Gorazde and Foca

I wanted to visit these two towns south east of Sarajevo after reading Lynne Jones’s Then the Shooting Started. Gorazde was under siege for most of the war. Foca saw some of the worst ethnic cleansing and atrocities. Gorazde is in the part of the country known as the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Foca is in Republika Srpska or the Bosnian Serb Republic. I  wanted to speak to young people in both places to see how those who grew up with the war understand it now, and how they think about the war’s end and its legacy. I wasn’t disappointed. Spent about half the day in each place (they are just 20 or 30 minutes apart by road) and heard quite a range of experience, emotion and opinion. Foca is a more tense and troubled place still and it was harder to find people willing to speak there. Here are a few photos:

Merima and Belma, Gorazde

Muslic and Muslic, Gorazde

Novak and Zeljko, Foca


 Mirjana and Andrej, Foca

I learned a lot from these teenagers and 20-somethings today. You’ll hear from them in my radio pieces at some point.

The journey out and back from Sarajevo was beautiful. You’re in wilderness in no time after leaving the city and the road winds through steep gorges and into dark mountain tunnels and above swirling green rivers. Hoped to see bears and wolves but had to settle for cattle and plough horses. There were farm yards with wisteria in full bloom and at one point a valley full of silvery-blossomed trees I couldn’t identify and my translator only knew the Bosnian word for.  Note to self: learn more fauna and flora before getting much older.

Tomorrow: Civil courage and Sevdah


9 responses to “Gorazde and Foca

  1. The town of Gorazde (note the correct spelling; the ‘z’ is pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘measure’) was one of those forgotten stories of the war. If you haven’t yet, you should read Joe Sacco’s graphic novel “Safe Area Gorazde.” It’s in a lovely natural setting, but now has a sort of end-of-the-road feel, a stranded bit of Federation territory on the Drina, surrounded by the RS. I’ll be interested to hear what the local young people were saying about life there and their visions of the future.

  2. Hi Andras, thanks so much for taking the time to find the blog and keep tabs on my trip. I hope you can see your influence! I carry the scrap of paper with the proper pronounciation of the “c’s” and “z’s” and “s’s” wherever I go. I have not yet read Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde but it is certainly on my list. “End of the road” feel is just about right for Gorazde, especially since I spent a lot of my time there at the Sports Hall which really has an end of the road feel, right by a cafe and a school. As you predicted it’s all a complicated mixture–of what it’s hard to say–progress and stuckness, time passing but deeds that can’t be forgotten. I see less reconciliation here than in Rwanda. But that may not be fair since the kind of reporting I do is far from scientific. But the contrast between a place where reconciliation is policy versus here where policy actually entrenches division is quite striking.

  3. Ah…I see now the correct spelling…my eye does something strange with the zd because even as I’m looking at it and seeing your correction I am repeating the mistake. I will fix!!!

  4. I have been following your blog for a few weeks now — just want to echo the recommendation of “Safe Area Gorazde” — it is absolutely compelling.

  5. Thanks very much; I clearly need to get my hands on a copy!

  6. Hi
    regards from Sudamerica
    i chilean attorney and i readed and studied a lot about Eastean europe and the tragic Balkans story
    but i have hope in the future of this region and i want visit the area soon.
    My final write job in the university is a about Bosnia war, so, i want see with my own eyes the places and cities that only know ijn books and internet.

  7. it is hard to understand how those people endure those sorrows. when i have been in bosnia, i cried all the time. after two months, i have never been the same again. I never expect them to be a normal ever. but i wish and pray them to be better better and beautiful life. because bosnians are very strong and good people. because of the shock and ashame, they dont want to speak. but nowadays they start to reveal it in master thesis, doctoral studies even in the court. they love Turks too, like we do them very much!

  8. Hello! I just wanted to say that the guys from foca ” Novak and Zeljko” are my friends 🙂 I would be very glad if you could somehow send me the radio pieces where i can hear them speak?

  9. Hi,

    I just want to thank you for this blogg. I was born in Gorazde and lived there for 22 years. Just moved to united states about 2 yrs ago. Its really nice to se those photos of yung people over there /by the way Mirza Muslic, the guy on the left went to high school with me/.
    I was there during the war time, only thig I can say Thanks God that we are alive, or some of us. Here in states people can’t believe that we went thru all of that and we are still normal.. Thats something in our nature, what doesnt kill us make us stronger! We are stronger now, we have enough love in our hearts to forgive! But we should not forget!
    Every one of us moved on, we are going to school, having a kids, building our careers, families.. Life is going on…

    Thank you again,


    p.s would love to hear your radio pieces if possible!

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