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Bosnia 2006 Female Kinship Bosnia April 2006 Ahmici War Crimes Memorial Trauma training with Kolo Sumejja from Novi Travnik, shows how female kinship gather together and care for stroke victim Aunt/sister for years. No salaries, no benefits, medical costs are burdens in the aftermath of war but give way to the ancient South Slavic Family Goddess whose caregiving is richer than institutionalized care.

Bosnia April 2006 Ahmici War Crimes Memorial and July 2006 Trauma Training

The Kolo: WCCC continues treatments and trainings to present day to stem the overwhelming chronic acute trauma situations, which rests on the women in their communities.

Categorized in these topics: Baba Yaga Bosnia Kolo Kolo Trauma Format Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Violence

The Kolo: Women’s Cross Cultural Collaboration, (The Kolo: WCCC) was formed after a collaborative partnership with Bosnian Muslim middle-aged and older women who survived the Balkan war (1991-1994) in the towns of Ahmici and Novi Travnik, Bosnia. Exposed to the aftermath of another major war on Bosnian soil, the Bosnian women who were middle-class or business owners before the war faced severe economic issues, escalated domestic violence pogroms and very real female human rights concerns.

The Kolo: WCCC since March 1999 implemented an engendered psychosocial educational trauma treatment and training format that also provided skills for Conflict Evolution. The Kolo: WCCC continues treatments and trainings to present day to stem the overwhelming chronic acute trauma situations, which rests on the women in their communities.

The engendered Kolo format matured on the wisdom that the women were central as major caregivers and with an understanding of how trauma unless addressed will only continue the intergenerational trauma cycle and seed violence in war torn countries globally.

The South Slavic Hard rain borne from two World Wars and the Balkan War in one century embedded intergenerational trauma. Perpetuating age old hatreds of not just ethnic/religious groups, the violence became an acid rain targeting females.

Three wars in one century occurred in women’s homes, which for South Slavic women is tantamount to a literal attack on their wombs. The mass rape and torture pogrom targeted females young, old and most notably the professional careered women who were targeted in the rape camps. The South Slavic female’s chasms of silence and targeted wombs are the ever open wounds.

My first visit to Ahmici and Novi Travnik, Bosnia in March 1999 was when I faced intergenerational trauma. Absolutely everyone I talked to, or saw walking down the streets were soaked in a century’s worth of trauma. The seeded violence (how patriarchs cite cultural as a their prerogative for domestic violence and violence against females) eloquently researched by Alenka Punkar, a psychiatrist who explores the South Slavs abusive parenting methods in the centuries past roars into present day for Bosnians who have survived the wars. Domestic violence is known as a cultural activity enshrined in patriarch’s domination of his offspring and wife.

A small group of Bosnian Muslim women, pillars of their communities collaborated with the Kolo: WCCC to gain skills in healing the vicious cycle of intergenerational trauma for their families filtering into their community. With virtually no funding and only through the Kolo: WCCC grassroots efforts’ were the women given tools to confront the intergenerational trauma.

The climatic conditions in Bosnia during April 2006 swung from days of sweltering heat to one of severe cold with snow draping the nearby alpine foothills. The alternating snow and heat mirages on the alpine foothills mirror the harsh polarities of life in the aftermath of war. The startling parallel universes that are straddled by the Bosnians; the rich and powerful vs. the poor and oppressed is expressed in its harsh weather and lush Moist Mother Earth landscapes.

The ‘lumbering giants;’ i.e. international humanitarian and other agencies, were in Bosnia in the Balkan War 1990’s but given their conflicted priorities, now their attention and resources have been diverted to chasing fresh new victims of wars and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. What was left in the wake of these ‘lumbering giants’ is a cruel game. The rules are how can you care for a relative and not have the right to medical care, hospitals, hospices or nursing homes. Since most of the families’ major caregivers do not have jobs or any regular source of income, they are devastated in living in the aftermath of a bloody, cruel war.

Vahdeta Krnijic is petite, with short blond hair and light blue eyes. The oldest sister cares for their invalid youngest sister, a victim of a severe stroke for the past five years. Concerned for the health of her both her sisters, Vadehta describes the caregiving as ‘around the clock’ and unmitagating.

The eldest sister lives just outside of Novi Travnik. The first observable pattern found in the aftermath of violence is how the women survive by living off the land. Vadehta’s sister has a cow from which to feed herself, her invalid youngest sister and her son’s family (both parents unemployed).

The burden to care and feed the family is mostly upon the middle-aged or aged female of the family who is without any formal education and without any income. In Bosnia this is a reality that is rarely faced in media or research studies let alone any major policies that often govern the overworked middle-aged and sixty five year old elder

Another noticeable pattern in the aftermath of war is presented by Sana Koric, president of Kolo Sumejja, who spoke of how she would go to a favourite spot in the mountains to pick mushrooms. It is not about being financially strapped- all are subsisting without jobs or income, the answer is shocking yet so normalized in their daily living. To go to Sana’s favourite mushroom spot is too dangerous after the war with all the unexploded ordinances (over one million planted in the Balkan War) scattered in the lush mountain sides.

“Sometimes, I forget and start to plan a picnic to go pick the mushrooms until I suddenly remind myself that no one goes there now and if I become a grandmother I cannot bring my grandchildren. They will never experience this place,” expressed Sana Koric.

Displaying trauma features in the ever present fear and catastrophic thinking passed to the future generations, Sana Koric seals the fate of her grandchildren since her caution does not enter into curiosity leading only to more dread. The journey on noninhabited land within one’s backyard loaded with a million landmines waiting to be detonated easily leads to dread and catastrophic thinking. Intergenerational trauma and hatred is perpetuated effortlessly through dread.

The aftermath of war, violence and constant conflict ensures a penalty for those who survived the war’s bullets, bombs and knives by having unexploded ordinances with a shelf life of 100 years embedded into the sacred South Slavic land. The economic disparity where women survive on no cash, jobs nor health insurance seals the coffin’s lid with such a precision no breath nor ‘rest in peace’ is permitted. However, their governments’ fattened on the funds for war relief as the lumbering humanitarian giants exclaim the ‘recovery’ process as the reason for their exit from the wartorn country perpetrates immediate and generations long violence to women and their ability to manifest community.

The South Slavic women feel [justifiably] wronged by the consequences of war; as if they were the ones who shot, bombed, raped, and tortured the so-called enemy while their husbands, sons, brothers, uncles can be found in the cafes drinking the thick Bosnian coffee.

Ajla Jarsevic, pregnant with her first child remarked,” there is no life here. My husband barely makes a salary thus forcing us to live with our parents. Everything is done for him. Will I love my child when the world I live in is so punishing?” she ponders. A son was born to Ajla Jarsevic It is under the perverse South Slavic nationalism and patristic domination where the mother who gives birth to sons is revered and at the same time the Bosnian/South Slavic mothers will mostly likely wonder which war he will fight, murder or die in.

Synchronicity that the Memorial for the Ahmici war crimes fell on the same day as the Catholic Easter in April 2006, a vicious violent regenerative potentiality meting out another consequence in the aftermath of war and conflict. This meant that the Muslims attending the memorial would hear the Croatian (Catholic) church bells peal across the street from their incomplete construction Mosque.

This Croatian Catholic Church stood in mute testimony as 150 Ahmici Muslims were murdered during the early call to prayer. The Croat Church with its neon cross directly on the road and erected on the Ahmici memorial a few years earlier is a visible symbol of hatred as it stands across the street between the Croat enclave and Muslim enclave. An uneasy silence hangs thickly in the air between the two different religious and ethnic enclaves.

Police dotted the war memorial in Ahmici throughout the call to prayers while the Croatian Church celebrated resurrection creating a cacophony of pealing bells juxtaposed with the hauntingly beautiful Muslim prayer songs searing the airwaves. Overcast and rainy many of the Muslims attending the memorial held umbrellas over their heads doing nothing for the tears flowing down their faces.

The Croats attending Easter services used their umbrellas to shield their view of the Muslim enclave- no tears were present on their faces.

Freelance journalist Mindy Bicker is writing a book about the Ahmici War Crimes and often stays with the War Crimes Survivors doing research. Present at the War Crimes Memorial Ms Bicker carried her recorder in the obviously mourning Muslim crowd. While her camera and recorder captured some of the grief, the mourning is the ever open wound that is continually ripped open by the poverty, economic pogrom towards the Ahmici Muslims who dared to survive the atrocity and perpetuation of intergenerational hatred and trauma to the next generation.

Ahmici partially constructed Mosque

The South Slavic Hard Rain fell the day of the Ahmici war memorial services. Perhaps this rain was nature’s way of joining in mourning with every Bosnian living in the haunted war scarred landscapes.

Relentless as ever, intergenerational trauma and hatred starts with subtle steps. One subtle step is how a civil dispute reverberates in the tiny Ahmici Muslim enclave due to the construction of the new Ahmici Mosque. The destroyed Ahmici Mosque was a guttural oracle of the war crimes that occurred until it was dismantled and removed in a few days. It was as though the memory of the Ahmici war crimes was erased in those few days.

Half the Muslim women’s’ husbands especially- thought the ruined Mosque needed to remain in its splendor; a memory of the war crimes so that it may never happen again. However, some indicated the belief that it only fueled ethnic hatred to greater heights.

The universal observation amongst the divides is how the destroyed Mosque was a reverberating consequence that the Muslims had. And there are very few Muslim visible haunting genealogies that could dispense responsibility for catastrophic hatred and genocide against Muslims.

The other half of the Muslims living next to the destroyed Mosque complained of snakes, the dirt and the trauma of gazing at its death form relentlessly since it lay in full sight of their windows and paths of life.

The wives are divided against each other as they submit to their husband’s mandate to not talk to the other for their dissenting and differing opinions. Perpetuating the war and violence in the male mandate and the women’s complete surrender of their inner authority to their war lords, mirror their mother’s and grandmother’s responses after WWI, WWII and now the Balkan War.

When the women are asked the exact point the war started most of their responses is thoroughly non-plussed as to how the war came to be. The War and violence continues to be omnipresent in their lives as the South Slavic women re-live their violent pasts over and over again via their husbands-males; the dominant authority figures in their lives. The distinct repeating histories perpetuate features of intergenerational trauma and hatred which feeds a major disconnect from feelings and the ability to respond with decisions and boundaries that could halt the violence from the women who are the victims as are the children.

The affective neuroscience field has determined that intuitive – hunches, guesses and feelings are integral to a healthy fear system.[1] South Slavic females hail from an astoundingly rich female shamanic reverence of the Moist Mother Earth. In the aftermath of a century of wars the women are extremely interconnected with the agriculture, animal husbandry and herbs which claim a great heritage of intuitive prowess and decision making.

Nowadays, their skilled and life saving intuitive approaches are non-existent in the religious institutions and ruling powers and especially erased by their husband’s mandate to not mingle with any other disagreeing Muslim males. The women are made invisible with the last one hundred years of wars in their own backyards and wombs.

Trauma with its shock and blunted affects has many of the South Slavic females adhering to hypermasculine dogma in religions, academia and all manner of institutions largely organized and dominated by the Ex-Yugoslav males. Unable to have a healthy fear system with an early warning response and ability to map out what will become of even the slightest derogatory actions, the South Slavic Females subject themselves to a higher state of martyrism and service to their husband, sons only after this years and often a lifetime of service do they bring themselves to advocate for their daughters if at all.

A Reed College Professor, Marko Zivkovic’s recent article on Ex-Yugoslav Masculinities-Why Men Skin Cats, Beat up Gays and go to War[2] describes in a similar scenario the Ahmici Muslim civil dispute, “A Bosnian policeman in Zenica jokingly demonstrates the old “custom” of “skinning the cat” (as a demonstration to a new wife of what awaits her if she doesn’t obey) in front of an American female anthropologist researching responses to gender-based violence. (Helms).” The city of Zenica is about 30 minute drive from the small Ahmici village.

Without any knowledge beforehand, Seattle artist Erin Hilleary[3] had no inkling that her painting of the destroyed Ahmici Mosque would hang on the new Ahmici Mosque walls initiating a peaceful dimension against the Ahmici Muslim husband’s civil dispute. Taken in with a photograph of the destroyed Ahmici Mosque Artist Hilleary painted a tunnel penetrating the hypermasculinity civil dispute and masculine rule with a ‘remembrance icon.’

Again as found with the destroyed Ahmici Mosque, the painting conveys meaning, expanding the voice of those who were murdered and those that are alive with something more than the arbitrariness of not speaking to others who disagree.

A memorial center is to be built in Ahmici, Bosnia with the Hilleary’s painting as its centerpiece. The feminine milieu ignited in the painting stripped away the seclusion and isolationistic behavior of the Ahmici war crimes survivors. What occurred in an instant was the partitioned peaceful actions which bear signs of the sequential nature of compassion, acceptance not as judgment or victimization rather as routes of migration that give way to stability in the present moment despite a hellish violent war infused past.

The artist Erin Hilleary, thousands of miles distant from Ahmici and not of the South Slavic culture translated colors, sounding the whole chromo-soma without giving priority to repression via hatred methods. Instead, Hilleary is an everyday activist, expressing with tonality the erased flesh and blood beings and repressed female genealogies since she could not fathom how surviving grandmothers can bare life without their families.

Entering Bosnia with the trauma training in April 2006 needed a month since the training incorporated the body. Massage and essential oils were involved in one two week segment. Since the women are Muslim massage and body work is often taboo-many never even had a massage before!! Taught how to massage each other, the Kolo Sumejja Muslim women war survivors are given another healing action skill which can decohere the coexistent intergenerational trauma and hatred.

Often the kolo trauma training is a parallel universe with an ephemeral existence where in the midst of a landscape stained with three wars in one hundred years it becomes a reality infusing balance, peace and compassion against the seemingly never ending war and hatreds.

The bus ride to Belgrade was a courageous act for the five Kolo Sumejja women since it literally took Muslim women into nationalistic Serb territory. Invited as guests by the Anti-Trafficking Center in Belgrade for their hosting of Vagina Monologues, the leader of the Kolo Sumejja was given the ‘Vagina Warrior’ award on televised broadcasts. However, the catch was that her name (Susanna Koric) could not be immediately referred to as Muslim and therefore more palatable for the Serbian masses especially for the television; making her the best candidate for the award.

Fingering the tablecloths and the heavily draped hotel dining room, the five Muslim women from Novi Travnik, Bosnia were shocked at the expense of the accommodations, meals and other associated costs for the conference. Azemina Krnijic at 35 has never been to Belgrade and loved the luxuries. Her aunt Vahdeta Krnijic was perplexed and traumatized, “the money for the room alone could feed ten people for three months-why is it we cannot find the funds and the funds are for events such as this?”

The public bus ride back to Bosnia from Belgrade had the eldest of the group blowing up the condom given to her at the Vagina Monologues training because in all her forty plus years of marriage she had never seen a condom. Speaking to every male that dared sit next to the Muslim women at the back of the bus, she would not hesitate to say ‘Vagina’ to them. Laughter erupted melding the Serbs with the minority Muslim women seamlessly.

Peaceful dimensions de-constructing gender violence occurred as the eldest Muslim female on a Serbian Public Bus puffs up a condom. Listening to her inner authority is gaining her liberty as she loudly spoke, “vagina- peechka in Serb-Croatian,” to anyone nearby on the public bus. At seventy seven she includes her gender in her daily living making a profound difference for peace not war. At point the elder woman proclaimed an insight, “I did not know how one word ‘vagina’ can be so damned when I do not own that word and say it.”

Unknown to the Muslim women was how their behaviors and their caution flowed healthily into curiosity rather than the catastrophic fear. Each serves as [unpaid] peace ambassadors for their life giving services. A natural extension of decoherence from the mandated proscribed victim role women endure, the Kolo Sumejja women understood that they are continually evolving and that the Vagina Monologues training was something they have lived and continue to live out. Yet, no one asks or has curiosity about their wisdom found in their life experiences and first person stories.

In Novi Travnik, Bosnia the young 18 year old gypsy girl who gave birth to her first child, a daughter, was on the hillside littered with years of garbage. It was the only place the gypsies could camp with their tattered van and cook a meal in a discarded tire. The memory of the child and mother was another layer of catastrophic movements and icons that penetrate her thin but protruding belly and breasts as colorless forms that normalize the violence and perpetuate intergenerational trauma with fresh new victims.

Somehow, as the Romano picked through the waste to get their supper I wondered if the infant girl would immediately associate herself as the waste by-products that she was born on top of. I learned from the eldest matriarch missing most of her teeth and what remained were black as coal that one of her grandsons, aged two and half was killed by a Croat driver. I asked if authorities did anything. She was mute to my question as if she never of heard of such a possibility. Instead she grieved in such dignity as if she knew that life made no promise except that death always accompanies life.

Their fire was blazing hot and smelled of benzene and some kind of oil. The eldest matriarch picked through the garbage stash collected for their supper and threw it on the fire. Here was a culinary authority that survived what came before and what will be. She offered food to me. I said my ‘no thanks’ and concealed my heaves as I turned the mountain corner in the South Slavic hard rain that began in earnest accompanied by booming thunderclaps.

Instead obscurity rules their existence as they continue to clean up after another bloody war while spit and polished organizations such as academia, helping aid agencies and governmental agencies do the required ‘speak’, forms/studies, and rules with hi-tech computers, satellite phones and media owning all of their unpaid peace and healing labors as their programs’ success. Immersed into what Luce Irigaray writes as “the repression that female genealogies have submitted to also seems to have favored codes, privileged writing and all arbitrary forms that seem capable of conveying meaning, doubling the voice, and exacting its submission. They express these as numbers. Mastery and abstraction of the living being?[4]”

The distance between the women on the frontlines of disasters, wars, conflict and catastrophes and the lumbering giants in humanitarian efforts colluding with ruling entities has become an abyssal chasm unfathomable to either parallel universe.

In July 2006, the Kolo Sumejja women for their training funded by an anonymous donation from a California group went to the only coastal Bosnian city called Neum. Many of the women claimed their desperation to go on the trip as a relief from their trauma filled lives.

Packing the rickety yellow bus with centuries old South Slavic recipes of delicacies and home grown fruit and vegetables, travel to the coast required an all night passage from the hellish heat wave besetting the country. Stopping at a café at Neum in the early morning for their thick Bosnian coffee and cigarette break, the Bosnian women were abused by the café’s waitress with its owner in mute collusion to the verbal ethnic lashing.

“We do not take Bosnian money,” snarled the Croatian waitress along with a long paragraph of the ills associated with the loss of their once Croatian city Neum now being demarked as Bosnian territory.

I witnessed the proliferation of subtle steps towards another war in Belgrade Republic of Sprska, Ahmici Bosnia and now Neum, Bosnia as the Bosnian Muslim women handed in their Bosnian money regardless of the ethnic slurs. I took a picture of the restaurant so that I could publish a warning to not go there [again].

Noticing the pattern where the handmade delicacies for the trip to the coast was prepared by shamanic female hands, the sites where violence often takes place are often the very spaces and places of female cooking traditions, cafes and religious events requiring the food and beverages as a part of its retinue for healing. The South Slavic women are sitting ducks- ripe victims for violence and wars. The interesting part is the archeological millennia old Bird Goddess figures strewn about in former Yugoslavia is often the duck zoomorphic form.

Supplanted by science, medical doctors and male ultimate authority figures, the Bosnian Muslim women’s culinary arts and healing crafts became redundant until the onslaught of a vicious war reducing them to pre-WWII levels in the kitchen and requiring home grown food stuff to survive. Now what their mother’s did and their grandmother’s vast storehouse of culinary and herb expertise wields immense life tools that could manifest a community in harmony with the cycles and landscapes of the Moist Mother Earth. But their culinary healing arts are the places of war and violence- ripe fertile targets.

The Bosnian women from Novi Travnik trapped in the lifeless flats stuff their balconies with vegetables and flowers/herbs to survive. Ahmici war crimes women war crimes survivors still tilt the very fields that saved them from the massacre since it required their presence the very early morning of the massacre. Many of the surviving Ahmici grandmothers wished they could have taken the place of their daughters, sons and grandchildren instead and now find themselves as the main providers of food for their 100% unemployed community members.

The etiology of the aftermath of war stresses obstacles, invisibility of women as the major care givers ignoring how women manifest community. Now the real weapons of mass destruction are economic pogroms that continue to mete out consequences to the war victims punishing them for their different faith, surviving the genocide and mostly for being born a female.

Shocked into a sobering reality like the seventy seven years old matriarch blowing up a condom because she has never seen one before, funding for trip to the coast, to Belgrade for Vagina Monologues and the women war survivors and war crimes survivors training has been made possible by Dan and Joan Marler through the California Sonoma County Community Foundation; two individuals who made a difference for peace not war.

Somehow, the Marler’s with their exquisite French restaurant in San Francisco are universally connected to the South Slavic women’s titling the rich land and hand-made delicacies. Their actions are the everyday activism that eradicated for a few months in Bosnia the economic pogroms. Joan Marler Founder of the Archaeomythology Institute [5] continues the life giving wisdom and deep knowing which connects to movements through a horizontal and vertical space weaving gender differences into solidarity as we dig through the Archaeomythology left in ancient ruins.

Discuss / Raspravljati


[1]Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson, “Animals in Translation, “ ( Scribner, New York, 2005) p.205

[2] Marko Zivkovic, Nationalities Papers, Vol. 34, No. 3, July 2006

[3] Erin Hilleary, artist also working on Blood & Honey Icons- Baba Yaga Inscriptions by Danica Anderson, ''

[4] Luce Irigaray, Sexes and Genealogies, (Columbia University Press, New York, 1987) p. 160

[5] Joan Marler is the Founder of the Institute of Archaeomythology and is currently its President and Executive Director. She is a Consulting Editor (former Executive Editor) of ReVision Journal, Washington, D.C., and is the editor of The Civilization of the Goddess (1991) by Marija Gimbutas and From the Realm of the Ancestors: An Anthology in Honor of Marija Gimbutas (1997)


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