Bosnia’s one of those countries you just never feel warm and comfy in, so we didn’t stay too long. But on our way out of the country by car, we were still looking for interesting shots of the culture…and this lady was perfect. She was gathering wood just outside her meager home in war-torn northwest Bosnia. She caught my wandering eye as Bryan, myself, and a missionary named Richard sped by. Richard gladly threw it in reverse so I could hop out and get a quick shot. Through my camera’s viewfinder I watched her reaching down for the wood, then I saw her slowly turn her head and look right at me.
I felt the need to ask permission to film her but let’s just say that my Bosnian is a little rusty. So Richard scurried over to ease her would-be fears of these mysterious Americans and their camera. No sooner did he get a few words out than we found ourselves accepting their humble invitation to join them for coffee.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about non-American cultures (especially third world countries) spontaneous visits can – and often do – turn into epic events. This was no exception.
We soon met her husband, Mohammed, a peaceful and devout Muslim man. He did his best to communicate to us between blood-curdling hacking spells no doubt brought on by a smoking habit that he seemed unwilling to give up. In a dingy upper room he dramatically described what it was like to watch the Serbian army marching by his house destroying homes and buildings. He was vindicated once when he lobbed a grenade out at them. Bryan and I understood only what Richard filtered to us, but Mohammed’s frequent “booms” describing the bombing that seemed to hit every house but his, made us feel in a very small way the horror of the seemingly endless civil war. Centuries of hatred have left the mine-filled countryside of Bosnia riddled with shelled homes and sparse people. But Mohammed and his wife truly lived up to the Bosnian people’s reputation of “the most hospitable people in Europe.”
So if you’re ever in northwest Bosnia, look for a strong woman gathering wood. She’ll give you some of the best Turkish coffee you’ve ever had, but watch for flying grenades.