A Sarajevo Rose

A Sarajevo Rose

posted in: Stories | 0

The photo is nothing special unless you know what you’re looking at.

I studied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia for a presentation back in high school and became fascinated with the Siege of Sarajevo. I was shocked that such a thing could happen in a modern European city during my own lifetime and learned all I could about it in memoirs from residents and documentaries. One of the little things that deeply affected me for some reason was the Sarajevo Roses: where someone was killed by a mortar shell, the impression in the concrete was filled in with red resin, creating a scar like a red rose in the street.

I really, desperately wanted to visit Sarajevo, and in particular I wanted to see these roses. I was devastated to hear that they were quickly disappearing as the city rebuilt itself and that there were not that many left. I was 16, from a low-income family on the west coast of Canada... I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to go until at least a few years after university (nearly 10 years away) and I was really depressed that they'd probably be gone by then.
A Sarajevo Rose with red wax still visible
A building burning during the Sarajevo Siege, part of the Bosnian War

Long story cut short: I finally made it happen when I was 20. I arrived at the train station in Sarajevo at 5:00am after exactly 24 hours of straight travel from southern Albania. My hostel wasn't open until 8am, I had been awake for more than 2 days straight, I was alone... I just started wandering down the street, almost out of my mind with exhaustion. The only business I could find open was a bar that was just closing, with some guys out front. I asked if they knew where I could find coffee. They looked at me like I was nuts and said I wouldn't find anything open this early on a Sunday.

Discouraged, I started walking away. I got maybe 20-30 feet before I suddenly noticed the odd shape in the sidewalk. A ROSE! I was shocked - I thought I would have to go looking for one, but I had just stumbled across it. I'd actually walked over it without noticing ten minutes earlier on my way to the bar. I knelt down to look, and it was definitely red resin. It was just so old and worn that it looked as grey as the sidewalk from standing height.

I reached for my camera to take a photo of my first Sarajevo Rose - the thing I'd thought about since I was 16 and came all the way from western Canada to see - but I looked over and the men at the bar were all staring at me. Suddenly I felt like such an awful, voyeuristic person... they all looked to be in their 30s, so of course they would remember the war vividly. I had done a lot of research so I knew how devastating and tragic the war had been for the city and its inhabitants. I felt like such an idiot, standing there with my camera in front of them, and I couldn't even take the picture.

I walked away with the camera in my hands, torn between taking the picture and thinking about what that must feel like to these people. I came back about ten minutes later and did take the picture below with those men still staring at me. I felt really terrible and odd about it the whole time.

My photo of a Sarajevo Rose
Written by: Kris

Kris is a 22-year-old student from Vancouver, Canada.


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