Social dynamics: fostering new perspectives in mutual understanding


My recent visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina have brought to light a specific concern that has captured my attention and is shared by locals who lived through war, former war refugees, foreign residents, and the Bosnian diaspora who either visit or relocate to the country. This issue seems to be a hindrance to the healing process of society. From my personal experiences, professional insights, and interactions with various institutions and individuals, I've noticed a significant internal divide among citizens regarding the perceived scale of trauma suffered, caused by war. Individuals from various backgrounds felt comfortable sharing their stories with me. This is something I deeply appreciate. For me, it enriches my understanding of the society as a wholeI feel a deep responsibility to address this issue and ensure that all these people are heard, for the benefit of everyone. 


I observed a common challenge faced by many individuals who feel the need to be careful when communicating with those who lived through war. They try to avoid causing harm or triggering painful memories out of immense respect for what these individuals have suffered. They find themselves constrained by the need to carefully weigh their words.


Let's be clear: we cannot quantify the weight and size of trauma and horror experienced by individuals who lived through war and those who did not. It's absolutely evident. The daily horror and terror experienced by those who suffered war are beyond description. For those forced to flee their homeland, the experience included racism, discrimination, and abandonment, both in foreign lands and in their own country when returning.


My personal journey, such as similar stories of many hundred thousand of other families, can be summarized as being born in Bosnia, becoming a war refugee in Germany at the age of four in 1992, being forced to leave Germany due to limited refugee status in 2000, moving to my native country and living in another city by the age of 13, then leaving Bosnia for the second time and integrating into Austria in 2007. Throughout my life, I have been dealing with migration and integration in foreign countries as well as in my homeland, navigating my own story while also listening to and witnessing the stories of others.


Since 2018  I`ve been active as an artist and cultural producer in my home country. I felt a profound connection. I have been serving as a guest artist and as a guest speaker, hosting workshops in arts and personal development, and developing contemporary dance over the past two years. For me, to contribute to my native country, it feels like I am reclaiming a piece of myself, it feels like a process of reconciliation, it feels like healing. 


During a recent conversation with a psychologist specializing in human rights, who is working with people who are temporary residents in  Bosnia and Herzegovina, we discussed the notion of considering people who lived through the war and war refugees as a unified group. I agree with this perspective, seeing it as essential for comprehensive healing to take place.


Many former war refugees, besides being unrooted, hold a deep desire for acceptance and belonging, while feeling abandoned in both their new countries of residence and their native land – a deeply disturbing situation that often goes unnoticed.


And then there are citizens from abroad who are trying to integrate into the country. Imagine what it means for someone to integrate into a post-conflict country. Integration itself is already challenging enough. How could citizens from abroad integrate more easily into the country?


On the other side, many individuals are tired of discussing the war topic, choosing instead to ignore the past and its effects on reality. Seeking an “invented lightness” while ignoring the past is often a coping mechanism caused by trauma.


Not to forget, there are also those who actively engage with the topic and strive to address its consequences in a liberal and objective way fostering healing among society.


How can a society heal if it doesn't have the opportunity to understand and empathize with its own people who have experienced different forms of trauma and suffering, all provoked from the same cause?  We're all striving to be understood, regardless of our backgrounds or experiences. Through listening to each other's stories, we can foster a transcendence beyond individual perspectives, contributing to both individual and societal healing. Considering the widespread occurence of war conflicts and displacement, this reconciliation approach can be applied universally to prevent additional division among the society. 


It's crucial to acknowledge and share experiences of people who suffered from war, to raise awareness both locally and international. 


As someone privileged to hear variouse, still untold stories from people who are hesitating to share, believing their narratives are insegnificant compared to others, and to perceive the situation from a broader perspective, I feel a deep responsibility to contribute to my country.


As I write all this, I find myself questioning my authority to speak on this topic. It is a very sensitive topic to talk about. Yet, considering my personal journey, experiences, and the diverse backgrounds of individuals who have shared their stories with me, I feel driven to share my insights. My aim is to foster a space for reflection, reconciliation, understanding, to offer new perspective, to share experiences, and to be engaged in projects dealing with this topic. By doing so, I hope to empower those who faced hardships.


To finish my blog, I would like to share a citation with you:

"Healing and reconciliation are not about ignoring or forgetting the past but about acknowledging it, understanding it, and then moving forward together." - Nelson Mandela


Written by Aldina Topcagic.