'We must do everything to eradicate any form of racism in our lives'

The Hertfordshire Bosnian Association had the opportunity to visit Knightsfield School to talk about Srebrenica.

The Hertfordshire Bosnian Association had the opportunity to visit Knightsfield School in Welwyn Garden City to talk about Srebrenica. Pictured are Ismet Foric, a 20-year-old law student, whose parents and grandparents are from Bosnia and who fled the war, Dzemal Paratusic, and Michal Siewniak. - Credit: Michal Siewniak

Imagine, just for a moment, that you don’t eat for a month. Imagine that you have no choice, none whatsoever.

Imagine that you are unable, for months, to contact your loved ones. Imagine that if you are lucky to survive, your traumatic experience lives with you forever.

Imagine that you have NO choice or freedom.

Why does all of the above matter? July 11 is a day to remember the over 8,372 Bosnian Muslims who were murdered in Srebrenica, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The war in the former Yugoslavia, and in particular in Bosnia, was the greatest genocide committed in Europe since the Second World War.

On July 9, members of the Hertfordshire Bosnian Association had an opportunity to visit the Knightsfield School for deaf children in Welwyn Garden City.

The main guest, Dzemal Paratusic, who spoke in his native language, beautifully illustrated his journey as a refugee from Bosnia to the UK during the war.

Most Read

I was pleased to be able to help and facilitate the whole event. In total, we took part in four assemblies.

Each one of them was informative and emotional. Each one of them had profound moments, with plenty of opportunities to learn that simplest things in life can’t be taken for granted.

Each of these moments helped us to grow, better understand each other, our history, personal journey and often, traumatic experiences.

All children in all four year groups were spectacular. They listened, asked some fantastic questions and they, in many ways, became part of that story.

Suzanne Thrower, headteacher from Knightsfield School, said: “The visit was truly amazing. Not only did our pupils learn to understand more about the book they have been reading but also learned of someone’s magnificent journey to be determined to live a better life.

"The impact on our own refugee was also wonderful. Seeing someone survive the change, giving her more hope for the future.” 

Terrible events in Bosnia, which took place not long ago, mark extremely dark days in the history of Europe.

Pain, suffering, separation, terrible ethnic cleansing, which went on for months, meant that such a large group of innocent people were killed or misplaced.

Being able to listen to someone, who was lucky enough to survive, is a reminder that freedom, our ability to express ourselves, and live in an overall happy and cohesive society, can’t be taken for granted.

 On January 15, 2009 the European Parliament passed the following resolution: “The European Parliament calls on the Council and the Commission to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of Srebrenica-Potocari act of genocide by supporting Parliament’s recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over the EU, and to call on all countries of the western Balkans to do the same.”

The peace process, the process of healing, started in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of last century, however it will take decades before people affected, and the whole Balkan region, will be truly able to move forward and pour into its “beautiful soul” hope and belief for a better tomorrow.

And what is our role? We must do everything to eradicate any form of racism in our lives.

We must do everything not to forget and learn from the past. However, most importantly, we must remember that together, we are always stronger.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter