I have a terrible fear of losing my parents. It’s a normal fear right? My eyes immediately begin to water when I think of the day that they go back to God. It’s morbid, I know. But I’m not just worried about losing my parents; I’m terrified of losing a huge chunk of myself, my history, my culture, my roots. Who the hell will I be when they're not here?
Now with the rising conflict and tension in Bosnia and Hercegovina, it’s even more crucial that we, Bosnian immigrants, keep our culture alive.
With being a refugee, we have a HUGE obligation to not let our culture fade. We know with war displacement, comes a loss of cultural stability. Through more and more generations, one culture gets swallowed into oblivion; traditions fade, languages are forgotten, history is rewritten to fit another agenda. Especially with genocide, the whole point is to completely erase a group of people. And besides death, how else can you do it? By displacing hundreds of people and waiting for generations to pass until who they are fades.
I read that over 2.2 million Bosnians live outside of Bosnia, and I shudder to think how many have forgotten where they come from. Some kids don’t speak the language, some don’t care about what happened to their people, some have no desire to go to Bosnia. I know it’s inevitable to assimilate into the country you move to, such as Bosnian Americans becoming more “Americanized.” Because assimilating is a necessary evil to survive, yet it is not the end all be all. Assimilation does not mean replacement. We can assimilate into a new place, without replacing our roots. What happens when you replant a flower? You don’t get rid of the roots or the flower would die. You dig so deep until you can get to the end of the roots and replant the whole thing.
I’m not perfect. I have my faults as well. I have an American accent while speaking Bosnian. I don’t have the best Bosnian vocabulary as I’d like to. I find myself pronouncing my name differently so others can easily say it. For the longest time, I didn’t listen to a lot of Bosnian music. When I was little, I used to cry going to Bosnia because I had no internet for 3 months. I would give my left leg to go to Bosnia for a month at this exact moment just to lay with my grandma. And I guess that change came because I got older. I realized how confusingly woven the web is of immigrants and genocide and self-identity. I became a literature buff and see the same histories repeating itself, the same stories of wiping out groups of people and stealing land. I cling on to the lifeline that is my culture, and the older I get, the more dire it becomes to keep every piece of history, every tradition no matter how little, and every story alive.
I’m absolutely petrified to lose my parents. I’m scared to lose their history, to lose their first-person accounts of the war. I’m scared if they’re not here to solidify their history again and again, someone else will change the narrative. I dread the day when I have a question about a Bosnian word and my mom isn’t there to help me. Or when she isn’t there to tell me the traditions we have when a new baby is born, or when you visit someone’s new house for the first time. Or how to bake Baklava my grandma’s way or her little Bosnian remedies for the flu. I’m scared when I won’t have my dad to recount his stories of my grandparents or his stories of Bosnia before the war, when he was walking the streets of Teslic, picking cherries off of neighbor’s trees and sneaking outside of stadiums to listen to a concert he couldn’t afford.
I’m terrified to lose where I came from. But when that black hole comes, I’ll be fighting like hell to keep who I am. I’ll hold on so tight, sink my claws so deep and tear apart every muscle and tendon in my body, will rip myself to shreds rather than let go and fade away. I promise to document all that my parents told me, so I can tell my kids and they can pass it on to theirs. And I hope one day, if that same black hole comes to my kids and grandkids, they fight with all they got.
Thanks for reading everyone! I appreciate each and everyone of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read what I have to say. I pray my words can spark a thought, a lost hope, or a will to reach for the stars inside of you.
I'll link my book insta page which has short reviews, cute quotes, and giveaways.