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Srebrenica. Pain and despair
On the left Roman Martynovsky and Hasan Hasanovič Photo by Nadia Sadzhak and Olesya Liashuk
On the left Roman Martynovsky and Hasan Hasanovič

Today, on December 10, the world celebrates Human Rights Day. "Legal Space" chose the blog of the lawyer, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, expert of the Regional Center for Human Rights Roman Martynovsky as a pertinent and live illustration of this date. It contains the pain of Serbians and the truth about tragic events that happened 20 years ago in Srebrenica, the small town in the Republika Srpska (The Republic of Srpska), which is an administrative entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In July, 1995 around the town the drama Europe did not know since World War II took place. Since July 11 the army of the Republic of Srpska within several days killed 8372 Bosnians, mainly men and boys. This senseless and ruthless massacre had terrible consequences for the future of both peoples and the country in general. The most painful thing is that it became possible through the inaction of international peacekeeping forces, after all in two years before the UN Security Council declared the Srebrenica enclave a "safe area" under UN protection ".

Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial produces an extremely painful impression: pain and despair, anger and indignation. Why, for what? These questions remain salty taste on my lips. My God, when you saw it, why didn't you withdraw murderers’ hands, didn't turn the weapon in their hands into musical instruments. Why didn't you rescue anyone, what lesson did you want to teach those who furiously rushed at unarmed and defenseless adults and children, and killed, killed, killed shedding innocent blood?

Mothers... What can be something even more terrible for them than news of their sons’ deaths! What inhuman pain they have been suffering for the last 20 years, how hard they have been crying… I couldn't stop looking at hands of Nura Mustafič and Refija Hadibulič from the village of Bajramoviči near Srebrenica. My imagination drew pictures from the past: these hands for the first time are holding newborn sons, then bringing them to school, and here are hastily packing food for their sons and husbands who are running away from the army of the Republika Srpska, and at last these hands are embracing in despair remains of the dearest things they’ve ever had in their lives. And now, now they are tired out and a little bit wrinkled, shivering when the women are telling about the most terrifying moments.

They are asked about what they would tell mothers of those Serbian soldiers who cruelly killed their sons and men. They answer from the pain in their voices, at first Nura: "I thank you that you grew up and raised children who killed my children!" And Refija is going on: "And I would ask them: How you would feel if my sons came and killed your children?” Theoretically it is possible to discuss reconciliation. In reality it turns out that even 20 years are not enough for forgiveness and reconciliation. Really, the present generation of our children should live with the burden of irreconcilability and no forgiveness? It is so hard to believe this, because these two feelings don't do the better life.

For the employee of the memorial Hasan Hasanovič it is not the story only about its creation, its objective and prospects of development. It is the story how he survived, having gone through the "Death March" down the road from Srebrenica to Tuzla, and his father and the twin brother marched until the end and now their remains lie at the cemetery of the memorial. Listening to Hassan, I constantly tried to imagine near him his twin brother, same beautiful, harmonous, with the noble and a little tired expression on his face. And every time the imagination drew a skinny young man without the face. And then this guy’s eyes, having suddenly come out from the fog of eternity, were pursuing me long during our travel. And Hassan's words were sounding long in my head: "It is impossible to expect forgiveness when the second party doesn't recognize those tragic events as genocide, despite of the existing decisions of international courts".

Is there any idea capable to justify the death of thousands of people, including children? How is the nation that realizes such idea supposed to live? Serbians have their own pain and truth. It can be felt in other memorial - the Memorial Room in the city of Bratunats that absolutely nearby from Srebrenica. Young and old, children and women, the victims of Bosnians are looking at us from the walls. The worker of the memorial Vladen has his own vision of this terrible war. In it there is no room for forgiveness for Bosnians and much place is allocated for the justification of actions of the army of the Republika Srpska that, in his opinion, conducted fair fight to remain as a part of the Balkan Empire - the former Socialist Federal Republic Yugoslavia. He is not the one to share this idea that is confirmed by numerous portraits of Putin we met in the territory of the Republika Srpska. Serbians also can't forgive Bosnians the events that happened five hundred years ago, when those who stayed in the Ottoman Empire started accepting Islam to avoid oppression from Turks. The historical memory is very long when it deals with religious issues.

For Vladen, as well as for most of the Bosnian Serbians, the general Ratko Mladić who was responsible for the seize of Srebrenica and massacre of more than eight thousand Bosnians in July, 1995 is a national hero, the fighter for freedom of the Republika Srpska, despite of that now he expects the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Listening to Vladen, looking at photos on the walls, remembering Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial I thought that the real reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was still a far-off prospect... And when next time I will arrive here, I’d prefer that the Bosnian Serbian Vladen from Bratunats told me about crimes of the army of the Republika Srpska in Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Hasan Hasanovič told about crimes of Bosnians in Bratunats. And then, perhaps, there will be a feeling that the process of reconciliation is a reality, but not a ghost against the conflict that seems to die away, but is on the point of inflaming at any time.

We were driving roads of Srebrenica, the villages surrounding it, and I, looking at the shelled and abandoned houses of once happy people, thought of what our life will be like for the next years if we don't manage to learn at last bitter lessons from the past of the countries that endured war… Will its ghosts in the form of the mass burials, destroyed homes and, what is main - the mutilated human souls will pursue us, too, tens of years upon the end of war? Lord forbid! We should not allow it.

The author’s special thanks to the interpreter Nadia Sadzhak and Olesya Liashuk for photos.

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