// 27.10.2021 - 09.01.2022 / Sala CUB2


Gervasio Sánchez

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina is, without a doubt, an essential part of my professional and personal life. Hardly a day goes by without me remembering that conflict. My dreams take me back to the endless shelling, the fear on the faces of those who lived there, even if April 2017 will mark 25 years since the war broke out.

A lesson I learnt there is that you cannot report on a war. No matter how fast your pen, how sharp your mind, how accurate your look at reality – you will never get the reader to grasp the truth of an armed conflict. It is impossible to imagine the horror if you have not experienced it.

More than 100,000 Bosnians were killed or went missing, thousands of minors included. 1,601 children died only in Sarajevo. More than 25,000 minors lost their father or mother across the whole country.

Those with a more upbeat outlook argue that the cosmopolitan spirit of the Bosnian capital lives on, whereas pessimists think it was gone in the helplessness of the post-war period.

But the outrage against the Europeans is almost unanimous: “They betrayed us during the war and deserted us after the peace agreement.”

I am not to blame, and yet I am caught up in a whirlwind of emotions that is hard to explain. I know who the main culprits were: those who ordered the killing and enforced disappearance of hundreds of thousands of human beings. But part of the blame also lies with the European political leaders of those years.

I know one of the main vices of our time is that of burying the past, cleaning up the reputation of great men and turning the world into a cesspool of empty statements. I know that we have given up, unable to face the truth, and that victims are ostracised. I know that hundreds of graves are still empty. I know what happens at the Potocari cemetery every 11 July when thousands of women, men and children gather to lay to rest the remains of newly identified Srebrenica victims. I know the bones of thousands of unidentified Bosnians are crying inside plastic bags, piled up in huge mortuary freezers in Tuzla. I know because I’ve seen it with my own eyes too many times. I know because I want to know. Because memory and conscience are everything I have left in the face of ignominy and lies. Both wounded, but alive.

Go back