GYC Village

blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff

A Story about a Mother and Three Little Ones

By Adis Hukanovic

Adis at the Children's Memorial in Sarajevo, with the Global Kids group from NYC. Jamila and her mother, front right, will host Adis for 3 nights during the GYC program.

Adis, explaining the evolution of the Babylution campaign in 2013, at the Children’s Memorial in Sarajevo, with the Global Kids group from NYC. Side Note: Jamila (front right) and her mother, will host Adis for 3 nights on Statan Island during the GYC program in NYC in October 2014.

The morning turned into a rhapsody of gun shots and explosions.

Glittering trail from shells occupied the sky,

Mother left alone.

During the day the sun burned her tears away.

She saw her husband few nights ago,

He came out of the woods where he was hiding from people who became Gods of life

‘Let the children have something to eat. I will take just one slice’

Slice of bread, her last present to him

She didn’t know

He will be lost forever,

His bones scattered somewhere now,

The location remains unknown.

She went to search for him.

Nobody heard the voice of this wife, left alone.

Bloodthirsty Gods of life slaughtered her father in law.

Her brothers and sisters went where she didn’t know,

Facing her fear all alone,

She prayed,

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

The silence of her sorrow torn her soul apart,

She screamed out of pain

She screamed into the world,

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

She tried to find comfort in her children.

Faking hope with a trembling voice,

She sang a goodnight song,

“You are not alone”

“You are not alone”

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

The Gods of life moved us to a hall,

Hunger came,

Cold was the night,

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

Early came the morning and we had to go,

Midday, the sun was burning

Thirsty were the little ones,

She asked for water,

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

Overcrowded was the iron box with wheels,

Outside day, inside darkness and heat

Gods of life shut the door,

Whimper, blunt sound of rusty iron wheels,

The iron box began to move.

Tears enlightened mothers’ eyes

Darkness all around,

She was afraid,

What will happen, she didn’t know.

Nobody heard the voice of mother, left alone.

Our departure the city unknown,

We arrived with others, but alone.

Father was not there, mother left alone.

Growing up with the pain of fear,

We knew mother will never leave us alone.


Ordinary men that become Gods of life

Killed then and kill today,

Oh men don’t you know,

War is waste of time,

Let people live free from missing someone,

Do not take fathers away.

Do not take mother away,

Do not take children away,

Do not violate childhood dreams,

Let them play, Let them play!

Do not create the future violence

In teaching them to hate,

Do not hate!

The background of the poem

“A story about a mother and three little ones” is a poem that describes an episode in the life of my family in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the year 1992. Covering few personal experiences from the war in Bosnia my attention is to raise awareness about one issue that should be addressed in future research and that we should be aware of. In recent years a wave of psychological research raised the question of intergenerational transmission of war trauma often called historical trauma. Although members of the second generation, or the offspring of survivors were not directly impacted by the trauma they are consider to have acquired the ‘scars without the wounds’. Regarding to scholars the second generation of survivors is experiencing traumatization through collective memory, storytelling and oral traditions of the population. Recent studies on populations from Palestinian, Russian, Cambodian, African American and American Indian have documented that offspring of parents affected by trauma also exhibited various symptoms (“historical trauma response”). These symptoms included an array of psychological problems such as denial, depersonalization, isolation, memory loss, nightmares, psychic numbing, hyper vigilance, substance abuse, and fixation on trauma, identification with death, survivor guilt and unresolved grief. Maladaptive behaviors and related social problems such as substance abuse, physical/sexual abuse, and suicide directly traumatize offspring and are indirectly transited through learned behavior perpetuating the intergenerational cycle of trauma. The second generation of war survivors in Bosnia is faced with a wall of silence while the parents do not like to speak about their experience, but from the other side they demand from their children to ‘know about the past”. This ‘I don’t want to tell you, but you should know” situation is based on the false perception that suppression of bad memories is better that confronting them, although many trauma researchers believe that it is the repression of memories and feelings that is at the heart of trauma suffering in both the short and long term. Therefore, we can assume that ‘silence’ will not protect our children from psychological distress and maladaptive behavior.  I write poems, write documentary movie scrips and I help others to express themselves, because I am afraid that my personal ‘scars’ will become  ‘wounds’ of my children, I am afraid and I confront my fear.

Coming to New York I wonder is there any awareness of the public about the traumas that came with the immigrants or refugees. Is the society aware about the effects of intergenerational transmission of trauma within the native american community? Are we aware about the wounds that carry children of war veterans from Vietnam, Afganistan, Irak, etc.    .

For the end :

If there are no visible scars that doesn’t mean that there are no wounds. We should find a way to speak out our  fears and share them with our family and community.


Adis is a scholar, activist and citizen journalist who recently received his Master’s degree in psychology from the University of Sarajevo. Adis and his fellow activists have successfully protested and lobbied to protect memorials within Sarajevo (such as the Roses of Sarajevo), and he has been very active in the Babylution protests of 2013 in Sarajevo and the White Arm Band campaign in Prijedor. In 2012, on behalf of YIHR-BH, Adis wrote and coordinated the project Future of Remembrance, funded by the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). The main ideas of that project were to educate youth from small and isolated communities around BiH about Transitional Justice and give them the opportunity to discuss the remembrance practices in BiH. Adis also served as Program Manager, interviewer and psychologist on a oral history testimonial project for the Center for Documentation established by the Women Association ‘IZVOR’ from Priejdor, in his home region (Krajina Region) with a focus on the city of Prijedor. In 2013, Adis served as the GYC Program Assistant on the American Youth Leadership Program in BiH through GYC’s partnership with Global Kids and the US State Department and is very excited to continue collaborations with GYC, especially cross-overs with GYC’s other countries (such as Rwanda).



One comment on “A Story about a Mother and Three Little Ones

  1. Jesse Hawkes
    October 3, 2014

    This is a beautiful, vulnerable and moving piece. I was struck by the phrase/wording you use, “God’s Of Life”, which reminds us that trying to destroy the other is delusional. We can’t be gods, just human beings.

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This entry was posted on October 3, 2014 by in #HumanRightsUSA Program Posts, Alumni in Action, Bosnia, Human Rights.

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