We Mourn All Victims
One of the harbingers of spring in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina are commemorations. Sometimes in April, to borrow the title of a film about the Rwandan genocide, the cycle of memory begins, with inexorable punctuality and a long-established schedule… This seasonal cycle of memory is (ab)used depending on current needs and political circumstances, but in that calendar of pain the 16th of April remains, above all, a lasting reminder of the senselessness of war(s). On this date, 25 years ago, crimes were committed against the population of Ahmići and that of Trusina.
Ahmići and Trusina had nothing to connect them before 16 April 1993: One is a village in Bosnia, the other in Herzegovina, one is situated in a valley, the other in the hills at the foot of Mount Igman, and it would be safe to assume that the people of Trusina had never heard of Ahmići, just as the people of Ahmići had never heard of Trusina. On that fateful day of 16 April 1993, members of the Army of BiH committed an atrocity against the (Croat) villagers of Trusina, while members of HVO committed an atrocity against the (Bosniak) villagers of Ahmići, thereby connecting these two places with an enduring pain.
On the 25th anniversary of the killings in Trusina, the commemoration to honour the victims was attended by veterans from the region, veterans of the Army of BiH, HVO, HV, VRS, JNA and VJ. We had been invited by the president of the local victims’ association to pay our respects to the victims and, by jointly attending the commemoration, to highlight that empathy for victims is not limited by ethnicity.
We came, as war veterans and peace activists, to honour all the victims and convey the message that the horrific violence of war should never be allowed to happen again, said Edin Ramulić, a peace activist and Army of BiH veteran from Prijedor.
That difficulties, obstacles and risks involved in dealing with a painful past are often just excuses for inaction and not something unbridgeable was demonstrated by the president of the victims’ association from Trusina, Dragica Tomić. Aware of possible pressures and disapprovals, without trying to hide them from us, she invited us to the commemoration and was our host throughout our visit to Trusina, making us feel welcome.
In the shade of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, thanking us for our visit, Dragica said:
This is something we need to set an example that others will follow on the path to peace, forgiveness, compassion for all victims. This relationship towards all victims is an important step towards a future in which, I believe, no one wants to see the 1990s repeated.
In the pervasive reduction of commemorations in the public spheres of the region, remembering own victims is given primacy, with repeated minimisation, denial and tacit justification of the victimisation of others. The arrival of a group of war veterans from once warring armies can be a poignant intervention into the very centre of such narratives. Thus, in Trusina, as part of the Holy Mass service, Archbishop Pero Sudar spoke inspiringly against violence, adding:
We mourn all victims, today from this place we also remember the victims in Ahmići, they are as close to us as these victims here.
It is also significant that the victims from Trusina were spoken about in Ahmići. The question of why there were no Bosniak politicians in Trusina and no Croat politicians in Ahmići, which came up at the final meeting of the group of veterans that attended the commemoration in Trusina, shows that some things are changing, that something that used to be considered perfectly normal (for everyone to attend only commemorations of their own group) is now recognised by society as something that bothers us and is not entirely normal.
The media were particularly interested in our attendance at the commemoration in Trusina. As before, this is a twofold signal: There is a need in society for a different kind of remembering that is not exclusive, that does not incite hatred in us and around us; on the other hand, the fact that this action by war veterans is a rare example of such remembering of the past shows how far we still have to go in terms of peacebuilding.
Apart from victims, who are often neglected or gravely misused, the presence of war veterans is important for the entire local community, including those of different ethnicity from the victims. The veterans who visited the museum in Jablanica saw this for themselves when they talked with the curator about the reason for their visit to Jablanica and he was stunned to learn that veterans of the Army of BiH, HVO, HV, VRS, JNA and VJ all came to attend the commemoration together.
For CNA and the war veterans, the commemoration in Trusina was important also because it is the southernmost point in Herzegovina where we have managed to establish cooperation, even though some may say that Konjic is neither Herzegovina nor Bosnia but rather the and between Bosnia and Herzegovina. Still, we don’t believe the tough stone of Herzegovina is all that tough.
The photo gallery from the commemoration in Trusina may be viewed HERE.
Some of the media reports are available via the following links: