Nikolaus Geyrhalter: “The Year After Dayton” (1997), two parts, 100 minutes each, shown in a cinema in Vienna yesterday, with a break of 10 minutes during which the not so many visitors enjoyed coffee in the hall.
The Year After Dayton: Bosnia-Herzegowina, 1996. Spring, summer, autumn, winter – Course of the year.
Will you stay, can you stay, do you want to stay, where will you go, where can you go? The owner of the house might be coming back tomorrow. Yes, we want to stay. Next year I’ll fix that other room. We would like to leave, but we have no place left to go, our houses are burnt down. What can you do? Now we go to Bratunac. Now we are refugess from Bratunac. I am going to school. It is hard. We are eight children in one room in the camp. Learning is hard when there are eight children in one room.
Can they come back? Oh, if they haven’t committed any crimes, sure they can come back. Those who committed crimes cannot come back, they must be punished. But the others, why not?
Why did you stay? Every day, before the shelling, I decided to stay. During the shelling, I wanted to leave. After the shelling, I once more decided to stay. My friends stayed. Would I have left if they had? Yes, I would. A town is not buildings or just something urban. It’s people.
We never had any problems before. Never. We never felt like Bosnians, Muslims, Serbs, Croats. And then suddenly. My husband went into war. I stepped on a bomb. The soldiers were everywhere, and I had to protect my sheep; I was sleeping next to them on that meadow over there. And my children will ask me what happened, and why. And what can I tell them? My daughter died. I was in a camp. There are worse things a man can survive. I had this friend in school and she had to leave. She was Serbian. I cried. The entire class cried. I cannot meet her again. I do not want to see her ever again. The Serbs killed my father.
Moving people and their belongings, on trucks. Moving dead bodies and unusable material, burnt-out cars and other junks. Moving, all the time. Slow, tired movements.
Digging. Digging for bricks in the rubble, digging for wood. Digging up dead bodies.
A group of about twenty people stands there in the midst of dug-up earth. At the lowest point two men go through the earth, pick up whatever seems to be a part of a human being, and place it in a plastic sheet held by two others. The others watch, solemnly. A camera films. Other men with other plastic sheets stand nearby. When a body is complete, it gets carried upwards. The next plastic sheet gets passed to the diggers.
The man in charge walks through the huge factory hall, identifying human remains left and right. Watch his expertise: he looks at a blackened pile of clothes and bones, and says “a child, four to five years old”, “a child, three years old”. Somebody lifts up a red cap from one of the piles. The man in charge nods: “Debrakovic Ermina”.
A dead man’s body on a table in the huge factory hall, rags, bones, a shoe. Doctors and family members are bent over his head, examining his teeth. After some discussion, the family identifies the deceased. Yes, he still had his own teeth. Yes, that’s him. The calmness and serenity of it all. The normality of it all.
Digging out, digging in. Rows of coffins placed in dug-up earth. Men lowering the coffins down into the earth, using ropes. The sound of women crying, screaming. The sight of men digging.
The acronyms all over the place: IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, UNHCR. What will happen when they leave? Hopefully nothing. Nothing. It will start again. I don’t want to fight, but when they start again, I will. This peace is the West’s responsability. They made it, they have to keep it.
Tired. Everybody tired. So tired.
The normality of it all. The children don’t know what things were like before the war. They grow up as Bosnians, Muslims, Serbs, Croats. And this is frightening.