Monday, July 25, 2005

The faces of war

I'm watching a documentary called Good Husband, Dear Son that I just taped off the Sundance channel about the small village of Ahatovici, 7 km from Sarajevo, where 80% of the male population was killed in 1992.

It's so strange to watch a documentary about Bosnia. The landscape looks so familiar. The houses look just as they did when I was there last summer. And most hauntingly, the faces of the people have a sadness that I failed to fully grasp when I was there last summer, but that may explain part of why that vacation remains the most memorable one of my life.

I'm used to seeing that look on old people's faces - half of my relatives were Eastern European. They'd all suffered more than I could possibly imagine, living through wars and the Communist regime and I sort of assumed growing up that this is what people look like when they get old. But that's not true. In Bosnia I saw young people, people my age, with a look in their eyes that reminded me of the look in my elderly relatives' eyes. Even when they smiled, when you saw them chatting away in coffee shops - the sadness remained. It's also sad to realize that many of the half-built houses we passed driving around the countryside were half-built not because people ran out of money or building materials, but because the builder was killed in the war.

I suppose I realized the sadness even last summer. It's just so heartwrenching to look at people not much older than myself and be able to say based on the look in their eyes alone - that person lived through horrors I cannot even imagine. I can only imagine what the eyes of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq must look like, not to mention the eyes of those in Darfur, Rwanda, the Congo, and every other region or country that has faced the devastation of war.


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