South Salem resident returns to Bosnia

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide, Tracy Craighead of South Salem traveled back to Bosnia to participate in the Bosnian Peace March.

Craighead traveled more than 4,000 miles to participate in the 75-mile march, which took place over  three days. The march’s participants retrace the path traveled by Bosnians fleeing Srebrenica during the course of the genocide.

Returning to Bosnia

As a returnee, Craighead had an idea of what to expect from this year’s march, but she found herself amazed by the outpouring support of her fellow participants.

“The thing that made it so much more moving was that there were so many people coming from all over,” Craighead said. “There was thousands of people from different countries around the world that had come to honor everyone that perished there 20 years ago. I was so glad to be a part of it because its such a powerful reminder that the things that can kind of unite us can be more important than what divides us.  Somehow it was clearer to me this year how much the women have been the foundation of what’s been needed to bring these communities back together.”

Craighead had participated in last year’s peace march with her daughter and said that there had been 10,000 people in attendance. At this year’s march, Craighead said more than 50,000 people participated  and said there were 40 political dignitaries in attendance, including former president, Bill Clinton.

Change in Bosnia

“The energy was just different. I think that whole feeling that we all have to be reminded of that something like that can’t happen again. This year it just seemed to be magnified and you could feel it,” she said.

Craighead said she was excited to return to Bosnia because she was able to continue her work with Women for Women and it provided her with the opportunity to catch-up with friends she had made during last year’s march. She said that as a returnee she thought it was amazing that she was able to witness changes within Bosnia. Last year she had helped some women pick herbs and upon her return she found out that the same women who had been picking those herbs were now using them to make high quality lotion that was sold in Germany.

“I felt like I saw this big step forward,” Craighead said.

In addition to being able to re-connect with people she had met last year, Craighead was able to meet new people and hear their stories.

“Hearing their stories of resilience just continues to inspire me,” she said. “I think seeing what they’ve done and how they’ve raised their voices within their own communities as they get stronger is really great.”

Honoring the victims

Despite the increased levels of camaraderie, the march is a solemn experience. Craighead said the most moving part of the march is paying witness to the victims of the genocide.

“You see the remains of the bodies come through [the cemetery], they’re carried on these caskets and in them are the bones of the bodies they’ve uncovered in the past year and they’re still uncovering these mass graves. This year they had a 136 of them. We all stood there after we completed the walk and watched all of those bodies, all of those caskets being carried in on the shoulders of the family members,” Craighead said.

She said it was incredibly moving to watch the family members surround the remains of their loved ones as they cried and prayed over the bones.

While the march does have its darker notes, the experience overall is very positive. Craighead said that Bosnians even began to cheer for her and the rest of her group as they were coming to the end of the march.

“What was remarkable was we’re walking with this long banner that says ‘Women for Women in Support of Bosnia’ and, as we’re approaching the cemetery, it’s quiet and somber, and suddenly there’s an eruption of applause. It was so unexpected and out of character, but it was amazing because there were people along the road who recognized the work of Women for Women and appreciated the fact that we were internationals in support of the march,” she said.

Craighead said she was really impressed by this year’s turnout and hopes to see the march continue to grow in the future. She said she hopes to return to Bosnia again in the future with more friends in tow.

“It really does remind you how each of us can make a difference in the world and the power of this ripple effect,” 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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