A few days ago I was interviewed with my husband by Novo Vrijeme, a Bosnian weekly newspaper, for their English section. The journalist asked about the happenings that led us to meet each other and finally move to Bosnia, and of course about our life here.
We discussed the politics, the challenges of everyday life, the cultural differences between Bosnia, Finland and Slovenia. I said I feel free here and that I love living on the mountain. My husband said he’s happy exactly here, in this village and in these woods, but not in town. We both expressed our concerns about the political and economical situation, and the future, especially from our children’s point of view. (The article comes out next week, I’ll post it here then.)
It was a sunny day. The photographer took photos of us as a family, with the donkeys and the dog, around the guesthouse. Later on I hitched a ride to town with the photographer and journalist. We continued talking about the current situation. There have been daily demonstrations for four weeks in downtown Sarajevo against the corrupt government and crazy economical situation. The main street is closed off from traffic every day because of the protests, and the traffic around the center can be pretty jammed. We crawled along the river in a long line of cars, joked and talked. At Skenderija (a part of town in the center) we said our goodbyes and I joined the demonstration.
The traffic block makes it an unusual scene for downtown Sarajevo. The multilane main street is almost empty, until you walk up to the small crowd of demonstrators at a big junction by one of the main mosques and the presidential building. In good weather people are sitting, talking, walking, enjoying the sun. It is easilly noticed many people are simply socialising, instead of a coffee shop they came here to meet up and express their solidarity. There are young and old, poor and tired looking, as well as the seemingly well-off citizens. There is music, and every now and then someone is giving a few minute speech.
After spending a while in the protest, I walked away and went for lunch – and felt profoundly like an outsider. I felt I wasn’t doing my bit. I felt guilty for not staying longer. Having said it in the Novo Vrijeme interview, I was going over and over again the words in my head: “We can always leave. We always have a plan B. Although in reality we are not planning on anything aside from what we do now, we can show our EU-passports at the border and simply leave.”
I support the demonstrations, I follow several pages and groups on Facebook related to this cause. But is this my battle? Is this our battle? My husband has already had one battle in this country. A big one, nearly four years of war in his late teenage years, fighting to free his hometown. Our life on the mountain is an escape in itself: we get to run away from the norms of the civilisation, it’s a world of its own and we would love to stay here. But do we have it in us to fight for it? Or to endure the possibly even harder times before it starts to get better? We’re not sure yet. (Perhaps all I’d need is to find my own refenrence group within the protesters: expat women, Nordic mothers, or the equivalent?)
I took a taxi back up to the mountain. The unlikely thing happened that my driver spoke fluent English. He said that despite the difficulties he thinks it’s a great country to live in. The social culture and people are wonderful, it’s a beautiful country, it’s got a long and interesting history, and the location and climate are great. We still enjoy the heritage of the Yugoslavian easy-going way of life, solidarity, and ‘people before money’ kind of spirit. “And if you have any money at all, you can really live well here.” He pointed out – like so many others – that our daughter has the best surrounding for growing up here on the mountain.
I agreed with him on all levels. And we’re not the only ones, there’s a nation that deserves to build their homes and their dreams in the soil of their own country.
Though we got some snow on the mountain this week, the spring is coming along quickly. Sarajevo is already blooming, the fruit trees and magnolias are dotting the streets with flowers. With the wild flowers popping up in our garden we’re planting our dreams here, too.
(Today the police didn’t stop the traffic for the demonstration. The protesters headed for the U.S. Embassy, located close by, and continued the demonstration there. How this unfolds from now, we shall see.)