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Film: Building the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo

Amina Krvavac,
Executive Director,
War Childhood Museum

Hello. My name is Amina Krvavac. I am the Executive Director of the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. So I am currently the only non-native speaker here, but I still think you will be able to follow what I have to say.

So War Childhood Museum opened in January 2017. As I said before, [unintelligible 00:00:28] Herzegovina, and it is based on a crowd-sourced book titled War Childhood, and the book was published back in 2013. After that, since we opened and we worked on this process of setting up and opening the museum for some time, the museum has got recognition as being the only world museum that focuses exclusively on the experiences of those whose childhoods were affected by war.

So the book represents the [mosaic] of thousands of shorter collections of those who were children during the war, and the short answer is … in the book are answering this question. And the idea was that the answer should be in a form of a Tweet, very short answers, and each of them actually tells about a different aspect of what was a war child [unintelligible 00:01:35] to any of the children, former children, now adults, responded to the question. So this is one of the answers that you can read yourself.

And starting from this idea that war childhood as a social phenomenon is insufficiently researched and that is somehow in very different contexts and oftentimes simplified to that of trauma and sufferings only. We, as a team of young professionals coming from different disciplines, but also all of us were children during the war in Bosnia in the ‘90s, we somehow think that this phenomenon is … should not be simplified, that there was so much more to it. It’s so much more complex that if we simplify this experience and approach it only from this trauma angle, it will somehow … there is a risk that the children will continue to be perceived only as [unintelligible 00:02:44] victims, that we will take away agency from children and somehow maybe only afford bitterness.

So we want to emphasise how multilayered and complex the experience is, and through our artefacts and person items and stories that we collected from a number of people who contributed to when we created the collection and now, when we are expanding it, each of the stories is actually speaking of this … and I just mentioned … of a different aspect of this experience. So, for example, these are ballet shoes of a girl in Sarajevo who decided to go and practise ballet every day, even in the city after the siege. So you can see that we want to emphasise that children are resilient, that they are creative and they shape their lives, that they are activators even in difficult circumstances such as war or a siege.

So I am proud to say that the museum is growing fast and expanding its research, presentation and exhibiting activities, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also internationally. I will come back to it a bit later, but now I wanted to share with you … there is a role that the museum plays within the Bosnian context and society that is particularly interesting, I believe. So we have to start here from [unintelligible 00:04:34], even after 20 years after the war, we still live in a country that is divided among ethnic and [unintelligible 00:04:46]. Even though we are less than four million people, we still have three members residency, we have 13 industries of education. Everything is very complicated and is surely political in every possible sense. So our museum comes as a platform, as a safe space for people from all different ethnic groups to come, to share their stories, to exchange their stories with others, and it provides them with a safe space to reflect and face their past, to face what the effect will be because they feel they are part of the community, that they share their experience with different people.

And also because we feel that the experiences of children, exclusively, they are providing very suitable bases for the reconciliation process in society. So once you face your past, you exchange your story, it somehow helps you to accept the one that was at the other side, perhaps. And this, as I mentioned earlier, children’s stories are a suitable basis as they transcend all this political, ethnic, national divide, so it’s a rather already successful model to replicate in Bosnian societies.

Of course, in our mission to help the society heal, we are very much aware of the size. We are a small, independent museum. I’m not claiming that we can fix everything in our societies, but we are really confident that understanding the limits, we want to show that museums can and should play role in helping societies heal. And regarding the international expansion I mentioned earlier, we have expanded expansion our activities to Lebanon, Ukraine and the US, with a somewhat different [unintelligible 00:06:54] reconciliation because we believe in all these different societies and it’s important to offer a platform for former and current war children living in these other, now their homes and new countries. By sharing their stories, we hope to contribute to integration processes, especially now, when we are facing this huge refugee crisis all over the world. So somehow, we hope to contribute to this humanisation of people that come to your country so that the host country’s population will probably accept them more easily, and this is what we hope to achieve in our work.

And as I already also mentioned, we are a small, European museum, and we were flying for many, many hours to be here with you, and I just wanted to [unintelligible 00:08:01]. These are some of the artefacts also from our collection. And due to the time, I cannot share more detail about our work, but you are more than welcome to contact me later. This is one of our visitors at the museum. And I just wanted to finally ask you to spread the word that there is a war childhood museum, what we do, and help us achieve our mission. Thank you very much.

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