I became interested in how the Bosnians made it through the genocide that took place in their world after working with them for three summer peacebuilding trainings and getting to know some of them. That work motivated me to return to Bosnia three more times, when I interviewed eight survivors for my book. I wanted to learn how they made it through the war without losing their center.
The title of my book is “Making It Through,” and that is the question I asked each of the survivors over and over again during the interviews. I would repeat, “How did you make it through that? And how did you make it through that?”
“Centerpost” is a metaphor for the way in which the group of survivors I interviewed made it through the Bosnian genocide. It is an instinctive, dynamic value that grounds one in the middle of crisis. Most importantly, a “centerpost” is a quality that connects one with others. In the course of each interview, the central governing value of each person surfaced and when we discussed it together years later, this value became more conscious.
It was very important that you touched on the burden that is weighing down victims and perpetrators — those who actually committed the atrocities as well as those who are associated with them by ethnic or emotional ties. Peace can come only when victims and perpetrators are both unburdened. But this is one of the most difficult tasks facing mankind from way back when we lived in caves and grass huts.
Having spent the war years (WW II) in Germany as a small child, I have been grappling with these questions for a good 70 years; first being aware only of the bombings and strafing directed at us German civilians, and then finding out to my absolute horror about the atrocities not only of the Holocaust, but also those committed on other populations, like those of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Given what keeps going on in the world, it is not easy to preserve one’s faith in humanity as a whole, so individual shining examples like Vahidin Omanović are like unexpected miracles!
It was also important to hear what you had to say about Milosević and the question we ask all too seldom – how do these people get that way? There’s usually more to it than “they just have no conscience!” An endless puzzlement…
So thank you again."