Srebrenica, Potočari Memorial Center and Cemetery. Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There are many places in the world where people suffered an unbelievable pain, where innocent were turned into villains and murderers into victims. One may think what with the years, the time will do its justice and allow to make it clear for all and for good, that some crimes are crimes and no sick and twisted justification will make them sound excused and “necessary”. This doesn’t only apply to Srebrenica, still one of the biggest wounds in Balkans, but to many other places where instead of admitting the wrong deeds and closing those horrible events in the past, some are still trying to show that what happened was not that bad “after all”. Well, there is one thing about the wounds like this, they won’t heal if no one feels responsible for causing them.
We went to Srebrenica with our small kids (4 months and 3,5 years old). I remember explaining to my 3,5 years old daughter how important this place is and our talks about death and life. One may be very surprised how much small kids understand. Parents are often scared to talk to kids about difficult subjects. They think that only a world full of unicorns will guarantee your kids to grow up without traumas. Well, that’s not how the world it constructed. People die, bad things happen. Us not mentioning this won’t stop those things from happening.
I remember my conversation with our older daughter in front of one of the memorials in Sarajevo, close to the house we stayed in. The sign was commemorating kids who were shot by snipers in 1993 at this particular spot. My daughter asked what was written on it and I had a choice: I could either try to find the words that can explain it for 3,5 years old or pretend nothing like this happened. I looked at the names, I looked at the dates of birth. Some of the kids were even younger than me. I couldn’t stop thinking that if they hadn’t been killed that day, they might have had families and kids now, who could play with my kids at this particular moment. And it became clear to me: some things, no matter how difficult, cannot be forgotten or left in silence…
It was our trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. In each of the countries we visited the places where one or the other Balkan nation was killing their neighbors. Realizing this is the key point to travelling through Balkans. Seeing all these horrific crimes makes you realize that to blame are not nations but individuals and specific groups of people.
Srebrenica I remember as a place where pain was mixed with silence and beauty. You enter it and you feel it. No words where necessary, all was said without them.
Short history of Srebrenica.
It all happened during the very cruel conflict that began in Balkans after the fall of Yugoslavia. The countries that were part of the union started to held referendums and to become independent. Bosnia and Herzegovina was recognized as an independent state in 1992 and that is when Sarajevo was attacked by JNA (the Yugoslavian People’s Army) and Serbian paramilitaries. Most of the hatred was directed towards Muslims. The worst nightmare became reality with the news of the existence of concentration camps, mass rapes, killings, and ethnic cleansing. Despite the presence of UN in this area the atrocities did not end (UN has been highly criticized for its actions and not protecting innocent people who died during the conflict).
The massacre in Srebrenica and Potočari started on 10/11 July 1995. Bosniak Muslims were separated into men and teenage boys (many were killed before the rescue came) and women and girls (who were raped and some killed). The genocide was performed by Bosnian Serb forces led by Ratko Mladić. In the city at the time were stationed the Dutch UN peacekeepers.
This conflict is not something that could be summarized in one paragraph. There are many pages which write about the genocide and stories of those who survived. If you want to read more about Srebrenica visit: https://www.srebrenicamemorial.org/en
Srebrenica – Potočari Memorial Center and Cemetery (Srebrenica Genocide Memorial)
The Srebrenica Genocide Memorial is located outside of the city. We were visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina by car, so it was a short drive from the place we stayed for one night in Srebrenica. The memorial is open to visitors every day from 8:00 till 16:00. There are no tickets or fees. Still for the bigger groups is better to contact the memorial office in advance.
Visiting this place touches your soul and hurts, and it should. Only this way we are can make sure “that Srebrenica never happens again to no one and nowhere!”
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