News 08 Nov 13

Bosnian War Memories Filmed for Oral History Archive

From ex-officers and politicians to ordinary Bosnians, over 100 people have given video interviews for a new archive of memories of wartime suffering and imprisonment.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
The video archive on the memory project website.

The project entitled ‘Oral History in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Unveiling Personal Memories on War and Detention’, which is aimed at promoting reconciliation after the 1992-95 conflict, was launched in Sarajevo on Thursday.

“We have covered the entire country and interviewed members of all ethnic groups and national minorities,” said Svjetlana Celic of Bosnia’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, which worked with the universities of Sarajevo, Rotterdam and Twente in the Netherlands.

“We tried to get those people who really suffered through hard times. We have victims and former generals and politicians, and you will see they all have their own story,” Celic said.

The aim of the project was to “uncover the personal stories of the 1990s war”, explained the vice-rector of Sarajevo University, Ugo Vlaisavljevic.

“We have three ethnic historiographies, but even within each one, there are separate individual stories. Those individual truths are the story of our own history,” Vlaisavljevic said.

Nihad Sendic giving an interview for the archive.

One of the interviewees, Nihad Sendic from Bihac in the north of the country, said in his interview that he was in favour of always speaking about the war, because that was the only way that the truth can be found.

“I want us to speak all the time... truthfully... This is why I am so open. We all need this, to come together,” said Sendic.

A parallel oral history archive was also launched in Croatia last month, entitled ‘Croatian Memories’, containing personal recollections from some 450 people who suffered in conflicts from World War II onwards.

Interviews from both the projects can be watched online, and there are plans to create similar archives in Kosovo and Serbia.

Sasa Madacki from the Sarajevo University Centre for Human Rights said that the benefits of the project are not limited to the study of history.

“We are about giving a voice to the people, who have created history or lived through it… These personal stories can do much more in the classroom to teach about the war then any book or lecture can,” he said.

Peter van der Maas, from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said that the Croatian project had proved extremely successful.

“We have heard that it not only benefits society, bringing together narratives, but the individuals themselves, who benefit personally from telling their own story,” said van der Maas.

The project, which started in 2011, is financed by the Dutch foreign ministry. The Dutch ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Jurriaan Kraak explained that without public recognition of past crimes, the country cannot hope to move forward towards the European Union.

“The European family is a community of values, so all nations must face up to unpleasant truths, they must foster mutual understanding and hold themselves accountable for wrongdoings,” Kraak said.

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