Getting from Greece to Bosnia- The Journey of Destiny Part V:
When we arrive in Sarajevo, after 10 hours in this bus, winter’s twilight falls. At this point, I have read no history on the war. When the youth of this ravaged land were hiding from mortar, I was but 15. When I was struggling with cracking in my adolescent voice and devastated by young American depression– prompted by petty things– these young men were hiding their faces from the fires of racial and religious genocide. My eyes fall with fresh shock on the bullet-ridden buildings of this majestic capitol. How has life endured here? How could this be? The pressures of traveling soon sweep us along to simpler worries. I often wonder how long I could have stared at the shelled buildings if it hadn’t been for our need to find shelter.
We made our way to the Muslim section of town and get lost in awe of the minarets and the old streets. We find a hostel and drop our things off. The frozen winter’s night still has life, and we made our way through the bazaar. We return the next morning to shop for some keepsakes and make sure to find our way to the station. It was the 17th, our date of expected arrival. Livno, Bosnia, our destination, lies somewhere West over the mountains, which dominate the horizon. We are heading to a resource center for teachers, to live among this people for a handful of weeks. Our hosts expect us today. After another eight-hour ride through the snow-covered mountains, we make it! We miraculously arrive from Greece to Bosnia. It was stupid. And it was truly a journey laced with destiny, for I knew not then how the strife of this country would inspire my imagination when I will encounter racism, violence, poverty, and ecological ruin in my country years from now.
We pull into to the small town, and I immediately smell the forest of chimneys smoking in the early winter’s dusk. Our host sends us immediately to his neighbor’s house to help chop wood, the fuel of choice in this area of the mountains. The whole place smells to me like the camps of my childhood youth. I like it somehow. When we get next store, we met our new friend, a young man about our age who is busy chopping wood. The whole yard is piled high with split logs. He is an extraverted man, keen to tell us about when the first grenades hit. He shows us the bullet-ridden fence. Throughout his story and over our evening of chopping, this young man chants in his thick Slavic accent what appears to be his life’s song pulled straight from 1969,
“War, what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing!”
His voice gets seared in my imagination when I will remember those days of traveling, when the road was long ahead of us and there were a hundred lessons yet to be learned. But in this evening, the sun seems to hang still as our hands grow ripened on the helves of our axes. We swing them for hours in a millennium long ritual, preparing for winter in a land, which is trying to heal from a millennium of racism and violence. The ashes of war hang in the air of this town like the ashes kindling in the hearths of each home, in the mountains, on this night, where Christians and their guns changed everything.