while others were forced to move thousands of miles away. It’s always difficult to feel the connection and love from far away, but it is that much sweeter when you finally get to see them. Every Bosniak and Bosnian Serb told me during the survey to never forget our language and to never forget where I come from. As long as Bosnians are prideful of their country and carry on the culture, the country and its people will never disappear.
After two days of speaking with people in the community, I came to the conclusion that most people (of all ethnicities) believe that the politicians are causing problems amongst the communities, not the community members themselves. This is unfortunate to realize because if the leaders don’t change their opinions and thinking, then the people will never have the chance to live a peaceful life with each other.