Monday, January 31, 2011


As much as I and my wife have loved the cultural experience in Bosnia nothing prepared us for how wonderful an experience it would be for our two year old son.
We are always careful about our sons interaction with other children, how he shares with others, is he polite etc. Often when dealing with kids in America, kids push, don't share, throw things at strangers etc. Parents in this country even when present are often absent and unaware, tapping away at their PDA while their brats are being mean to little children on the playground (an actual experience of ours).
Bosnia has a relationship based culture, unlike our own rule of law based culture. This is both good and bad. When you need to get something done in Bosnia it is more about who you know than is it right or is it fair. The upside of this relationship based culture is the behavior of ones child is a direct reflection upon the parents and family. If your child is unruly or rude it is YOU, the parents fault. Children often live at home until married, having children live at home until 30 is not uncommon, neither is a new family staying at home until they establish themselves. Instead of just pushing your kids out the door at 18 or when they finish college.There is an obvious upside to this, juvenile crime is almost unheard of in Bosnia. In fact there was no laws on the books to imprison children for crimes until recently after a high profile murder case in Bosnia involving a child, the first of it's kind in the country. It was such a shocking situation it brought people out in the streets to protest the breakdown of the society since the war and the traditional families.
Our personal experience with family and children in Bosnia was excellent and even in Serbia we had a situation were they treated Dejan (our son) with such kindness that it brought tears to my wife's eyes. In Bosnia outside our hotel in Hrsano the neighborhood kids saw Dejan wearing a Miralem Pjanic jersey (famous member of the BiH soccer team) the kids even though much older came over to him and involved them in their soccer game cheering him with chants of "Pjanic! Pjanic! Yeah!" Dejan being so young didn't fully grasp it but he loved it and so did we. From then on all the kids in the neighborhood greeted Dejan with chants of "Pjanic" every time they saw him.
On a night trip for dinner to the beautiful restaurant Park Princeva there was a local band playing traditional Bosnian music. Dejan loving music spent most of the night dancing with the band and a local group of teenagers who belonged to a sporting organization. They danced with him, cheered him and when they left took pictures with him and gave him the traditional Bosnian kiss on each cheek or a friendly pat or kiss on the head.
At the Historical museum of Bosnia there is a fountain in the center courtyard that Dejan was walking along, a older girl came along and tried to casually block his path. Dejan navigated his was around her skillfully and the next time around she adjusted her position to better block his path (again in a very casual way as if  her blocking him was unintentional) again Dejan made he way around her again. This scene between the two repeated for almost 10 minutes with us and the other parents laughing and taking pictures and videos.  They both played so well together and were adorable in doing so. In America another person video taping your child would usually result in a call to the local police, in Bosnia it was a reason to cheer and to celebrate.
At the Sarajevo historical museum they had a display about called Sarajevo Survival tools, Dejan was in a stroller and no elevator existed so my wife decided to wait in the at the entrance while a friend and I went thru the place. The people at the admission booth offered to watch Dejan so Kristy could go through we declined the offer, but we thought and said to each other...
Only in Bosnia, only with the ones we love.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


"Build the Stari Most, not the Berlin Wall" has become not only a slogan in our house, but a saying that we live by. Some people wear WWJD or Livestrong bracelets to show a belonging to a certain mindset or social group.  In much the same way, for my family, building bridges instead of walls has become our slogan.
Being a child born in the 1970's, the cold war defined everything that I believed in and lived for or against. The Soviet Union was the "Evil Empire" some sort of Darth Vader led nation of God-hating human mutations that wanted to destroy the American way of life, mom and apple pie. No symbol better represented this fear than the Berlin Wall, keeping the evil hordes at bay at the same time enslaving the East European masses (as if these things were mutually exclusive in our minds).
Just as the fall of the wall was a defining moment in my life, the destruction of the Stari Most was one of the saddest moments that I can remember. Bridges are built to bring people together and no single bridge defined this better than the Stari Most. Built by Mimar Hayruddin in the 1500's at the behest of Sulijman the magnificent, this one of a kind bridge brought people together for centuries. It survived WWII and the Serbian takeover of Mostar in 1992, but it could not survive the break in the Muslim/Croat alliance and fell on November 9, 1993.
Just as walls have symbolic and practical purpose, so do bridges. Karadzic wanted to erect a new Berlin Wall in Sarajevo, by dividing the city between Serbs and Muslims.  But the VRS didn't have the stomach to take Sarajevo by force in 1992.
My personal triumph in witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall along with the fear of the end of humanity by nuclear holocaust was soon replaced by a new fear that a new divide was happening between the Christian west and the Muslim east. The truth however, that these fears played upon by those who benefit from irrational fear and hatreds. The divide in Bosnia had more to do with the have vs. the have nots and facism vs. pluralism. The sad truth of a divided Bosnia either on a bridge or the Federation vs. Republic Srpska is the victory of fascism and fear over hope, humanity and unity. A replay of the cold war, only this time the Soviet Union and irrational fear has triumphed.
Yes the world and Bosnia has been able to raise the Old Bridge from the depths of the Neretva river, but the truth is the divide created by the wall built around the truth of what happened in Bosnia in the 1990's lives today. Exploited for political gains, people on both sides of the borders both physical and psychological are used to keep the country divided in a similar way as the physical divide of the Berlin Wall which existed for over 40 years. Lets hope the divide in Bosnia doesn't take as long to fall and always remember to build bridges (the Stari Most) rather than walls (the Berlin wall) not only with the ones you love, but also with the ones whom you disagree.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Welcome to my new Bosnia Blog! I have been an ardent supporter of a united Bosnia for almost twenty years and have been involved with many projects relating to the former Yugoslavia. Much of the work I have done relates to the wars that consumed Yugoslavia and Bosnia.
 What I found through my experiences is that Bosnia has a rich cultural tradition and a heritage of openness and kindness towards strangers rarely seen in the western world. As much as Bosnia can learn from us, we can learn from her. Being on the fault lines of cultural and religious empires has caused Bosnia much pain through it's history. However, these same experiences has given it's people a lust for life and a depth of experience few people get the chance to enjoy. Having a Bosnian friend is having a true friend for life.
This Blog will not only about the war in Bosnia, but the culture, people, natural beauty, political and social challenges facing this country in transition today.
I hope to give people a little bit of my experiences and insight into a small country of big people.
This Blog will be a dedication to the people who fought for and supported Bosnia from it's beginning to this day and most of all, the people I have met and shared so much with over the years.