I started to write a post explaining the significance of this bridge. It’s status as an architectural landmark and one of the greatest engineering feats of its time, how for hundreds of years it stood guard over the river Neretva, providing a route for traders and travellers to safely cross, and linking together the city that grew up on the opposing banks of the bridge.
I wanted to tell you all about the bridge’s destruction during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, How the town was crushed, both physically and psychologically. I thought I could help you understand the emptiness that was left in peoples hearts when the bridge crumbled into the river. I wanted to share with you some pictures I took, while visiting the town 15 years after the events, of buildings still empty shells from bombing and the remnants of battle still hovering in the air.
I hoped I could do justice in describing the silent antagonism and hopelessness that still pervades the town. A town where many children are still confined to their own ethnic groups, and have never set foot on the opposing banks, and thus are growing up in ignorance of the people living on the opposite side of the city they themselves have lived their entire lives. Its a place where adults still argue over who was right and who has a right. Where corruption is rife, and there is still an underlying distrust that defines all interpersonal interactions.The war that intentionally destroyed the bridge also intentionally destroyed much of the trust and friendship between neighbors. Bombing the bridge had no strategic value other than to psychologically devastate the community…It was an action designed to tear people apart.
But more importantly than that, I wanted to stress the hope that came to the locals and to the international community when the bridge was rebuilt. It shines a positive light for even the darkest, most troubled corner of Europe, and to all troubled regions the world over. It gives a sense of a new start and a better relationship between people. A chance for the Christian Croats and the Muslim Bosniaks to once again find middle ground between their opposing sides. No one pretends that all the wounds have healed–a large Christian cross erected on a hill over the Muslim side town stands in constant reminder that there is still a definite rivalry and tension. But–the bridge between them is still a step forward, a testament to the bright future within their grasp.
I realized I could do justice to none of the events or emotions that were felt in that town or throughout Bosnia and the Former Yugoslavia. I can empathize, but I can’t pretend to understand. So instead, I stitched this hope in tribute to the Stari Most in Mostar, Bosnia, which was shamefully destroyed on this day in 1993.
Mostar is the most beautiful town in one of the most stunningly beautiful countries I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring, and my experience there is forever engraved on my heart. The information above comes from what I gleaned from the OSCE offices I visited while in Bosnia, as well as talking to the local representatives of various other organizations. I know I’m ignorant of many of the troubles and struggles faced by people trying to rebuild a country after a devastating war, and I can’t imagine the wounds left in peoples hearts that may take generations to fully disappear. But I still hope to encourage the people there to continue fighting for peace, friendship, and love in their community. I hope they know they have friends worldwide rooting for their success. Bosnia, you are not forgotten.