Friday, 31 August 2012

Once Upon A Week - Sarajevo

With the school holidays coming to a close we have been doing a dutiful tour of visits to see family we rarely get to see. We have just returned from a week spent in Sarajevo with my husbands family. I have traveled a lot, from Cambodia, Indonesia, India and all that lies inbetween to almost all the countries that make up Europe but this is one place I find very hard to visit.
Perhaps its because we roadshow ourselves from one Aunt to another, one cousin to another with conversations translated and so much food being offered that you simply can't refuse a bite in case you offend, despite how your stomach feels so full you barely have room for lungs. Perhaps because its so hard to unwind and slow down with so much going on and having to ensure the kids are happy, cool and not over-exhausted. Or perhaps because it reminds me of my husbands battles, of his sadness of what has happened to his country, his family, the memories of his childhood obliterated by the scenes he saw before he came to London. Perhaps because its recent history haunts the town and faces in it and reminds me of the atrocities that were happening whilst I was happily listening to miss sarajevo by U2. Perhaps, because I cannot voice myself clearly with so much lost in translation, or the overbearing climate we have been met with on each visit or perhaps its all of that mixed in with visiting the mother-in-law.

When we arrived the summer temperatures had soared to 45 degrees in the capital so I couldn't take the girls into the city to show them the dichotomy of the capital, the parts I fell in love with when I first visited in 2004. The city's architecture reveals it history as though a picture painted by all those who have occupied it since 1461. Bosnia Herzegovina for most probably brings to mind the war that saw a 1,400 day siege upon the capital, the longest seize of a capital in modern day history. The city bares the scars of it still, as do its people. Though many of the family do not talk about what happened, the divide it caused is clear from people now scattered across the globe having being fortunate enough to escape, or their fate having cut their lives short by the war that saw an estimated 12,000 lives taken.
There are many newslinks and a video here,  here and here of what was happening at the time, or to understand more take a look at wikipedia here.

The siege of Sarajevo, as it came to be popularly known, was an episode of such notoriety in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that one must go back to World War II to find a parallel in European history. Not since then had a professional army conducted a campaign of unrelenting violence against the inhabitants of a European city so as to reduce them to a state of medieval deprivation in which they were in constant fear of death. In the period covered in this Indictment, there was nowhere safe for a Sarajevan, not at home, at school, in a hospital, from deliberate attack.
— Prosecution Opening Statement, ICTY vs Stanislav Galić, 2003[14]

A 'Sarajevo Rose'; filling the spots where mortar has landed

So, instead of a planned cruise around the city, visiting markets and showing off to the girls the beautiful city their father grew up in we instead headed out of the city to the cooler climes of the countryside to stay at Uncle Enver's newly built house. It is less of a house, but rather a huge ranch with big rooms and a whopping wrap around terrace with views over the rollings hills,  forests and fields where his horses roam free. Horses that he breeds, Arabian horses, Lipizzaner's, and others that I can't recall. Oona insisted on renaming them as she couldn't pronounce their names; so they became , weetabix, apple, vanilla, red riding hood and so on. In the cooler hours of the day, early morning and early evening we would walk to discover fruit tress, coming home with baskets of plums, we would visit the horses offering them apples to eat from our hands and enjoy the stillness, the silence of the country. I even managed to do some reading and couldn't remember when I last sat and listened to the stillness of a day. We enjoyed a feast with more than 40 members of the family coming together some, seeing eachother for the first time in nearly 20 years. The girls had a wild time roaming the land that belongs to the ranch and are now begging for horses of their own! But we have promised they can ride when we next visit and hopefully then, at a cooler time of the year I can show them the city where their father would ride his bike, where he would sit and eat ice-cream with friends and maybe one day when the girls are much older they will begin to understand why London became home for their father and see the layers to him that I see. Until then we'll eat plums and ride horses.

Coming home I discovered that we've been featured on a wonderful and inspiring blog here where I tell the story behind the photo. A picture with a story that is still being written. Reminding me not just of the words I wrote that mean so much but more my love of how people unite, joining together to bring inspiration and spark imagination. I wrote about the company Capturing Childhood here, and love the work they do. I have learnt so much through them and am continuing to learn everyday. I highly recommend you go along to their website, and while you're there take a look at the series 'the story behind the photo', you'll discover me there as well as lots more of beautiful stories.

...... and finally, Oona has now moved into a 'big' bed sleeping her last night in the cotbed she outgrew but was reluctant to leave. I had to snap a picture before we took it down. The girls have asked we keep it, store it away for when they have children....... or maybe one day I'll need again?!

I suppose in a lot of ways this week has showed me how we have to let the past be and move forward

This is part of our 'once upon a week' collection. We also have other stories and features including our 'Monday Makery', 'I Spy' , 'The Art of Living', and our weekly 'Wednesday Woo'.
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