Postcards from Podrinje

The text has been published in wEast Magazine in 2011.

Podrinje, known in English as the Drina Valley, is a region of Bosnia and Herzegovina which looks like could be taken from a picture postcard. It is filled with natural resources and green forests, cool streams and isolated mountains, but the most famous, or rather infamous, images from the region are “Postcards from the Grave” (a Srebrenica survivor’s story written by Emir Suljagić).

On 10th July, a day before the anniversary of the massacre, people begin to flock to Potočari and Srebrenica. Those who survived July 1995 go back to the town to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre. Thousands of people from Bosnia and abroad participate in the March of Peace. They walk back to Srebrenica in the opposite direction from the boys and men in 1995, who tried to escape when the enclave of Srebrenica was taken over by the army of Republika Srpska (very few of them survived this “March of Death” in 1995). Another 613 victims of the massacre were buried this year, but after 16 years many families are still waiting for the bodies of their beloved with fading hope. Even though mass graves are hidden in the soil of the dusky valley, or in other parts of the country, the eyewitnesses (quite often the perpetrators) are either not willing to disclose the location, or they demand a lump sum of money for information.

After 11th July Srebrenica grows deserted, but before it goes back to drowsy (and mutilated) everyday life, Bosnian Serbs commemorating their victims will pass through the town. The arrest of Ratko Mladić is being called a success, thus closing a dark chapter, however the Bosnian Serb authorities again and again go too far and they deny the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces supported by Serbian paramilitary troops. July 12 is a day when lots of radicals and the deniers may come to the fore. The supporters of the Serbian Radical Party carried a flag with Mladić and Šešelj during the ceremony in Serbian Military Cemetery in Bratunac and there was no reaction from the police of Republika Srpska. Thousands of Bosniak civilians were exterminated (during the) seizure of the enclave by Bosnian Serb forces; to add to this suffering Bosnian Serbs have chosen the 12th of July as the date for their gathering. The celebrations in honour of Bosnian Serb soldiers which takes place just a day after the anniversary of Srebrenica massacre is a successive stab in the back for the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims) and is hardly cynical. Using an images of war criminals should be banned, denying the genocide should be punished, but as long as they gather on the 12th of July, it is an attempt to manipulate public opinion and whitewash the traces of blood of 8100 (facts based on DNA blood samples) Bosniak civilians or priosoners of war, slaughtered during July 1995 and the continuation of spiral of humiliation and disrespect of their families and the survivors of the massacre.

The centuries-old Muslim communities of the Drina Valley were destroyed and the percentage of returnees is too faint to bring a revival of multiculturalism to this region. There is a chance of improvement for the town with the return of some pre-war traditions – mainly, the reconstruction of the old mineral springs above the town called Guber SPA which used to be major tourist attraction in Bosnia, but Srebrenica remains but a shadow of its former self.