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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

Ne daj se, Bosna (Don’t give up)

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: August 11, 2010  

I attended the Srebrenica Genocide Commemorative Silent March and Ceremony in Toronto the weekend of July 10-11, having been invited by Emir Ramic of Toronto’s Bosniak community and President of the Institute for Research of Genocide Canada. Despite the march being successful, we got little attention in the Canadian media. This hurt the Bosniak community as much as Harper’s veto of the Srebrenica resolution.

Afterwards I attended the photo exhibit “Srebrenica: The Absence” at The Gladstone Hotel, featuring photographs of award-winning photojournalist Roger LeMoyne. As one woman wrote in the guestbook, it was “a beautiful reminder of beautiful men.” It was also a haunting reminder of those men - of their bones and remains, their coffins and graves. And it was a poignant tribute to their surviving womenfolk, who’ve devoted themselves to keeping alive the memory of their husbands and fathers, sons and brothers.

Sunday afternoon I was invited by my new friend Aldina Muslija and her family to join them for lunch at their home. I was warmly welcomed and ate wonderful Bosnian food, including cevapi and burek. Aldina, a recent university graduate, worked hard with her peers to make that weekend’s events successful.
Later on I headed for the commemorative ceremony at the Bosnian Islamic Centre in Etobicoke. More delicious Bosnian food awaited me, and I was honoured with a place at the head table. The ceremony included speeches given by parliamentarians who were present; the Honourable Brian Masse, the Honourable Borys Wrzesnewskyj, and the Honourable Rob Oliphant.

But the most gripping speech was given by Fadil Kulasic, a survivor of three different Serb-run detention centres, including the infamous Omarska concentration camp. Fadil briefly shared some of his stories. It’s the greatest act of courage and bravery that I’ve ever personally witnessed.

In his story Nedaj se, Bosna (Don’t Give Up, Bosnia), Fadil described how for three excruciatingly long days and nights he and his fellow prisoners heard the bloodcurdling screams of a man being tortured on the second floor, directly above the room where they were kept. They all knew who he was; they could recognize his voice. At one point, he bellowed out “Nedaj se, Bosna.”

Everything went silent. Then two shots rang out, permanently extinguishing that man’s voice. But this man’s courage and defiance in the face of soul-crushing terror gave the prisoners renewed hope and strength; it was desperately needed.

The underlying message of Fadil’s story for all present was to never give up on Bosnia, to never turn our backs on her, and to never forget the evil that took place there during the war.

Before leaving, a young woman gave me a heartfelt farewell, along with an armful of golden lilies used in that evening’s memorial to Srebrenica’s 8372 fallen men (the golden lily being an ancient symbol of Bosnia). After a life-changing weekend, I returned home with the lilies and a resolve to keep the memory of Bosnia alive.

Suzana Vukic, Columns, Hudson Gazete

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada