Fifteen years ago I was contacted by an acquaintance working for a large international film producer. He said they were interested in wartime stories from Bosnia-Herzegovina and were willing to pay for them. The ethnicity of the narrator did not matter, what they wanted was a good story. A common story would earn 300 Bosnian marks for the witness, but for a bloody story they were willing to pay anything up to 600 marks.
Once the war ended, journalists lost interest in our part of the country. Nowadays they come here rarely, and when they do it's not to ask how we live today or how we will live tomorrow. They are more interested in how we were dying yesterday.
I visited Srebrenica in June of this year. Around that time, the most read news item on a local web portal was one about the newly opened cake shop, or aščinica as it is called here. After 20 years, it is again possible to eat a cake in Srebrenica, but the town still does not have a bakery, a butcher shop, or a shoe shop. There are not many people in Srebrenica but they love their town. They like the fact that Srebrenica has a rock band and that those young musicians would like to remain in the town. To live there, if possible. What they don't like is that no one thinks about them as often as they mention them. The local authorities in Srebrenica are politically appointed persons from Sarajevo and Banjaluka - when they leave the municipal office, they return to their homes outside Srebrenica, or even outside the country.
Muamer, a guitar player for the band, told me that a short while ago he was beseeched by a French journalist to talk about the war, about Srebrenica and about how he survived. He is fed up with these stories, he has told them so many times, but the journalist came with a professional photographer who had good equipment so Muamer decided to put it to good use. He took him around Srebrenica and its surroundings while the photographer took pictures of him with his guitar.
There are two Bosniaks and two Serbs in the band, if you want to know, and no one writes about us, but if we killed each other everyone would pick the story, says Muamer.
I smiled when I saw the very professional photos made by the Frenchman. They were good photos. I can't remember when I last smiled while looking at a picture from Srebrenica.
After I talked for a while with the live people of Srebrenica, I went to the cemetery in Potočari.
White stone nišani in neat, endless rows. Only a birch tree here and there disturbs the sad harmony. Thousands of people who perished. Dead for no good reason. I look for my year of birth on gravestones. Hundreds of them bear it. It is my generation, perhaps I met some of those people, perhaps I came across some of them by pure chance, as it happens so many times in life.
I search further among the gravestones. The birth year of my father, of my uncles, of my mother, my sister, my wife, my grandfather, grandmother. All years are there in endless rows.
Some graves have no mourners to visit them, as the entire families perished during the ten days of that July twenty years ago.
On this particular day the memorial park is full of photographers and cameramen. The mourners come and leave silently and almost imperceptibly. They got used to being supporting characters in their own life stories, with Sarajevo, Banjaluka and foreigners being much more focused on their dead than themselves.
Suddenly there is a buzzing sound above my head, as if a large beetle is flying by. It’s a drone floating over the mezar. A boy runs past, his age around that of my older daughter, Mihaela; just started school, I guess.
He runs after the drone all cheerful, laughing. His parents attempt to stop him in a hushed voice, probably thinking that it is indecent to run around the graveyard. The boy does not pay attention. He runs among nišani, stumbling, falling, getting up, chasing the drone.
My face lights up with joy. The sensation is completely unexpected at this place and because of that it feels even stronger, almost a catharsis.
The boy brought to life the cold, stone mezar. At that moment, the murmur of the birches echoed the hum of the small mining town. Everyone in that town knows everyone else, they know where other people work, what they make for lunch, what illnesses they have. It’s a small and warm community, as good as they come around here.
The boy ran as long as he could see the drone, but eventually it disappeared from his horizon and flew to the base. The birches went silent. I wished for a different ending to this short episode. I sincerely hoped that he could catch up with the drone, pull it into his small hands and take home the new toy.
I suspect that this cheerful boy spoils the producers' preferred picture of Srebrenica, because there is no room for life and laughter in the story about Bosnia. There is no room for Muamer's band. In the cool and rational minds of experienced film producers, bloody stories about dying are more expensive than stories about life.
The boy with the drone and my Mihaela still have a chance to embark on their own lives and live their own life stories, before they receive our neatly packed narrations and before we teach them which side they belong to, who our people are and who are not. Before we start the same cycle again. Everything depends on us.
We can decide to mourn our dead, unconditionally, while at the same time choosing life, the only one we have. Or we can continue to be an infinite dumb supply of one-minute bloody stories presented in the television news of the boring but successful countries.
There is no third way, compatriots, so take it or leave it.
Prevod originalnog teksta Aleksandar Trifunović: Srebrenica, dječak i dron
Prevod: Olga Vuković