A city divided and paralyzed by politics
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
By Dado Ruvic
Mostar; where half of its heart has stopped beating
At the entrance to the city on the left side, the beautiful slopes of mountain Prenj greeted me proudly defying the environment and covered in snow. All the splendor of colors and suns’ rays that penetrated through it was broken after I saw a house that was completely destroyed in the war beside the main road. Even twenty years later the house had not been restored. For me, this city has always been beautiful, complete with the most beautiful bridge in the world – the Old bridge.
However, when we traveled to the other side of the bridge, the city was spooky. There were dilapidated buildings and ruins where just dogs and ghosts of the past lived. After twenty years they still carried the weight, pain, suffering and wounds that will never heal. I’m sure that the younger generation will not be poisoned by nationalism; they don’t have to watch buildings being destroyed by bullets every day.
Surely they wonder though and certainly hate grows. There comes that poison called nationalism, perhaps. I wonder all the time, while I’m walking, taking photographs. I felt so proud as I photographed the old part of the town, because I could show the world one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But the pride, the joy, the happiness just disappeared when I realized the harsh reality – I had to show the other parts of the city. My soul was hard as I photographed half reconstructed, and in most cases never renovated, buildings. I listened to the stories of people selling souvenirs and random passer-bys as they talked about the divided city; about “them” on one side and “those” on the other side. All the beauty disappeared.
I heard stories about children who had never seen the Old Bridge even though they lived only one mile from it; about teenagers and parents who raised money to spend only in “their” facilities. For me, as someone coming from another city this sounded abnormal, sick, imbecilic but I still looked equally through the lens on both sides.
I asked God, why? I asked again and certainly it was still not clear to me. I didn’t have anyone to ask, all are divided into clans here and after twenty years they are still fighting. Children in school, youth at football grounds, people in companies, even the soup kitchens are divided. Firefighters, police; they are all divided. It was unbelievable. Politicians, who should be an example to other people, blocked the city and let it collapse into bankruptcy.
That day I visited a soup kitchen in poor condition. Dozens of people came here every day to get their only meal. Half a loaf of bread, with an unpalatable accompaniment, this time it was the beans. Every person who came to take their food, fled from the camera and hid from view. Why, I asked them?
They said to me that everyone had failed them, tricked and lied, even the media they said used the material they collected for propaganda purposes by politicians and local donors. I spent more than half an hour with the people, talking and trying to open them up for the camera.
I’ve got dozens of heavy stories now which can leave no one indifferent. For some people, half a loaf of bread is their only meal for a day and because of a political crisis, they will soon be without that because they are not factored into the budget. I wondered all day; does it make sense for them to live? Is there any hope for them? Where is this city going? Is nationalism important for a hungry man? Is that pride or habit? Unfortunately, I didn’t get answers to my questions. I asked myself all day but the only answer I got was that there is no answer.