Before traversing the gorgeous, fairytale Bosnian countryside, my imaginings of Bosnia consisted of the horrific images of burning buildings and massacres flickering across television screens in the early 90’s. Thus far we had seen little evidence of those tragedies, but as we drew closer to the city of Mostar the pristine mountains and clear rivers gave way to bullet-ridden churches, crumbling ruins of bombed homes, store fronts marred with scars from mortar rounds.
One three story home caught my eye. The bottom and top floors were completely gutted, shattered by artillery of some kind, but the middle floor was mostly intact and there was laundry billowing in the warm spring winds.
What horrors had these people lived through? Where do you go when your homes, offices and churches are being fired on? How do you start rebuilding when the war finally ends after four long years? What manner of person comes home to a bombed out house and immediately sets about making it homey again by stringing laundry, cooking dinner? I fuss when my power goes out or the hot water is gone, yet this person had an entire wall missing and used it as the ideal place to catch a breeze to dry their laundry.
I am grateful for my intact walls today.
We entered Mostar mid-afternoon, wending our way towards the Old Town when we turned a corner and saw the remains of a synagogue. The walls were riddled with pockmarks left by thousands of bullets. It is closed now, the windows bricked up, the courtyard overgrown with weeds. I wished I could see laundry billowing from a balcony.
Here and there were signs of hope, life, and renewal as Bosnians mended broken houses of worship, restored shattered homes, and raised new buildings where old ones could not be redeemed. It was peaceful, calm, but I felt anxious somehow, wondering if that same mending and restoration could heal the families and communities shattered by that devastating conflict. I hope so.
Next week I’ll take you to wonderful Old Town Mostar with the delightful self-appointed guide we found in a parking lot. 🙂