It’s not hard to fall in love with Sarajevo. It’s Balkan charm nestled within a dome of low mountains and the beautiful river flowing down the middle and the gondola cutting through sky immediately taps the romantic adventurer in all of us. Even if we aren’t skiers or mountaineers or Casanovas, we suddenly feel that we could, magically, become so.
What the War Stole
War leaves scars. I think some people spend the rest of their lives as the walking wounded and I’m not sure that is a healing of any kind. Some heal but the damage lives with them, affecting every aspect of their lives, like a limb still there but not fully able to be used. Some people, a very few, truly heal. And even then, what does truly healed look like? I’m not sure.
Today, anybody from Sarajevo who is 30 or older lived through the siege of Sarajevo. It was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. Writing those words doesn’t feel like a lot — because I haven’t lived that tragedy but to the people that lived it, it was a lot. It meant snipers mowing down people as they crossed streets. It meant desperation for water and food. It meant nearly 4 years of huddling in basements where sniper fire couldn’t reach you. It meant living some half life in the hopes of living another day.
I can’t help thinking about people in Idlib, Syria today as I watch the cleansing snow fall in Sarajevo this morning. Washington Post article from today 27 February 2020.
While it is not completely fair or accurate to compare the two wars, as a missiologist / cultural anthropologist focusing on displacement, it would also be irresponsible to ignore the lessons that we learned from one war that could help us respond well to those who have survived this war. And what we know is that war steals everything if you let it. Its appetite is insatiable.