This year i attended the annual cerimony in Srebrenica for the first time. I didn’t have the intention to write about it, at least not immediately, but the staff from Women in Black, the NGO that organized the bus in which I travelled from Belgrade to Potočari, gave me a questionnaire for me to fill, so I did write about it. In the end, they didn’t collect my statement, and my friend Jelena, to whom I read it afterwords, though I should publish it on my blog, so that is what I am doing now, with a new part that I have decided to add while I was typing the original handwritten text. The photos published in this post were taken by me.


Koji put ideš u Srebrenici?

To je bio prvi put.

Šta za tebe u emotivnom, moralnom i političkom pogledu znači posećivanje mesta zloćina posećinjenih u naše ime/Srebrenica?

It was my duty to come to Srebrenica, not because genocide was committed in my name, as I am not serbian, but because I believe it is essential to my work as a researcher in Political Science that I always keep in my mind that the subjects I study, analyze and present to my readers had and continue to have real implication in the lives of real people. It is not difficult for a researcher to loose that sense of reality as he is submerged by all kinds of informations, data and theories. The need to respect the dignity of the victims of violence imposes on me that I never forget that, otherwise my work would be no more than an intellectual exercise to feed my self-image.

Koje ti je osnovni razlog da odlazak u Srebrenicu?

The answer to this question is contained in the the first question.

Koji ti je najvažniji utisak iz Srebrenice/Potočara?

My strongest impression is the small girl who asked me to take her picture. She was probably 6. I am sorry to say that I don’t remember her name. She was beautiful and her mother and grandmother were very generous to allow me to take her picture. They even unleashed her blonde hair so that she might look even better. She was very happy.
I could say the walls covered with blood in the building in Potočari impressed me most, but as a researcher it is my job to deal with that kind of morbid details.
The beautiful girl, and all the other children I got the chance to meet in my trips around former Yugoslavia are what gives my work a purpose. She means that the past is important, but that it is the future that really matters.

My answer to the questionnaire stopped here, because I had already used all the available space in the paper sheet. However, I was not satisfied with the abrupt way in which it ended. I am aware that my last phrase does sound like a cliché, but for me it has a real meaning. Saying that the best in the world are the children does sound like a cliché, but one of the most beautiful poems ever written in portuguese, Liberdade, also ends like that (o melhor do mundo são as crianças), so I rely on Fernando Pessoa to defend myself from the accusation that burdens me of being too emotional, a critique that usually implies that my work is biased or contaminated by an excessive subjectivity.
Dealing with suffering always demands a certain degree of emotional attachment, and this is something one has to learn to deal with. It comes with the job. The focus on objectivity, neutrality or impartiality is usually a way to escape it that but one that carries with it the danger of moral relativization.

I cannot be indifferent to the fact that yesterday thousands of people gathered to pay respect to the dead, but what I witnessed yesterday does not resume to that. I also saw how life is much stronger than death and this is why racists and genociders particularly hate others’ children.
By bringing their children to Srebrenica, these families are preserving the memory of their deceased, they are creating a link between generations that were denied the possibility to live together and enjoy each other’s company. On the children will one day rely the double responsibility to both honor the dead by protecting them from oblivion and to overcome the legacy that burdens their families.

This will not be an easy task. To be able to cope with such responsibility in the future they need to be nurtured now. It is up to today’s adults to provide them with an environment that allows them to grow into self-confident decent adults. If we achieve, these children will represesent the genociders ultimate failure.


Filed under Bosnia, Brave Women, Children, Duty of memory, Genocide, Hope, Serbia, Srebrenica

6 responses to “SREBRENICA

  1. “She means that the past is important, but that it is the future that really matters.”

    She’s a “Lucky Girl”, despite the weight on her shoulders!

    Os adultos depositam, certamente, a sua esperança nestas crianças. Cabe-lhes a eles contar a história, até que as suas crianças a saibam contar, pois se quiserem esquecer ou se acharem que já não vale a pena falar, a história fica enterrada e o passado morre… mas deve ser complicado, para eles, educarem as suas crianças protegendo-as dos horrores tentando, ao mesmo tempo, fazer com que elas conheçam, respeitem e dignifiquem a sofrida história dos seus antepassados.

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  3. Sebaneau
    What’s the weather like in Srebrenica?

    Author: Bojan Stojanovic
    Uploaded: Sunday, 20 July, 2008

    Moving, angry account of the thirteenth anniversary commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre, with the burial of over 300 newly identified victims, by a visitor from Serbia. Translated from Pešcanik (Belgrade)

  4. Hasan Nuhanovic

    Sarah, the way you described your feelings and thoughts during your first visit to Potocari is exactly the way I have felt and thought all these years. Linking the past and the future through the new generation of children and grandchildren of the victims is exactly what it is about and you rightfully noted that the new generation will have a heavy burden in commemorating the victims, which will be their duty, and coming to terms with the past and the (new) environment and reality created by the war and genocide.
    You actually put it better than I am able to do right now.
    Best regards
    Hasan Nuhanovic

  5. Sarah Franco

    Thank you for your words, Hasan!

  6. Pingback: WALKING BACK TO SREBRENICA: the March for Peace and the memory of genocide in Bosnia. | CAFÉ TURCO