I have done a lot of travelling in my time, but have never felt so vulnerable and wanting to leave a place as I did when I stepped off the bus in Srebrenica.
Knowing what had happened there, the unspeakable atrocities, the violence and having treated refugees in Sarajevo all combined to making me feel very uncomfortable. So much so that I couldn’t stay in the town and decided to walk back to the bus stop to sit and wait the 4 hours for the bus back to Sarajevo. On the way I passed the UN Development Project building so stopped in to see if I could find the war memorial site, a place I really wanted to visit.
A lovely man Dzil spoke with me, locked up his office and drove me the few km to the war memorial site. He was amazing and told me all about the area, the siege of the town between 1992 -1995 and his own experience of escaping the town and marching to Tuzla in 1995 and the killing of his friends. He is one of the organisers of the peace march now held annually to mark the genocide and to pay their respects to the loved ones they lost.
He introduced me to his friend Hasan, who spent 90 mins chatting with me about his experience of being a 16 year old boy in the town during the siege, having his friend blown up in front of him and of being on the march to Tuzla, loosing his twin brother, father and many friends. It was so sad and horrific, my heart bled.
He showed me around the UN base, pointed to the spot where hundreds of men and boys were shot, to the place where thousands of women and children were taken on buses to other towns and concentration camps. He talked about finding the mass graves, of the identification process of people, of surviving families who have to make the choice of laying to rest 40% of their loved one, or waiting to find the remaining 60% and then laying them to rest.