Saturday, November 10, 2018

Srebrenica (Massacre) Exhibition in Sarajevo

Have you heard of the Bosnian War and Genocide in the 1990's? For the young generations and for those living outside of Europe, perhaps you have not.

I believe this is the missing person wall. I did not take this picture though. I got this from the website of the Srebrenica Exhibition: Gallerija 11/07/1995. I stopped taking pictures when I entered the exhibition room

The exhibition is a documentary about the war and the genocide that happened in Bosnia & Hercegovina in the mid-1990's. There were, in fact, many genocide cases that happened in the country, however,  this exhibition is focused on the biggest genocide that took place in the east, the Srebrenica Massacre.

There is a missing person wall, short films, a detailed genocide map, audio stories, confronting portraits of survivors and the deceased and moving biographies of the victims. It's a heartbreaking and emotional place. It's not for the faint at heart to come here.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

The entrance to the exhibition.

Because the rain didn't stop, we had to resort to doing indoor activities. I have been wanting to visit the Srebrenica Exhibition, which is now a permanent exhibition in Sarajevo. I wanted to understand what happened here before. Of course, there's the internet and such to learn about these things these days, but it's different when you are in the country and have visited a  memorial place where you can read up in detail.

You can find the website here: Srebrenica Exhibition - Gallerij 11/07/1995

The About page on the website says about it all:

"Gallery 11/07/95 is the first memorial gallery in Bosnia and Herzegovina – an exhibition space aiming to preserve the memory of the Srebrenica tragedy and the 8372 persons who perished in the massacres. The permanent exhibition provides documentary scenes of what was left of Srebrenica in the wake of this genocide. Through a wide range of multimedia content – images, maps, audio and video materials, the Gallery offers documentary and artistic interpretation of the events that took place in this small town in Eastern Bosnia during the month of July 1995."

Outside the gallery on the street with the umbrella I bought at DM.

Luckily, the gallery exhibition is located just beside the cathedral where we attended Easter Sunday mass, on the same building of the cafe we had coffee and tea, but at the back.

The rain was on and off pouring really hard but we were quite happy that we do not have to walk that far to visit the exhibition. Bubbles did not know what to expect. I did though. She did not really know much about the Balkan War and the genocides that happened here so it was quite a confrontation to her. Not everyone reacts the same to seeing tragedy.

In the elevator going up to the exhibition, it says, "You are my witness."

My interest in the Bosnian/Balkan War started back in the Netherlands. Other than the web, the Dutchman was partly my source of information.

The Netherlands were on a UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia during the war. However, this mission wasn't really a success. Instead of the Dutch troops protecting the people of Srebrenica, they have inadvertently delivered them to the enemy, the Bosnian Serb military (Army of Republika Srpska) who killed more than 8,000 people in this town alone.

It wasn't that easy to blame the Dutch though because this was a complex political situation and entanglement of interests within the UN and Europe. The Dutch were acting on orders from the UN. While the Bosnian Serbs were edging into Bosnia, the Dutch and the UN were not on the same page. Obviously, because the Dutchbatters were on a peacekeeping mission, they did not have the right ammunition and artillery to battle against the tanks and hordes of enemy military. Air support came very late and when it did, it wasn't enough. It was just too late. The Dutchbatters were held hostage and the UN caved in and gave the people of Srebrenica to the Serbs. There is much more to the story of course but that is a bit of it in a nutshell.

There are many sides of the story as well. You've got the Dutch side, the UN side, the media's side, other versions, and you've got the local, the Bosnian side of the story as well.

Here is the wiki in English: Srebrenica Massacre
The wiki in Dutch (which is more a Dutch version of the story: Val van Srebrenica

A portrait of an old man/woman.

I wanted to know more the local side of the story and the only thing I can really sum up from the visit here is the feeling of being abandoned, the wretchedness, so much anguish, and indescribable fear. It is so difficult to describe, it will just tear your heart apart from reading and hearing their stories and watching the horrific pictures.

I have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) and Westerbork (Netherlands) Nazi concentration camps and countless war memorials, war cemeteries, and war exhibitions of the many battles in Europe but this one at Srebrenica Exhibition has somewhat shaken me a bit. I am not saying the other tragedies were less abominable and shocking - they all were - but because what happened in Bosnia was during my and our generation. Many of the murdered men were my age. It happened in 1995 when I was 25 years old. Just 7 years later I moved to the Netherlands to be with the Dutchman.

Back in those days, I was just preparing for my future while people here were begging for their lives. Life is not fair. It is for sure not fair to the people in Syria now and to those who are fighting against crime and poverty around the world.

Being born on earth is a game of pure lottery. You never know where you will be born, if you will be born during wartime, and if you will be born to rich, middle class or poor parents. We cannot decide that from birth. It is a freaking (can be cruel) lottery! I mean, I could not imagine if my parents were dirt poor, I do not think I am where I am now today.

I have only really realised this during my visit to the Philippines after a year of living in the Netherlands. 32 years of living in the Philippine Islands has desensitised me from seeing the reality that life wasn't a choice after all. It's what you are going to do about your life that is a choice. And that entitlement is rubbish and a disgrace.

The city of Sarajevo during the siege.

Of course, this exhibition gallery cannot epitomize everything that has happened in Srebrenica and all over Bosnia & Hercegovina. Each person missing and killed brings a story to the whole picture, to the whole event that again shocked the world and mankind. It is very sad, however, people have learned to move on, each time.

Tears were dried but the memories of the atrocities live on, to help us remember that this should not happen again. They said this about the Holocaust, and I am sure of past wars and genocides in history. We are all human. Humans are complex and they fail all the time. Helaas, the truth always hurts.

Travel Period: April 2017
Destination: Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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