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Bosnia: The Land That Time Forgot, But War Did Not.

August 27, 2010

Note: I’m a bit behind on blogs, so this actually occurred a few days ago; however I wrote it in my journal as it happened.

The rooster just woke me up. My head and leg are still tender from the bee stings. My eyes are itchy and puffy – swollen shut from allergies to the farm cats my kids have adopted, but also from a fair bit of crying. I am in Bosnia.

The drive from Novi Sad to Bosnia is like a tour through Tuscany: vineyards and red-tiled roofs dotting the lush hillside. We’re cramped into a tiny taxi and combined with the winding road, I feel a bit woozy.

In one hour, we cross the Serbian border into Croatia, then into Bosnia. Luckily, we don’t have a long wait (trucks have been known to sit in line for days).

My father-in-law’s land has been in the family for over 200 years and my 7-year-old son has already inherited a small parcel. It’s very much off the beaten path; the directions include such gems as, “Turn left after the blue house with three haystacks in front of it.” It also doesn’t help that towns have different names depending on which side of the border you’re on.

We pass a small hamlet in Croatia and our driver informs us that this area, right before Bosnia, was the scene of intense fighting during the Bosnian War of the early 1990’s. I’ve obviously heard about this war and my husband even fought in it briefly before leaving for Hungary with little more than the clothes on his back.

But that’s just stuff that I know. What I see is gut-wrenching: in this tiny village is a church that wouldn’t seat 40 people, but it’s dwarfed by a mass of gravestones. All of the markers are new,  most with dates ending in 1993-95. This place is like the memorial for a battlefield.

I think that being a mother makes it hit home even more for me: I imagine my husband being taken in the night by masked men, like his uncle was, and told to fight or be shot in front of his young family.

I also think of my husband, only 19-years-old when the war broke out near the end of his mandatory military service. His base was near this area (we’re going there tomorrow) and although I’ve seen pictures of him looking so young and scared, being here makes it much more real.

It’s so easy to stay cocooned in Canada, where we can turn the channel easily when the images become uncomfortable. For the next few days, I won’t be able to turn the channel, and I find it equally terrifying and fascinating.

The road to our destination takes us through a land where time appears to have stopped: donkeys pull wagons; farm equipment is antiquated; and some of the houses belong in The Princess Bride.

Two vague ruts in the road lead us to my husband’s uncle, a renowned neurosurgeon, standing in front of the property: main house; barn; bee hives; chicken coop; bunk house; and storage building. It’s all surrounded by corn stalks with only a few other houses in view.

As is often the case, we set down our bags and immediately sit down to a meal of pork and potatoes (note: I have yet to see a lettuce leaf of any kind – salad here is coleslaw).

My kids are in heaven – eating freshly laid eggs, picking corn and taking some kittens hostage. I’m in a decidedly different place – my nose is suddenly a sieve and my eyes are itching like crazy. I’m not sure if it’s the flora or fauna, but I’m definitely allergic to something out here (crap…I hope it’s not Bosnia…).

The main house.

The outdoor dining room.

Everyone around here has a pergola to eat under with grape vines growing on top.

The land baron surveying his property with his sister (aka the muscle of the operation) by his side.

The bee hives (more on this later).

The crib my husband used. And his father. And his father's father.

Much more to come – once a better internet connection is found!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2010 2:43 pm

    love this post, woman.

  2. August 27, 2010 4:20 pm

    How did I not know of you before? Your trip sounds both difficult and fascinating. The property there is beautiful and I can’t help but think it’s a much more practical way of living on a few levels. Not that I could do it, but still.

    • August 27, 2010 4:45 pm

      So glad that we’ve ‘met’ now! Thanks so much for reading and commenting… 🙂

  3. The Perfectly Imperfect One permalink
    August 27, 2010 7:45 pm

    Awesome post, you really painted a picture of what was going on. 🙂

  4. August 27, 2010 10:18 pm

    Great post! In my short time of following your blog you have been witty and funny- your depth is warm and amazing.
    I can’t wait to hear about the bees! I’m a new beekeeper and just today harvested my first honey from our hives!

    • August 28, 2010 9:27 am

      D’oh! Where were you when I needed you at the hive?!?!? Thanks so much for your kind comments – it’s exciting to know people are reading!

  5. Jaap permalink
    August 28, 2010 5:05 am

    The way you write and make us part of your trip, beautiful!

  6. marinasleeps permalink
    August 30, 2010 2:00 pm

    This is so interesting!!! Can’t wait for more!!1

  7. September 30, 2010 4:46 pm

    Sounds like an interesting trip:)

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