Ivana Bilic and Anes Osmic

Guest blogger for Matt Field

Part of UK in Bosnia and Herzegovina

10th December 2018

The wounds of my generation and why we engage

Anes Osmic and Ivana Bilic, young activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, use theatre as a means of dialogue and believe that only through working together and communicating openly can one solve issues at the local level and build a common future. They cooperated on a play “Yellow Boots” performed at Sarajevo SARTR on 8 December and at Kamerni Teatar in East Sarajevo on 18 December. Ivana and Anes are working on a UN BiH project focused on sexual violence in conflict and the stigmatisation of survivors.  This project is financially supported by the UK Government.

We were born in the moments of dying and emerged in vanishing. Through our mothers’ milk we sucked out fear and hate. We spent formative years of our lives during the war, while all that was known and safe was falling down before the eyes of our parents. With a handful of us, they just needed to survive.

Some of us were fortunate enough to have been raised to become good people, first for ourselves, but also for others. Some were not that fortunate. Some have been raised to be good Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs only. Nevertheless, all of us share the same first memories from the school – the signboards Danger Mines and Mirko (a monthly youth magazine issued by SFOR and designed to appeal to the teenage audience – containing the word MIR or peace). We attended school so they could learn how to teach. They were always the best in pointing out differences. We even have different frameworks of our first school memories, though the schools we attended were just as good or bad for everyone. They did not teach us how to be happy and satisfied, therefore today we have to make up for that by ourselves. Today we are learning again. On our own. We were born during the war, but that war has never ended. In our heads. They are trying to convince us that we have nothing. That there is always that one thing that matters – tradition, ancestors, me and mine. And nowadays we do not see anything there except violence.

We woke up when we admitted to ourselves that what they taught us so far made no sense. This is not the world we want to live in. We don’t want to be destructive. We want to construct. New lives, new worlds, new good people. No doubt that there are other young people out there who think the same way.

We met them. We met Marija, Lejla, Đorđe, Salih and many other young people who want to make this a better place to live, who don’t care about ethnicity and related politics. To them being a good person is all that matters.  Human essence. We met in a place where it only makes sense to encounter – in the same hopes, desires, passion. Theatre, activism, change. We do not want to be silent. We do not want to be observers. We refuse to be victims and we want to get out of this story as winners, so we choose to wear again the boots that are chafing, which hurt, that are uncomfortable, but we hold our hands while marching and it’s easier. I know that, above all, there is a human being standing in front of me.

That’s why we are working on this play that brings us back to the beginning. We want to see the starting point more clearly so that we could move on further more easily. It’s important to speak frankly about the war, in a humane manner. So that we can say yes, we have all suffered. And what? Pain is the proof that we are alive, and suffering is the proof that we survived. We survived because we are strong. The things that are not processed will remain and it takes just a spark to flare them up again. The skin’s pathology can never be cured externally. No make-up, concealing or time can heal it. It has to be cured from the inside. Through love. We purify ourselves from the inside through dialogue, getting to know each other, listening, watching, following. We chose art as an excellent way for connecting, because art has emotions, it allows us to fit into shoes of those other people, for which we usually don’t have time because everyday life carries us away. We want this society to heal, and this is only possible when we hold out hands to ourselves and mend ourselves. Everybody is responsible for themselves. And we are all part of the wider network of people. For all those who choose the future, it lies in cooperation, conversation, forgiveness, and acceptance. And love.

Therefore, my generation, let’s not allow them to break us so that we have no more strength to love ourselves and life. Because life is incredible, despite everything. Let’s show that it does not matter if there is life after death but rather if there is life before death. For life should be more than just breathing.