Opening of the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Army of BiH

Brčko 18.5.2012

We, in CNA, received an invitation to attend the opening of the monument to the fallen soldiers of the Army of BiH, in Brčko. Only seven days before a monument to fallen soldiers of 108th HVO Brčko infantry brigade (Croat Defense Council) was officially opened.
For a long time in this city, which is an independent district within BiH, there is a monument to fallen VRS (Army of the Republic Srpska) soldiers. All of the three monuments are located in the city center very close to each other.

There were four of us: Adnan, Nedžad, Amer and me. We decided to follow  the received invitation and informed our friend Avdija from veterans’ organization, who was in the organizing committee for the opening ceremony, that we will attend and lay flowers ourselves. We tried to organize the arrival of two of our partners from the veterans’ association of VRS, but it did not work out this time, unfortunately. The mere possibility of the presence of representatives of the Serbian fighters, which would be rather unusual, requested consultations among the organizers, but the announced possibility has yet been accepted. Nevertheless, it is a large public event with representatives of authorities, lots of people, the media … “The situation could be discomforting” Avdija warned us.
Discomfort … I thought:”Of course, that appears to be our ultimate field of work”, we tend to overcome discomfort in order to be who we are and to become what we want to be.

I took the invitation as an honor and an expression of trust towards us.  We bought flowers in the afternoon and agreed that Adnan and me would lay down the wreath in the name of the CNA. We split up for a couple of hours, waiting for an evening event in front of the Hotel Posavina in the pedestrian zone.
Adnan was rather concerned about the arrival of people from the association of VRS (Army of Republika Srpska). All of us were a bit confused after Avdija’s instruction that “when the moderator calls our name, we just had to do the same as those before us.” I asked Adnan why he was worried if he was not the one to come from Belgrade. We laughed.

Sure, I was concerned also, wondering whether someone might protest to hear the word “Belgrade”. I repeat to myself, “I know why I am willing to show respect  to each war casualty, including soldiers, of course.” The death of each of them is a tragedy, as well as the circumstances in which some people forgot that we are all humans.

We arrived at the square where the monument is erected, about half an hour early, and found Mirko and Ivo from HVO (Croat Defense Council) association who have already been prepared on behalf of their organization to lay a wreath. I am glad to see that that they came. And then, a man on the crutches, young, skinny and pale with a big smile singled out from the crowd: Admir, from the veterans’ association, a member of both SDA and a representative of the local assembly. Admir was almost cut in half by a machine gun. He barely survived. We met each other in the ex-combatants meeting, former enemies, that we organise. He struggles to walk with crutches, but he is moving, “he doesn’t  give up”,. He hugged me, and I got a scare not to drop the wreath, or knock him down, accidentally. I am glad that we met then, on that place. Admir knows where I come from and what my name is and what it means alltogether. I asked him how he felt and he replied “good, until there is medicine”. He told me of an encounter with his doctor who asked him how he hold out, if he, the doctor himself who wasn’t wounded in war still feels the pain allover the body. And he responded: “Doc, even my body hair hurts, everything hurts, please prescribe me some more medication”.

“Promise me that later we will drink coffee together with others from CNA. We could sit here, in the “Posavina”. I promised.

I saw Avdija giving a statement to the TV. We waited him to finish, and as soon as he turned round he approached Adnan, who was near, and then I went to him. He cordially shook my outstretched hand and said, “You are not my highest level guests to come here today, but you are my dearest guests.” Such a warm welcome obliges.

We have stood and stood while the speakers approached the microphones, followed by an artistic program. The night was falling, it was fresh. The photographer irritated all of us by his frequent flashing and too jolly mood. “As if it was a wedding” Amer mumbled. A sour smile. I thought: “How do all these wounded people as Admir manage to stand still, this is getting very long?”

And then it finished. The announcer started to read the names of the families of fallen and missing and then veterans’ associations who laid the wreaths one after the other. The big crowd clogged immediately the access to the monument. Adnan and I looked at each other, worried that we will not be able to get through the crowd when they read out our name. We went around the monument and stood next to soldiers who were lined up in honor there. Gathered citizens applauded at each delegation name to be read. At the announcement of the HVO delegation the applause got stronger, a special honor, a special thanks. Then, it was read out: “A Center …” A speaker stuttered and then pronounced the whole: “The Center for Nonviolent Action Sarajevo-Belgrade”. We are walking. Applause. I hear no protest. Glaring spotlights, cameras ahead of us, as if time had stopped, I am breathing deeply. We lay the wreath, stand still, bow, walk down.
On the third step, Avdija and his colleague from the Association of Veterans, outstreaching their hands again, thanking us, explaining that the dinner party on which we are invited is to follow. We descended from the monument, and saw Admir in the bottom of the track: “Let’s go for a coffee”. Nedžad and Amer hugged me. I was excited.
“Let’s go for a coffee.”

 

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