When the Bosnian War broke out in the early 1990s, Srebrenica was particularly badly hit. There was a really bad massacre where nearly 8,000 people were basically annihilated. I was keen to see how the area had moved on in the 23 years since it had happened and get a taste of what the locals felt about it all.
The Emmaus group in Srebrenica was specifically set up to support the locals who basically had nothing. A lot of people were traumatised after the war so the Emmaus group supports people, particularly the elderly and youth, to help them bond and feel like they have some future together.
During the week we did all sorts. They’ve got a farm out there tucked up on a very steep hill but thankfully we got a lift up there in a vehicle. We were helping with hay making, painting the perimeter fence and general bits around the farm. It was hard graft but it was good.
As well as the work we visited the commemorative cemetery that has got nearly 7,000 headstones in it at the moment. There are still bodies unaccounted for and mass graves being discovered so that work is ongoing.
We attended the commemoration event on the 11th July which takes place every year and it was a really moving experience. This was definitely the most poignant part of the week for me that will stick in my memory.
We also visited the museum in Srebrenica where the United Nations Dutch garrison were based. The place has been converted with displays, photographs and testimony from local residents, victims and people who had suffered during the Bosnian War. It really hit home what had happened there and how the area is still affected by the war to this day.
We did manage to catch some of the World Cup whilst we were there. We watched the England vs Croatia game which I have divided loyalties with because my father was Croatian. Gary was obviously staunchly for England and I was in both camps. The locals were also half-and-half too; some supporting Croatia and some cheering England on, but it was all in good spirits.
I would definitely do another Emmaus working trip as it was a great experience and good to see the positive work of another Emmaus community.