Hemon on Srebenica

Aleksandar Hemon contributes a wonderful piece to the WSJ about the massacre at Srebenica ten years ago and the aftermath of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims. I hesitate to excerpt any part of it–it’s such a thoughtful, beautifully written piece that I think it should be read in its entirety–but here’s the beginning:

A couple years ago, at a Bosnian event in Chicago, someone pointed out to me a mother from Srebrenica. She was on her way to Washington to talk about the massacre to members of Congress. She had lost, the person told me, about a hundred male members of her immediate and extended family. She was surrounded by other Bosnians, talking and listening to them, but she seemed to exist in a different realm, her serene, sad face marked by an experience most of us could not begin to understand. I did not dare approach her, for I had spent the war safe in Chicago. What could I have said to her? What can be said? Please accept my condolences? Never again? Had I found myself face to face with her, I would have probably stood silent, for the enormity of her loss is beyond my imagination, therefore beyond the reach of my language. I would have probably been embarrassed by the triteness of what I perceived as my “problems” (taxes, an ankle injury, marital discord, etc.). I would have also been ashamed of my human, individual helplessness in July 1995, and thereafter, and always. I regret I had no courage to hug her, but even if I did I would have been humbled by the physicality of my body, both of us reminded at that moment that her men had perished, and I was arbitrarily alive.

Hemon is the author, most recently, of Nowhere Man.

Thanks to Sean M. for the link.


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