I’m taking a break from my vacation posts to fill everyone in on some serious happenings in my neck of the woods. From what I understand from my compadres at home, Bosnia is not leading the six o’clock news each night. Shocker. You see, Bosnia is sort of the red headed stepchild of Europe. So much so that for some time, even many Bosnians have seen themselves that way. Call it a self fulfilling prophecy. And as with all such prophecies, people eventually roll over and become that forever, or they rise up and demand more. I think we are on the cusp of the Bosnian people making that crucial decision.
I am by no means a scholar of the Balkans, the former Yugoslavia or even the Siege. What I am a scholar of is the people around me. I love to hear their stories and know their hearts. That is why Bosnia has become so personal to me. And that is why when buildings started burning, I got very concerned. Probably not in the way you might expect. I have never lived in fear of my life or the lives of my children. I have lived a charmed life and am very aware of it. The majority of the world cannot say the same. I also serve a powerful and awesome God. I trust Him. Full stop. So, I know that as buildings start falling, I have an exit plan. But not all the people I have come to like, love, respect, admire and cherish do. So burning buildings in my backyard get my attention.
Depending on which articles you read, Bosnia has an unemployment rate of anywhere between 25% and 50%. For the record, it’s much closer to 50%. And that doesn’t include the “underemployed.” You know, the pharmacist who cleans houses or the engineer who drives a taxi. So, people are hungry- literally and figuratively. This is also the single most overgoverned country in the world, that still uses a peace treaty from twenty years ago like it’s a permanent constitution. And said government is also one of the most corrupt in Europe, if not the world.
Not too far from Sarajevo, is a town called Tuzla. It is the industrial heart of Bosnia, at one time boasting many factories. At the beginning of the month, another one of those factories was privatized and closed down, leaving hundreds of workers now unemployed. They’d finally had enough, and government buildings were stormed and set on fire. The unrest didn’t stay confined to Tuzla, but bled into Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka. In the blink of an eye, my city was on fire. Traffic getting in and out of the city center was abysmal. Schools closed early, and we were all told to stay home. When the smoke cleared, this is what we saw. (photo credits to my lovely husband who went down the next morning to scope out the damage)
Strangely, this was the last of the burning in Sarajevo so far. I say strange because usually protests of this nature begin peacefully and grow into violence. Thus far, this has been the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, there have been protests almost everyday since these pictures were taken. But they have been peaceful as this group is getting organized and determining what they are actually fighting for. It is my hope that they do organize and demand more. That they demand their government serve the people of Bosnia, regardless of what “ethnicity” the leaders want them to attach themselves to. That they demand a safe country, with jobs, stability and a future. And more than anything, I hope this momentum continues and the everyday Bosnians that I have come to like, love, respect, admire and cherish will create a new prophecy for themselves. One that is prosperous and honorable. One that they can be proud of, free of fear and corruption. Peace, prosperity and love.