By Almasa Hodzic, Amir Redžić, Amila Husić, Faruk Smajić, Mia Turbić, Ilma Ćostić, Nikola Kandić, Halilović Tarik
Even though I don’t usually get in touch with subjects such as cultural memory, war crimes and other topics we talked about during this exchange, I consider it really useful and inspiring for me. I realized that, even though we all don’t „work“ these subjects professionally, it’s really important to talk and learn about these things, only by doing that we will all be able to make our societies progressive and peaceful.
I wish more young people are included in a project like this one is, especially we in Bosnia and Herzegovina have to talk more to each other, not about each other.
Also, it was really interesting to compare the history of Spain with our history, it was a completely new approach for me. -Almasa Hodzic-
This program turned out to be very educational because it taught us why memorialization is important for each nation. We learned that while there is a level of civil war memorialization within the Catalan population, which the one on the Spanish national level does not, or exists on a very low level. Our Catalan guests told us that most of the common/mass graves in Spain are still not open, and that there is a fine number of people that is, strangely, very fond of the fascist Francoist era. There is still a division between people whose great grandparents fought for the Republic and those whose families fought for the fascists.
As for the Bosnians, we learned that the process of memorialization is a bit better than it’s Spanish counterpart. There are a number of monuments and memorials for the victims of war crimes that were committed throughout the whole country. Nevertheless, there are still differences in opinion and every one of the 3 constituent nations within Bosnia has it’s own kind of truth about what happened in the 90s. Memorialization in Bosnia is biased, with every nation stigmatizing the other two, presenting them as the cause of war, instead of prioritizing and concentrating on the victims and their families.
Aside from the educational part, traveling the country was truly beautiful, and connecting and befriending our dear guests was a joy. We had a lot of time to hang out and talk to them and get to know them and their culture. The organization was outstanding and there is not a single thing that I didn’t like or would change. This program was a great opportunity for both Catalans and us to exchange knowledge and experiences. I hope that there will be an opportunity for us to visit Barcelona in the near future and reunite with our Catalan friends.
– Amir Redžić-
When Muhamed contacted me an asked whether I was interested in participating in this exchange program, I must admit my expectations at the time were not met – the program turned out to be much more educational and fun. During the week, from the 9th to the 15th of September 2019, we got the opportunity to visit and learn about many cities from Bosnia and Herzegovina – Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Blagaj, Mostar, Počitelj, Stolac – with a focus on their roles in the recent war of the 90s and the post-conflict period. Besides that, we got the chance to learn a little about Spain and its recent history.
The thing I most enjoyed about this program was the opportunity to meet and get to know my peers from Barcelona but also from Bosnia and Herzegovina, to talk about the past in an open and constructive manner. I strongly believe that reconciliation is possible only in such open dialogues. Other than that, I think that this program was a great opportunity for our new friends from Barcelona to learn more about Bosnia and Herzegovina, both the good and the bad parts, but also to see that post-conflict reconciliation is a long and difficult process, but a worthwhile process. -Amila Husić-
Since the very beginning of the program in Sarajevo, the first meeting with the activists from Catalonia was very different due to the difference in our mentality. The themes that were processed, for the 7 days were, in most cases, very heavy and painful for people who were faced with the happenings of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Many things we listened to, from people who were in charge of telling us their stories about the events during 1992-1995, have shocked the participants of the seminar. In addition, when I say that, I mean the participants from Catalonia, but from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well. During their stay in Bosnia, the guests from Catalonia had a chance to see some of the oldest buildings in Bosnia and to hear stories from guides that were tied to the places that were seen.
During the reflections we had every night, we had many questions from the guests from Catalonia, which have been answered, mostly by the coordinators of the seminar. From day to day, the reflections were more interesting, had more quality, and were longer because the participants had relaxed and met each other.
I hope that we will have another cooperation with the participants from Catalonia and that we will stay in contact. -Faruk Smajić-
The exchange program went very well. Even better than I expected. First of all, I’ve made some really good friends, and I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. Like one of my friends once said, the best thing about these projects is the people you meet.
The main goal of this project was to explain to our friends from Barcelona the history of our country, and I think we did it very well. Not only during visits, meetings, and tours but during coffee breaks, lunch, dinner and even when we go out. But stories are not enough to understand a situation completely. To hear something and to experience something is not the same, and that’s the reason why people from Barcelona understood the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina better than people from Bosnia and Herzegovina understood the situation in Spain. I personally, have learned many things that I didn’t know from their stories, but it is not enough for me to understand it completely. For this project to work perfectly, you need to send the same group of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina there, in Barcelona, to spend few days in that society, feel those vibes, visit all the important places, just like people from Barcelona did here. Then we will understand and feel the history and situation in Spain perfectly. If that is not done, then why do we have an exchange program that works only in one direction?
Besides that, I have to say that museums and places we have visited were amazing, not only for foreigners but for local people, too. History of Bosnia and Herzegovina was explained really well, that nothing is left unsaid.
On the other hand, we were able to show people from Barcelona that not everything in Bosnia and Herzegovina is negative. The YIHR coordinators did their best to show them all the beautiful things Bosnia and Herzegovina are proud of, such as the old town Počitelj, the Buna river in Blagaj, Bregava river in Stolac, Mostar and much more… Bosnia and Herzegovina have many beautiful things that her citizens ignore because of all those wars and post-war problems, and I think that our friends from Barcelona are aware of that now.
This exchange program has taught me many things. For example, I’ve learned to appreciate all of the positive and beautiful things my country has. Besides that, when foreigners heard about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they could not understand why there is so much hate, limitations, and all the other problems between nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They said it is absurdly and funny to talk about „3 different languages“ when we all understand each other perfectly. This exchange program is a great opportunity for us to start thinking that way because it really is absurd to live in one multicultural environment with so many limitations and hate. And I’ve learned once again that war really is an unnecessary thing.
So thank you for everything, it was such a pleasure to be part of the Sarajevo – Barcelona exchange program. And I hope we’ll see each other again, but this time in Barcelona.
This little exchange helped me to realize how important it is to talk about war crimes, how important it is trying to find healthy ways of telling victims part of the story and how important it is to build a cultural memory throughout the educational system, and system in general. The group of people from Barcelona and B&H was really good, lots of different opinions and preferences gave to the group really good dynamics and energy. I think that the exchange in Barcelona with the same people would be really useful for everyone, I’m sure we’d be able to communicate a lot about different things that could help both societies, B&H and Spanish, on the topics we were talking about. Also, it always feels good to visit different parts of my beautiful country, and I’d really like to meet Barcelona too.
This kind of project always help me to remember that we in YIHR are doing great things that are extremely helpful for us, our parents and our future generations. -Ilma Čosić-
Dreaming in the Ruins
We are on the bus driving from Mostar to Sarajevo. The group of twenty people looks tired. We are listening to some reggaeton hits, and we have our dreams.
Independence. This essentially beautiful word marked the source of blood rivers in the Balkans in the early 1990s. The history of the Balkans is a warning to all of Europe.
In the days before, we visited Srebrenica, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Stolac. The words war, blood, death, destruction echoed through our heads. We knew a lot about the wars of the nineties, and in the past few days, they have become our present. We should never forget those terrible events and in doing so, we must continue to take an unrelenting stance against hatred and discrimination that targets anyone because of their religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or any other characteristic.
Why it is important to remember wars and those who fought in them?
All wars touch the lives of everyone; families, friends, colleagues. Soldiers were injured or killed on the battlefield and those who survived returned home with memories of war we can only imagine. But it is not just those on the front line that served. Many who stayed behind had their part to play.
By remembering their service and their sacrifice, we recognize the right to freedom these men and women fought to preserve. They believed that their actions at the time would make a significant difference for the future, but it is up to us to ensure that their fight for peace was not in vain.
Independence again. Freedom. We have heard these words often on television. We know that exist Catalonia. They have some problems, but they are far from us, so we are not too interested. But what if half of this group on the bus is from Spain, from Catalonia?
Then you start thinking about the destinies of other nations and states. You slowly begin to realize that the divided past is not a Balkan product. You slowly begin to realize that your knowledge is no bigger than what you hear on television.
At that moment you start seeking to empower people to challenge those who seek to divide communities, celebrate those who build bridges across divisions and encourage us all to build bridges of our own.
Now we are listening to turbo-folk hits on the radio. We pass by the ruins. We dream in the ruins.
Love. Peace. Nonviolence. Future. Hope.
In the background, the sun sets over Sarajevo. –Nikola Kandić-
Below I want to write a review related to the visit of Catalans to Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the period from 09.09. to 15.09. 2019.
Specifically, I want to point out that I am extremely pleased with this project as I am through. It not only made new friends and made valuable experiences and acquaintances, but he himself.
I learned a lot about Bosnia and Herzegovina even though I am a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This exchange was imbued with a good atmosphere, historical lessons, visits to the cultural and historical heritage.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, and facing the past of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which sometimes goes awry can be nauseous. Of all the visits and historical and cultural lessons, I would single out the three that are the most important to me impressed when viewed from all aspects, that is, looking at the overall impression.
These are visits to Stolac, Srebrenica and the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Stolac impressed me with its beauty, a blend of the life of a modern man in a city that looks like that time stopped in the Ottoman period. I had my first encounter with the river
A hill that is impressive and has made a great impression on me considering my own clarity, but also the fact that the locals are attached to it.
Furthermore, every visit to Srebrenica and Potočari is painful in its own way, it provokes different uneasy feelings. This time I watched the movie again, it was the second time I watched it I was trying to figure out certain items and things more from the objective, not the subjective sides. However, comparing subjective and objective impressions, I didn’t get many different conclusions, except for the first time I was much more emotional, which of course is expected. Srebrenica, as well as any other places of distress in BiH, must be visited constantly to maintain that thread that makes us human.
In conclusion, I can say that I am very positively surprised by the reflections of the YIHR team, as well the entire organization and schedules without which this journey could not be this way well, and it was.
Thank you for everything!