Memory: from trauma to light at the end of the tunnel

At first, I didn't know where I was going or what was in store for me. I was only asked whether I wanted to participate and received some basic information about the theme of the programme. That's where this story begins. When I hit the road, I started thinking if I should have accepted it, because the programme theme is very difficult to talk about or communicate in any other way, especially for me who listened to the stories of people who survived the war - including my parents, especially my dad who lost his father, my grandad. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet him because of that fatal event, but I see the sadness and pain my father carries inside, so I empathise with him.


We discussed this topic in trauma workshop, and the last war definitely represents trauma to my father. We learned that trauma is transmitted from one generation to the next, with second generation inheriting trauma from their parents. War confers great trauma on the people who survived it and lost someone, and it has the same effect on their children and future generations. They listen to these stories and feel the sadness, the pain, the emotions that awaken at those moments. Everyone feels and experiences them in a different way.


This program taught me that people just need to express their feelings, no matter how heavy they are. But someone needs to listen to their stories and give them space to share the hurt and pain they keep deep inside any way possible. It doesn't matter if it's talking to another person, whether it's through acting like we had the opportunity to do on the last day of the programme because someone may not be able to express in words what they feel.


As we toured many places such as Trnopolje, Kevljani, Kamicani and Omarska, where war horrors and tortures took place, we heard Kemal Pervanic's story, i.e. his personal testimony from the camps and the war. It was extremely difficult to watch a man facing these terrible things, telling stories to bring us into history itself and to know what happened to people in this part of BiH. But it was very effective because only a person who survived the war, the camps and other war-related things could pass on a terrible experience to us. We could also notice that people still feel fear when you visit such places and talk about these events. Therefore, there are also fewer participants because they are afraid of coexistence that develops for seven days with people who come from a different ethnic background. But it's a form of reconciliation and there's no discrimination or sense of discomfort, but good friendships have just come from here because after all, we're all just human.


The visit to Lušci Palanka, a quiet and impoverished town, awakens monotony but definitely makes a strong impression. When I was smaller, I never allowed TV to be turned on to watch the genocide in Srebrenica because I couldn't sleep. Even then, I asked why people did it and what was so much more valuable than innocent human lives. It was these televised events that represented a connection with writer Dina Greenberg who wrote a novel about war trauma. Not because she had some direct connection to Bosnia-Herzegovina, but because there are foreigners who are interested in war events at least now if not before. It was interesting to visit monuments that on one hand represent the relief of burden to people because these times have passed, and on the other hand they invoke great sadness and pain. All these people were kind of looking for their light at the end of the tunnel. Some are still looking for it because the war has left on them lasting consequences. As much as they have their light now, some rays of light in their lives are less bright, because they actually represent some form of trauma they carry from that time.


I think we should somehow illuminate for them those rays light because every memorial is painful to them, but it also calms their hearts. And that's what these people are holding on to, for the hope that no one will and must not forget what happened, and that they will remember these people who gave their lives for the better today.



~ Merhunisa Softić

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