During our last week in Sarajevo, which covered learning about the work of the nonprofit Wings of Hope in providing mental health care services in Sarajevo, I learned quite a bit more about how history can take multiple perspectives, and I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the themes of the program as I prepared to write the final assignments. For instance, we learned about how the complicated political situation can create further divides amongst ethnic groups, which causes each person to develop a different version in retelling their traumatic past. Being in a region where war was a part of life for many years (and recent years at that) makes me realize how desensitized and distant I was being in a different country, especially a country like America where I’m not only separated by an entire ocean from other war-stricken nations but also a country whose status affords me to the privilege of being safe and sheltered. From attending museums like the War Childhood Museum, where everyday objects from the lives of children who grew up during the Bosnian war are displayed, I discovered how incredibly lucky I was to not have had to grow up in a time where shellings and snipers were common.
Another theme that I grappled with was genocide, specifically the one that occurred in Srebrenica on July 11th, 1995. Prior to the program, I did not know that this event was one of the worst instances of ethnic cleansing since the Holocaust. Moreover, feelings of guilt took over when I realized how the international community failed to protect the UN safe zone of Srebrenica. In my schooling in America, we learned quite a bit about World War II, but the Holocaust was something that I was so far removed from. But, there’s color footage of the genocide that occurred in July of 1995, survivors are younger than my parents, and it happened only a couple years before I was born. The feeling that this instance was so recent makes me feel troubled, especially given the cases of ethnic cleansing that have happened since then. Things like genocide are more common than I realized, and having to understand this, along with the difficulties of having to support a nation’s people whose collective identity is nonexistent and whose collective suffering and trauma have such great implications on their current lifestyles, was trying. Grappling with these issues and forcing myself to view different perspectives than my own is exactly what my experience abroad allowed me to do. Surely, these thoughts and questions will continue when I come back, and I’m curious to see how my life and my ways of thinking will change having had this experience.