Aleksandar – Banja Luka
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only this that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
After I was born, my mother was discharged from the hospital on the day the Dayton Peace Accords were brokered. Prior to this, my parents had packed their bags in anticipation of violence that they felt was approaching our doorsteps. Twenty-five years later, I recognize that had the Dayton Peace Accords not been signed in November of 1995, my parents would have likely fled and I would be somewhere else. I would be someone else.
Growing up, I was not aware of the conflict that existed in BiH or the country’s relationship to its neighbors, Croatia and Serbia. At home, we did not adhere to a strict ethno-national identity, perhaps because my parents are a mixed marriage. As a result, I did not recognize the distinct identity constructions and corresponding narratives that define people. I remember recognizing such difference for the first time while I was on a family holiday to Neum as a child. I was playing with another kid on the beach and I asked his name. He was a Bosnian Muslim and so his name was unfamiliar to me. The experience provided me with an awareness of the diversity which existed in BiH.
Since that childhood experience, I have come to realize that multiple narratives and perspectives exist, and it is not always possible to come to an agreement on contentious topics. I make an effort to understand various perspectives and allow for differences of opinion. I believe too much emphasis is placed on conflicting narratives. These narratives have dominated the annual news cycle for 25 years, manipulated by politicians to ensure the continued support of nationalist political parties. What if, for just one election cycle, we could move past these conflicts and focus not divisive narratives, but on shared goals?
I am completing my Law Degree at the University of Banja Luka, but I plan on continuing my studies abroad in the field of International Business Law. I think it is an area that will be necessary in BiH in upcoming years. Local companies entering the foreign market must comply with global standards and increasingly, foreign companies are exploring BiH’s market for development. Although I plan on attending an international university and even working abroad for a time, I do not think I will leave BiH permanently. I imagine that I will return.
I think many young adults consider leaving BiH for international opportunities because they cannot find employment in BiH. In many countries around the world, working within the private sector is preferable to working a government position. This is not the case in BiH, where everyone wants a government job. These positions are typically low demand with good benefits, while private sector jobs are often considered exploitative. In order to get a government position, one often needs to join a political party. For those who do not want to do so, the options for a secure, well-compensated position is limited. This encourages ambitious young adults to look outside of the country for stable and rewarding job opportunities.
Still, I think if the conditions of BiH were to improve, people would return. The momentum for change cannot come from politicians, but from the base. I believe this is possible. A couple years ago, following the murder of a young, local man, David Dragičević, a community-based protest movement was born. In Banja Luka as well as other cities in the country, community members gathered in the shared belief and recognition that political leaders should be held accountable. We must work together in pursuit of justice and demand the full application of the law.
The participant wrote and published this article in response to the murder of David Dragičević.