blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
By Aviva Silburt The air was cool on that somber afternoon, and I felt a tense energy in the crowd around me as we waited for the men to carry in the coffins. People had come from far a wide to mark the occasion. Some had walked for a while day, retracing the steps of those who had fled the town through the forest to the neighboring town. Others arrived on buses, in memory of the hundreds of Bosniaks that were loaded onto bus
es and shipped out of the area. The tiny town was once again flooded with people, the way it was 19 years ago on this very day. Seeing the way this ceremony was conducted was very symbolic for me. It was the men that bore the official weight of this burden, carrying in the small and fragile coffins one by one; the women had no role in his ceremony, and stood on the sidelines and grieved. I struggled to wrap my mind around the fact that those little green boxes, and the bone fragments they contained, were once real people. I was struck by this reality at the sight of one woman who crouched beside coffin number 64. I did not know who he was to her – her husband, brother or son – but as she crouched there, stroking the surface of the coffin, crying out to him and whispering words to his spirit, I was flooded with images of this man’s life. I imagined flashbacks of moments of laughter and tears that this woman shared with him; glimpses of his habits and mannerisms – the sound of his voice, his scent. I was also flooded by the reality of how this woman’s life must have been shaken by this loss, and by the traumatic events that took him away from her. In her cries, I saw the pain that she went through in not knowing where he was, or what happened to him. I saw the day that she received the phone call that his remains had been found. As I watched her stroking, rocking, crying out to this man, I gained an appreciation for the tormented and twisted kind of joy that she was experiencing as she reunited with his spirit once again and her desire to hold on to what she had left of him for as long as she could before saying goodbye once more and let his spirit move on. She was one of the last people to leave the area. I could see how she longed to remain by his side and prolong this moment with him just a little bit longer. I could see how real this moment was for her – I imagined how she could almost feel him with her again. I wept for her. And I wept for myself, because I realized that, while I can imagine all of these things, I can never know her reality; nor can I bear her burden for her. But in that moment, I truly appreciated the importance of providing space for all to grieve and help them to get closure.