The Historical Institute, Sarajevo
The Historical Institute (Institut za istoriju, Sarajevo) is a non-university academic research institution. In recent years, the renowned institute under its director Husnija Kamberović has contributed to a revival in historical research in and on Bosnia and Herzegovina due to its own research and far reaching international networking. By meeting researchers working there we intended to find out which part historical research plays in coming to terms with a past defined by war.
Official Website of the Historical Institute: http://www.iis.unsa.ba
Research and Documentation Centre, Sarajevo
The Research and Documentation Centre (Istraživačko dokumentacioni centar) in Sarajevo was founded in 2004. Today, in cooperation with two other institutions in Croatia and Serbia, a connection which exists since 2006, it arguably represents the most significant civil society institution dealing with a coming to terms with the past of the 1992-1995 war. The Centre stands out due to the fact that it conducts its work and organization in general with a view towards the whole of Bosnia, namely by attending to all victims of the war, irrespective of their ethnic background.
Official Website of the Research and Documentation Centre: http://www.idc.org.ba
Research and Documentation Centre, Bosnian War Crimes Atlas Project: http://www.idc.org.ba/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=112&Itemid=144&lang=bs
Next morning. We have come full circle. I am sitting on the terrace of the Grand Hotel and I am crying while Coldplay sings into my ear. It all started in Jasenovac and Donja Gradina. A genocide, though it is only called so by one side. A film, recycled, and now being presented on the other side. Here Serbian school children look on. In Potočari it is Bosniak school children. In the film: different perpetrators, different victims, a different time, a different war. The same feelings, similar images.
We begin to think differently about our encounter in Banja Luka. Some begin to recommend compulsory visits to Potočari for the students of Banja Luka. So they can see, and comprehend. I remember how some of them told us, that it could not have been 8,000 people killed there, since there were only 5,000 living there. I begin to think that our answer should have been that it absolutely does not matter if it is 5,000 or 50,000 people that died there. That no one, absolutely no one, deserves to die that way, no matter who, and no matter at whose hand.
The divide within us has become more pronounced. At the end of our trip the RS is beginning to seem strange, also a little shocking. At the same time I begin to realise that our journey has turned out that way quite unintentionally. We did not visit the neighbouring village to Potočari, where atrocities were committed against Serbs from the Bosniak side. We were on the bus and it was a Bosniak who made us aware of this fact. We must not create stereotypes. I begin to feel a little afraid of myself because I have let myself be influenced in a certain way so easily. But maybe I should not be so hard on myself. We did not visit all the sites but maybe that was not even the aim of the trip. Victims are victims no matter what ethnicity they belong to, and sorrow is sorrow.
If I manage to grasp that, a lot has already been done.
Back home. Back home? Arrived. Arrived?
It is a strange feeling. We need some time, but then we return to our daily routine. Speak to friends and family about our trip and realise how difficult it is – also for us – to grasp what we have experienced. No one can really put into words what we want to say.
Nevertheless, we have really arrived by now, and once again feel at home in our daily life. But what remains? There remains an incredible experience, an increased interest in the Balkans, and most of all gratitude. Once again we were able to learn what really matters in life. Not the day-to-day madness. The people, feelings, dreams and hope.
We have seen and felt many terrible and many beautiful things and now we continue on our way, grateful for experiencing both. Many things do not seem so important any more, other things do so all the more. We were given a lot.