11th July is the day we remember the 8372 Bosnian Muslim who were murdered in Srebrenica, a town in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1995.
Imagine that for months, if you are lucky, you have one “meal” a day; meal meaning a watery soup.
Imagine that when or if you are lucky enough to board the plane, you have no idea where and when you will land.
Imagine that you have no choice, none whatsoever.
Imagine that you are taken, against your will, to a concentration camp, without knowing whether you will walk free again.
Imagine that you are unable, for months, to contact your loved ones.
Imagine that if you are lucky to survive, your traumatic experience lives with you forever.
Imagine that you have NO choice or freedom.
Imagine, just for a moment, that you don’t eat for a month.
Why does all of the above matter?
The war in Bosnia, led to genocide occuring again on European soil, fifty years after the end of the Second World War.
These events, which took place not long ago, mark extremely dark days in the history of Europe.
Pain, suffering, separation, terrible ethnic cleansing, which went on for months, meant that such a large group of innocent people were killed or misplaced.
Being able to listen to someone, who was lucky enough to survive, is a reminder that freedom, our ability to express ourselves, and live in an overall happy and cohesive society, can’t be taken for granted.
This is why I was delighted that members of the Hertfordshire Bosnian Association had an opportunity to visit the Knightsfield Community School for Deaf Children in Welwyn Garden City.
Our main guest, Dzemal Paratusic, who spoke in his native language, beautifully illustrated his journey as a refugee from Bosnia to the UK during the war. I was pleased to be able to help and facilitate the whole event.
In total, we took part in 4 assemblies. Each one of them was informative and emotional. Each one of them had profound moments, with plenty of opportunities to learn that simplest things in life can’t be taken for granted.
Today, each of these moments helped us to grow, better understand each other, our history, personal journey and often, traumatic experiences.
All children in all 4 year groups were spectacular. They listened, asked some fantastic questions and they, in many ways, became part of that story.
On the 15th January 2009 The European Parliament passed the following resolution:
“The European Parliament calls on the Council and the Commission to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of Srebrenica-Potocari act of genocide by supporting Parliament’s recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over the EU, and to call on all countries of the western Balkans to do the same.”
The peace process, the process of healing, started in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of the twentieth century, however it will take decades before people affected, and the whole Balkan region, will be truly able to move forward and pour into its “beautiful soul” hope and belief for a better tomorrow.
And what is our role?
We must do everything to eradicate any forms of racism in our lives.
We must do everything not to forget and learn from the past.
However, most importantly, we must remember that together, we are always stronger.
About the author
Michal Siewniak is a community development manager and a board member of New Europeans UK.