14 September 2012Ethnic tensions in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina are slowly being healed. The town, which was the scene of the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II, is slowly beginning to overcome the horror it lived through 17 years ago.
Bosnian Muslim Almir Salihovic, 28 and his Serbian Croat fiancée, Dusica Rendulic, who is Catholic, plan to get married next May. Theirs would be the first wedding of a multi-ethnic couple in Srebrenica since the 1995 massacre.
The couple, who met in May 2010 at a local market in Tuzla where Rendulic was visiting her grandmother, moved to Srebrenica in November of that same year.
Their relationship has touched many hearts. A German aid agency built the couple a one-bedroom home earlier this year.
"We build for those who are in need of a simple and decent home. There are three criteria that we use to determine the need. We felt there is a great need to help people rebuild their lives and have simple and decent places to live. We hope that it will in the long run contribute to the prosperity of the country, it all starts at home," agency spokeswoman Katerina Bezgachina told SETimes.
Before the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys, inter-ethnic marriages counted for 33 percent of weddings in the town.
"Love can beat everything. I am convinced that Almir and I could have a bright future with our children here in Srebrenica," Rendulic told SETimes. "I believe that things here will be changed … and multi-ethnic marriages will be common thing as it was before the war. I was born in multi-ethnic marriage when it was normal. Almir's six uncles were killed in Srebrenica genocide 1995. But nobody from his family is angry with me because I am half Serb. They accepted me as I am."
Despite all of the good wishes, Salihovic said they still face some negativity.
"It is ridiculous. Those people should come in Srebrenica to see that every year more and more Bosniaks are coming back in their prewar homes. Mixed marriages were and again will be absolutely normal in all communities, big or small. Young people will make this change," he said.
However, according to Rendulic, the biggest problem for the couple and their 7-month-old son Jusuf, is not the mixing of ethnicity. The real problem, she told SETimes, is the fact that both of them are unemployed in a town that has a 50 percent unemployment rate.
Salihovic works cutting grass for companies and retirees, making about 60 euros a week. A charity delivers flour, sugar and cooking oil every two months to the family.
"We just were given 10 sheep by a charity and we have 14 chickens now," Rendulic said in an interview with the Toronto Star. "We are poor, but we are happy. Neither of our families have a problem with us getting married."
Salihovic and Rendulic's persistence to overcome ethnic divides is just one example of the youth in Srebrenica who are trying to get over war crimes, and move towards the future.
"We are trying to make society in which everybody must care about local community, regardless of nationality," Cedomir Glavas, president of Youth organization Odyssey, told SETimes.
He said that the group is working on reconciliation with many young Srebrenica residents, especially children. They built several playgrounds for the youngest where kids of all nationalities are coming to play together.
A local band -- with both Muslim and Serb members -- is touring through Europe. Several youth organizations have organised a camp with multi-ethnic participants. Local cafes are now open to all ethnicities.
"We, young people in Srebrenica, can't change the past, but we can change our future. A lot of people here speak that they don't want to be with Serbs, but they have friends among them. Things are changing slowly but for sure," Salihovic told SETimes.