Saturday, November 2, 2013

Being Connected

    When you read the news, sometimes you feel a little disconnected. Something happening in a country on the other side of the world that doesn't truly affect you, so you feel a bit sad for the people that are experiencing it, but otherwise you feel generally okay. Your city and country are doing quite well compared to others, no wars being fought within the borders, no immense and noticeable damage done. However, when you are connected to another country, the stories become more real and more apparent. You feel for those countries, even if you aren't in them. And that's something Exchange has done to me.

    Every time Bosnia and surrounding countries are brought up, I instantly get excited. However today was a different story.
    This evening, while I was enjoying a basketball game, my mom texted me the link to an article about the Bosnian War. Thinking it would be something a bit fascinating, I opened it, not ready for what was to be read.
     "Hundred of bodies found in Bosnia mass grave" it read at the top in big, bold, black lettering. My heart sank at the words. My mind flashed back to going to Srebrenica where thousands of graves were spread out, thousands of people murdered and dumped into a ditch. We watched videos of families after they figured out what happened to their fathers and sons and husbands. We read biographies of bodies they identified. None of us left that building feeling happy. There was a hole in our hearts and we were living so close to the place it happened. We all knew families that had been affected by the war.
    All of us were connected, which is why, as I read the article, I fell into a deeper slump.
    "231 bodies found."
    "Body parts of another 112 dug up."
    "The number increases by the day or even the hour."
    "Personal items found to help identify them."
    "Grave nearly 33 feet deep."
    "Mass grave under garbage disposal site."
    I kept reading, no matter how much it hurt. These bodies found were people. They had families and friends and here, nearly twenty years after the war, they are finally going to discover what happened to them and those wounds are going to be ripped open once again.

     All this hurts so much more than I expected it to hurt. I had been there. I lived there. Both history and current events become so much more real when they have faces and there are so many faces and stories I relate to those found bodies.
    I told one of my friend's this when I heard the news. She was sad, of course, as anyone is when they hear tragic stories of war, but she didn't understand the pain I was feeling as my heart reached out to those families who are going to discover what happened to their loved ones. My friends don't understand that  I stood in the empty tire factory where they told the villagers to come and they would be safe. But they used it as a way to get everyone together in one place. They separated the men and women and then took the men away and shot them all, even the boys. I stood in the place they were buried, looking out over a thousand white crosses. I saw the empty shells of houses that were bombed. I lived with a family who had to abandon their home and live in a refugee center. Their children are still bitter and angry today. That is why news like this is sad to me. They don't understand that I had been there, seen that, and felt things I never thought I would feel. Never before had I been connected to such tragic pasts and there I was standing in the midst of a genocide. It doesn't matter that it was almost two decades ago. I was connected now and it makes this all so real and painful.

My prayers go out to the families that will have to face the news in due course. I never thought exchange would come with such a burden so long after it's been over. I didn't know that everything that happened in that country was almost as if it was happening to me as well. Nobody told me how 

exchange could effect me like it is now.

A fraction of the names of people found in Srebrenica after the mass genocide.
Anyway, I hope this post gives a bit of food for thought to all who read it. Thanks to my mom for letting me use some of her wording explaining how I feel better than I ever could.

Until Bosnia pops up in the news again (hopefully for the good - wait! Bosnia made it to the World Cup! Yay!),