Will Time Heal All Wounds?

Trip Start Sep 09, 2013
Trip End Dec 16, 2013

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Flag of Croatia  , Dubrovnik-Neretva County,
Saturday, September 21, 2013

Anyone who followed world events throughout most of the '90s will recall the horrors of war, broadcast almost nightly, from the region of the former Yugoslavia. Bosnia, Kosovo, Srebrenica - these place names were seared into our memories as as acts of murder, treachery and rape were conducted for the purposes of 'ethnic cleansing.'

The people of Dubrovnik have not forgotten. In 1991, the city was virtually surrounded by Serb forces - the Old City itself was shelled in spite of it's status as a UNESCO World Heritage site - and the entire area was under siege for nine months, without power and without any consistent method of getting supplies. Our host, who has lived in Dubrovnik her whole life, tells of dead people lying in the streets. It is so hard to imagine now, as we walk though this beautiful, modern city lined with palm trees and restaurants overlooking glistening blue seas - that, not so long ago - it could have been so hellish.

There are several museums and memorials dedicated to recollections of the conflict - which is referred to here as the 'Homeland War,' or less diplomatically as the 'War of [Serbian] Aggression.' By far the most gripping exhibition is at War Photo Limited - which tells the story through photographs. The look of pure fear and despair and grief - up close - in the eyes of civilians and soldiers alike, is haunting. If it interests you, here is the link:


Much of the physical war damage in and around the Old City has been repaired - but you can make out where walls have been fixed and there are still shrapnel marks on many buildings. A few places are, even now, twenty two years later, not yet repaired.

We took a walking tour one evening in the Old City. Our tour guide was a twenty-something Croat who spoke very openly and frankly about the war. To her credit, she acknowledged Croatian complicity in the events that contributed both historically and later in Bosnia to the conflict in the entire region (more so than any of the local displays and museums that we had seen). I asked her about lingering resentments and any hope of future reconciliation between Serbs and Croats - especially between people in her generation.

"Serbs and Croats and Bosnians, we are the same people," she said, "we speak the same language. We can understand each other, but we don't like to admit it." She paused. "It is very fragile."

The OId City of Dubrovnik is very resilient. The walls have endured centuries of invasions, neglect, revelry, tourism and even modern weaponry. The physical wounds have healed - in time they have been patched up, repaired and rebuilt.

Will time heal the emotional wounds as well?
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