Wishing for peace in the Balkans

Forensics Experts Work On Exhuming And Identifying Srebrenica Victims

Remains at a mass grave in the former Yugoslavia.

For the last six months, I’ve been researching and learning much about the Balkans. I’ve had the pleasure to meet some amazing people who have kindly shared their pleasant memories and bravely shared their painful ones. They say those who don’t know the past are condemned to repeat it. One thing that I have learned is that people from the former Yugoslavia are keenly aware of their history and, to paraphrase the words of a tearful Serbian woman watching the news in the 1990s, nationalism keeps rearing its ugly head and history keeps repeating itself.

One thing I have learned is that the majority of people in the region want peace. They are still struggling to rebuild 20 years after the civil war ended. Corruption and a grey economy stifle the rebuilding effort, and in Bosnia, a clunky three-headed political system ensures partisan bickering and posturing takes up more energy and thought than progress.

There are a couple of movies coming out about the wars in the region. I haven’t seen them, but I hope that they don’t inflame a fragile peace. For a generation, the people of Yugoslavia lived together in a country where their ethnic differences were either ignored or celebrated — not the justification for cold-blooded killing.

It is impossible to forget what happened to your family. It is important, for your sake, to know the past, but, for the sake of your children, it’s equally important to forgive, and avoid the tragedies of the past.

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