By Nejra Lilic
Even before the start of the peacebuilding project my brain and heart were already struggling with tragedy in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. As my roots are from Srebrenica, I left a deep pain there and I keep it just for myself. I was really afraid that I would simply have a logical understanding of events that happened but would not experience it emotionally in a deeper way, although it seems unlikely because of the personal loss of closest family members.
We began the program with a screening of a very emotional film. There were tears but still not the deeper feeling that I needed to experience. Maybe it sounds strange that I wanted to feel pain and deep sorrow, but I need a powerful emotion in order to embrace and associate this tragedy almost as I did with Srebrenica.
Through second and third day, we were collecting surveys from the people of Kozarac so I did not have time and space for reflecting and truly absorbing. But on the third day, I had a milestone that directed me to this important feeling. Namely, during the survey, I was interviewing a Bosnian Serb who was so passive-aggressive and turning facts. I felt so offended and hurt, which showed me what it was like for the affected communities living here. I respectfully tried to put the facts in the right context for him but that feeling that I needed to correct him also put me in the skin of community members.
Despite visiting many memorials, my feelings were not yet clear, so I put all hopes in visiting Omarska concentration camp in order to close this gap between my pain and the pain of this community. When we got to Omarska, I felt goose bumps all over my body. We were listening to the difficult story of Kemal, a survivor of the camp, and my goose bumps transformed into tears. One of his sentences deeply moved me: “I was surrounded by so many people right then but at that moment I felt the loneliest ever in my life.” I became frozen. Tears were dropping down my face. It touched the place in my heart right where it should. The same sentence was heard in many videos of people executed in Srebrenica.
Tt was hard for me but finally the shame of not feeling the pain of this community disappeared. I felt pain and sorrow but at the same time my humanity came back. Later that day, I got another affirmation. I recognized another similarity in one of the rare female survivors of Omarska concentration camp: she emphasized that the bullet was considered a reward for detainees and in Srebrenica. It is often heard that the bullet is the only thing they got. The victims and similarities between Srebrenica and Omarska helped me to get to really understand.
I am really thankful on this opportunity where I could develop emotionally and mentally.