Kozara is the abbreviation for Kozara National Park, a very scenic elevated plain in the Northwest of Bosnia and Herzegovina and home to the famous “Mrakovica” memorial complex which was founded in 1972. This memorial commemorates the so-called Kozara epic, one of the largest battles on Yugoslavian soil of the Second World War, during which tens of thousands of civilians from the surrounding villages as well as many partisans lost their lives. In the Republika Srpska, this site until this day is considered one of the most important places dedicated to the memory of the Second World War. In the museum, which forms part of the memorial complex, today Serbian victims of the First World War as well as from the war of 1992 – 1995 are also remembered in addition to the originally intended theme of the museum, thus leading to a change in the message that is conveyed by the site.
Offical Website of Kozara National Park: http://www.npkozara.com
Back on the road again. On the way to Kozara National Park. There the famous ”Mrakovica” memorial complex built in 1972 can be found. Since we are running late for our scheduled guided tour, we are surprised to see the curator waiting for us upon our arrival. A patient, elderly man. He shows us the way up a great number of steps and leads us to the really impressive memorial by Dušan Džamonija. Again, our tutor provides us with a translation. It must be extremely exhausting. She is already translating the third curator’s accounts on this day. Even for us it is exhausting. I stand there, listening attentively and try to memorise everything I hear. I need to make notes of everything, otherwise I will get it all mixed up back home. And we are only at our third destination.
The man talks about the Kozara epic and it becomes obvious that the three sites we visited today are connected more closely than we would have thought. The large number of victims in Jasenovac and Donja Gradina in the year of 1942 is also a result of the battle of Kozara and the subsequent deportation of the Serbian civilian population to Jasenovac by the Germans. The majority of victims at Jasenovac, according to Mihovilović at Jasenovac, was practically able to walk to Jasenovac – thus it is also a local memory. Of the extermination of the Serbs from Kozara at Jasenovac.
Then we enter the museum. It is small and dark, and the air is stuffy. The exhibition here is made up of dreadful pictures. They are pictures from the film shown to us at Donja Gradina. I recognize the boy who is holding his head in his hands and again I hear the imaginary music. In here one can barely breathe and my stomach is starting to cause problems again. The curator tells us that due to restructuring activities, this is not the exhibition that is normally shown here. Our professor, in contrast, knows how to interpret the exhibition. In fact it is not a preliminary construction site but an intended and very convincing display of Serbs as by percentage the largest group of victims during the First Word War, Serbs suffering immense losses during the Second World War, Serbs in Jasenovac and then the 1990s. It feels as if all three wars were shouting at us from these brutal pictures.
In reality, each side involved in a war becomes a victim but also at the same time a perpetrator. In this case, it is portrayed differently. The Serbs as victims.
In the evening in Prijedor, in the former state hotel offering a view over a man-made pond. It must have been pretty here at some point. Not anymore. Exhausted from the day, we have dinner in a large, anonymous hall and experience a more than peculiar atmosphere. Still full from the heaps of meat during our late lunch, we can barely eat anything of the delicious food.
Some of us spend the remainder of the evening in a cozy pub in Prijedor, surrounded by enjoyable music and pivo. The city is not overly beautiful but it still provides a relatively fitting atmosphere for our evening. In particular, the fact that for such a small provincial town, we find there is an unusual number of people on the streets, also many young people. It is a strange contrast to yesterday’s visit to Zagreb where we expected more people but ultimately ended up seeing fewer than here.
We are exhausted from all the information and impressions and that is exactly why we end the day with many cheerful conversations.