For years it seems, I have been resistant to writing a blog.
It's partly because I was uncertain of whether anyone out there would be interested in reading what I have to say. It is also partly due to the fact that over the course of my life, writing has been inextricably linked to some of my most emotional and traumatic experiences. At times, writing felt like a perilous task associated with times of deep emotional upheaval and perhaps as such, a task best avoided. Still, throughout the years, I've come to learn that writing often brought me peace and an escape.
During the war in Bosnia, as a teenager grappling with daily and grim realities of life under siege, writing was my way of surviving, a way of preserving my sanity when so much around me seemed senseless and inhumane. Daily I wrote about bombings and the loss of human life. I wrote about my daily heartbreaks and the deprivations I faced every day which stung and reminded of a life that I once took for granted, a life that included freedom, running water and electricity and abundant food. I shared my deepest fears and anxieties, as well as some unexpected joys that arose in spite of the suffering. Quickly, my notebook became a trusted friend, my secret oasis to which I fled on countless occasions when my apartment building shook and heaved under the heavy bombing. As I silently prayed for my safety and the safety of my family, I was gripping the pen and my Diary as though they were my passage to safety, my poignant protectors. Or, I thought, if I am to die in the bombing, at the very least something tangible will remain of me saying: "I was here. I felt each and every one of these explosions, and I had thoughts and feelings worth recording."
After I escaped the war at 16 and came to live in America, I found myself grappling with another kind of reality: a new country, new language, new family, new school...Again, I fled to the empty pages of my Diary and again, I found relief and companionship I needed in order to adjust to my new environment. Of course, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful host family, helpful teachers and fellow students. I experienced many adventures and joys along the way, which were only made sweeter when I recorded them in my Diary.
After finishing high school and entering university, I stopped writing my Diary. It happened naturally and it didn't feel like a big loss or a sudden abandonment, but rather like moving away to another city, away from your best friend whom you knew would always be there, ready to pick up exactly where you left off. I was too busy anyway writing long papers and studying, and it was then that I really fell in love with English literature. I took a few English courses and one in particular "Creative Writing," really gripped me and yanked me back to the act of daily writing (this time prose and poetry.) I felt so consumed by it that at times I feared I had picked a wrong major. I went to school for Vocal Performance and Theater and although my love for both has been undeniable, the pull of the written word was at times dizzying.
It was around this time that I finished translating my already published book from Bosnian to English in the hopes of having it published in North America. It ended up being a journey of almost 10 years before My Childhood Under Fire: A Sarajevo Diary saw the light of day. Needless to say it has brought tremendous joy to my life to have people across the world reading my book, learning about the conflict in Bosnia and receiving my message of peace and tolerance. Since the first book, I've had dreams of publishing another one, and as I type this, I can see in the corner of my eye a stack of drafts and manuscripts that I plunged into writing, only to pause and restart writing again over the years.
And this brings us to today. As I sit here in my comfortable apartment, as May sunshine shyly bathes my desk, wars and conflicts still rage on in various parts of our planet and almost identical traumas to those I faced some 20 years ago, are felt by millions of civilians, especially children.
I see myself in their stories and in their eyes I see in photographs every day. I read reports by various media and NGO organizations, and I not only sympathize with the victims and their current struggles as survivors or refugees, but I also have the unique perspective of knowing what it might be like for those children some 10 or 20 years from now when if they are fortunate to survive the carnage, they are left with the remnants of war and the trauma that still rages inside them.
How will they cope? Will they find positive, constructive and therapeutic ways to deal with it? Will they be nurtured by new found friends, families and communities as I was once lucky to have? Will they struggle with simple daily things like a sudden flashback of an explosion or be fearful of lightning and fireworks? Will they feel like they don't quite belong having seen and felt so much at such a young age? Will they become activists ever more passionate about sowing seeds of peace precisely because of having felt (and still feeling!) the searing wound of their own lost innocence?
These are the questions that arise in my mind as I look at the headlines and the latest updates by UNICEF and UNHCR. Their stories bring back memories forever etched in my mind and in the pages of my war Diary. They bring thoughts, ideas and reflections that I hope are worth reading and sharing.
So....I hope you will take some time out of your day to come on this journey with me.