A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
Welcome HomeThere are mountains around this city, mountains so beautiful, they are seen from every household.
After four years of living in New York, I wanted to see what had become of the place I still thought of as my home.
I measured 183 centimeters, eleven centimeters taller when I left the hospital. I was in Mostar again for the first time. Those who knew me as a child, failed to recognize this eighteen-year old veneer of a person I’d become.
I wanted to see my grandfather.
Where are cemeteries during war? White tombstones shaped as lilies, marked the years 1993, 1994. Formerly a part of Yugoslavia, this lily now acknowledged the flag of a new country. It is hard to find a natural destination such as a cemetery when an unnatural cause, such as a war, instigated death.
Children’s playgrounds and city parks became these war lilied destinies.
I remember Mostar in my dreams-- even blindfolded I can find every single crevice and street.
My lack of orientation in this old city, now renamed, caused me to question my identity and sense of belonging.
Rade Bitange # 16, the street where I had been shot, was now named Princeza Katherine # 16. The number sixteen was still clear, but the street name reflected its new owners.
I was now a foreigner in the place of my birth, the place where I had spent fourteen years of my life.
I decided to buy a map. The void left by people missing from this city reflected my frustration in finding the familiar.
What had happened? Where were they now? Would they ever return? These questions were asked of me by others as I asked others the same.
The only familiar elements now were the ruins of neighborhoods shelled by war. They were my fellow witnesses.
The people were misplaced but the physical objects remained to tell their story.
Yet, even these were being slowly erased, renamed, and made distant.
I photographed everything. This mission became my map, a tool I alone could arrange, collect and make. It gave me a sense of direction in a city completely lost.
“Facts are the only way to create and recreate history, “I said to myself.
Authors are tellers of stories. Once typed, these words and sentences are told, read and learned. They document our realities and our truths. Mostar, which once bore only one history, would now possess two.
My grandfather’s last words before he died were: “Give me the prints to the gate of The Stari Most Bridge and I will build it for free.” With the help of my map I found my grandfather’s grave.
Queens, New York“Will you go back?”
I have spent more than half of my life away from Mostar. What is the meaning of home? If it is defined as where one’s parents live, then my home is New York. My parents’ hard work, perseverance and sacrifice has allowed my family to start a new life, to survive as refugees in New York.
“When will you go back?”
I saw Dr. Rose only once seven years ago. How do you thank a person who saved your life?
“I can’t believe you are alive.” He examined me again, this time thankfully without the scissors.
“I have a hip fusion.” It was the last surgery the doctors had performed at the Joint Disease Hospital in New York City.
“Do you plan to have children?”
Kids, their honesty and purity of heart amaze me. Children are important to a nation that tries to continue its existence after a genocide.
The bullet did not injure my womb, as it should when a fourteen-year- old, a girl, is shot through her lower abdomen. I could still give birth.
“Not more than one.”
Even though I am not sure if I want a child of my own, I am happy to have the choice still available to me. It makes me believe the genocide did not win, in a war where many did and many did not.
“You will live a very long life.”
Fortune tellers are fascinating as well as funny, they try and tell us our future. I saw this nice woman, only once. I believe she meant well and told me what I wanted, or maybe needed, to hear.
“You will live a very long life,” she said.
“I am not going to go back. New York is my home now and I hope this stays as my own prediction for my future.”
I became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America in 2000. I gave up my Bosnian passport. Its blue cover marked with the lily, replaced now by yet another. Croatia and Serbia objected to the design of the lilied flag. The countries in power assigned a new emblem.
“Where are you now?”
New York is beautiful.
I am an American.
|Editor's note: The Bosnian War followed the breakup of the Republic of Yugoslavia. Mainly a territorial conflict, the war, which lasted three years, from 1992-1995, was fought between various religious and ethnic factions. Some calculations place casualty figures in the hundreds of thousands. For more go here.|