La version française est en cours de traduction. Merci de votre patience.
This morning, we just crossed the border from Croatia into Bosnia. Things are different here. I notice abandoned houses here and there. Churches too. When I am traveling, I’m always looking for cues, trying to understand what happened AND what’s going on now. Really going on now, not the story I’m fed.
After about fifty houses, I realize they invariably have four thick stone walls still standing, but no roof, no windows, no inside walls. It dawns on me: those are not old and abandoned: they were destroyed during the Bosnian War. They are left standing. A testimony to the massacres, to the endless horrors. A war waged on civilians. We have been doing a huge amount of painful research these past few days, and suddenly we find ourselves riding through the history we both have been having nightmares about.
I have a huge lump in my throat. With all the years I have spent creating artwork about genocides, wars and refugees, I have never witnessed any of it directly. I have never been in a country where what is left from the devastation of war is still visible, untouched. Silent witnesses. Based on what I read, I make up some stories: people left in a hurry. The ones able to come back built a new house practically touching the destroyed one. It takes money to remove a house. One thing people do not have here is money. They may want to keep the ruins as a reminder. Never again. And again: never again.
The further south we travel, the closer the destroyed houses are to each other. Until finally I see what makes me fall apart all the way.
I stop. I get off. I don’t remember looking for a safe place to pull over. I’m in a daze.
Ten, fifteen houses together. A village. A village of destroyed houses. As I’m standing there, I hear children playing, laughing. They are running. There is a ball. I immediately worry: one could run after the ball all the way to the road where there are cars. I see a woman walking to her neighbor to ask for a cup of sugar. I feel the breeze of a warm summer evening when the entire village gets together to roast a goat and celebrate. I see old people resting in the shade. I see young women bringing large platters of food.
I come back. Minutes have gone by. Nothing has moved.
Life here has long been gone.
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