South Salem resident to participate in Peace March

Tracy with daughter Cecily IMG_0526/

Twenty years ago, Bosnians fled from Srebrenica during the course of the Bosnian genocide. This week Tracy Craighead, a South Salem resident, will travel more than 4,000 miles to participate in the Bosnia Peace March.

This will be Craighead’s second trip to Bosnia in as many years, as she and her daughter, Cecily, walked alongside survivors of the genocide and others in last year’s march. The Bosnia Peace March will take place from July 6 to July 11, allowing the marchers to retrace the 75-mile path trekked by those seeking refuge from the genocide. In participating in the march, people are honoring those who died and celebrating the genocide’s survivors.

“It appeals to me. I felt like I was walking down a path of history as well,” Craighead said.

A mother’s journey

Craighead said she was drawn to Bosnia because it is more accessible than other countries like Nigeria and that she really interested in participating in the Peace March as an event.

“I want to show my support for these people who are in conflict, currently or in the past,” Craighead said, “to be with them shoulder to shoulder, walking down this path.”

She decided to march in Bosnia because Craighead felt it would be a great mother-daughter experience for herself and Cecily, but that she also wanted to educate her daughter about what life is like for women in conflict zones.

As part of the march, Craighead and her daughter, who was 14 when they went last year, were able to speak with women who had survived the genocide and were provided with a new perspective on their own lives.

“I think it was nice for her to really appreciate the life she has here in the U.S. and it taught her not to take our lives here for granted,” Craighead said.

“It was an unforgettable lesson to her daughter and herself of the power of the human spirit,” Amanda Strayer, communications officer for Women for Women International and Craighead’s friend, said. “It inspired her daughter to see the world in a new way, to look for the human stories behind the headlines of conflict, violence, division, and war, and to continue to raise awareness for WFWI when Tracy returned home.”

Sharing stories

During the march, Craighead said she and her daughter spent time living among the survivors and had the opportunity to hear their stories of loss and resilience.

“There were a few homes I went to, in particular there were these women and they lost their children, they lost their sons and their husbands … and despite the adversity and the trauma they faced my daughter saw that they were still able to smile and laugh and engage in life,” she said. “I think it was an amazing experience to share together.”

Craighead said it is unfortunate that Cecily will not be able to accompany her mother to Bosnia again this year due to a scheduling issue. However, Craighead did express how proud she is of her daughter for starting a Women for Women chapter at her school in an effort to educate her peers on the issues facing women internationally.

Humanitarian inspiration

Craighead became involved with the march through her work with Women for Women International, an organization dedicated to providing aid to women living in areas ravaged by conflict. WFWI currently operates in eight countries around the world including Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Strayer said. While WFWI does not organize the event, it does raise awareness about the march and encourages members to participate, Amber Khan, senior director of communications for Women for Women International, said.

Craighead initially volunteered with WFWI to help gather recipes from women around the world for WFWI’s cookbook, Share. The cookbook also features stories about the women who created the recipes in the book.

Through her participation in the cookbook project Craighead said, “Working with Women for Women [International] has increased my awareness about what’s going on and issues facing these countries in conflict and particularly the women who survive them.”

Strayer described Craighead as being excited about her return to Bosnia for the march this year. “She’s extraordinarily passionate and energized by the messages of hope and excited to support these women in a meaningful way,” she said.

Retracing history

While the march spans 75 miles, Craighead said she is not worried about the physical exertions of retracing the refugees’ steps. Last year she said she was prepared for the worst and was “pleasantly surprised” by the experience.

“It wasn’t that bad. We heard it was a very pretty country but the reality is that it’s stunning,” Craighead said. “You’re distracted by that and you’re talking and you’re listening to people’s stories and you’re not thinking about your pain and discomfort while you’re doing it.”

She adds that the peace march has a different atmosphere than the refugees’ flight because she has the comforts of hiking boots and water, while the refugees did not have those same luxuries, and that they were terrified while they fled along the path she is about to retrace.

“It’s a peace march, the atmosphere is more upbeat, it’s not the same as the event you’re commemorating. People were barefoot, they weren’t prepared and it was awful,” Craighead said.

Marching for hope

The Bosnia Peace March will mark the 20-year anniversary of the refugees’ initial flight from Srebrenica. In addition to the event’s traditional march, former President Bill Clinton will be in attendance to spread the march participants’ shared belief for “hope in our shared humanity,” Strayer said.

Craighead echoed this sentiment while explaining the importance of the peace march. She said that her participation in last year’s march was more focused on Bosnia itself but that this year she feels that it’s more of a desire for peace that is driving her forward.

The strength and the resilience of the survivors reveal that people can change and that even small actions can take steps toward making a better world, she said.

“I feel like I can make a difference in a little way and that’s really what I’m trying to do by supporting these people,” Craighead said.

About author
TinaMarie Craven is the Arts & Leisure editor. She previously worked as the editor of the Monroe Courier and the Lewisboro Ledger. She graduated from Ithaca College with a BA in Journalism and Politics in 2015.

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