It was 9.50 on Monday morning, 11th of November.
All the women that are part of the Snaga Zene choir in the From Woman to Woman project were already in the rehearsal room, chatting, smiling, and they all seemed to be looking forward to singing together, under the compassionate guidance of our dear friend and music director – Almerisa Delic.
At one point, one of the choir members, an 85 year-old former Bosnian language teacher took a small book out of her bag and started reading in Bosnian.
Shortly afterwards, the chatter stopped and the entire room became silent; everyone listening to the trembling voice of Naisha Porobic. At that point, I realized that what she was reading must have been deeply touching and profound, something close to those women’s hearts, as everyone’s eyes started tearing up and loud sighs started filling the room.
When she finished reading, they all sat silently for a few minutes, as if in recollection, and then applauded, with tears still in their eyes.
Only when I received the English translation, did I understand the significance of that moment and how privileged I was to have been a part of it.
It was the 11th of the month and what Naisha had just read was the following poem, which she had written:
What to do
For years on every eleventh of the month
My wounds burn alive.
They want, for everything that happened,
To blame me a little.
I sit in front of the TV screen
And watch trembling
How dear women from Srebrenica
Carry through the town
Pillows with names of missing ones.
It seems that they carry their children in their arms.
They are always searching for truth and justice,
For the crimes that remain unsolved,
For the lives that were stolen at old-age,
And thousands of blossoming innocent youth.
What did I do to ease the pain
Of their souls and bodies?
As a human, nothing or very little,
That is the simple truth.
Why am I waiting for the support of others?
Everybody is standing idly by, as if they were afraid of something.
Do they not see how victims
Have already been standing up for a long time?!
I will never forgive myself,
Not even when into my grave I will tumble,
For not being braver
And joining the mothers in column.
This is my confession.
Am I guilty of anything?
Conscience bites and burns me,
Every morning, day, and evening.
Finally, I have become stronger
I am reading this song to you in front of the fountain
And I redeem myself a little.
I visited graves in Potocari,
I have written text about victims,
And I am bowing to their shadows.
After the poem was read, the women then started their choir rehearsal, singing Bosnian songs, with smiles on their faces.
Once their rehearsal was over and everyone was getting ready to leave, Naisha wanted to share one more poem with the group. So she started reading the following:
Song, I can hear you
Song, my friend
I love you!
When I’m happy
and when I’m melancholy,
when I have,
and when I don’t have,
when I cry
and when I laugh,
when I fall
and when I rise,
you are healing me
and empower me.
You make my life bearable,
Fly song, spread your wings!
Let the wings carry you,
over the hills and mountains
in homes of good people,
friends, dear faces.
Warm them up with the sounds
of music and voice.
To the sad and to the sick ones
don’t tell the truth
not to hurt them more.
Let the song
calm them by day
and help them sleep by night.
Song, you are the elixir,
the drink of my life
(and their life and your life…)
The group smiled, thanked her, and then all headed to their homes, already talking about their next meeting. In the days to come, they will sing again for the women in the camps, in Potocari, in Srebrenica and, maybe, make their lives brighter and richer, by sharing with them the gift of music through their singing.
Written by Iulia Socea – From Woman to Woman Project Manager
Iulia Socea is the project manager of MwB’s ‘From Woman to Woman,’ an initiative enabling Bosnian women musicians and dancers to offer their skills and compassionate support to their countrywomen. The project is a collaboration with Snaga Žene, an organization that offers psychological, social, medical, pedagogical and legal support to women, children and adolescents (refugees, returnees and displaced persons) who suffered different traumatic experiences during and after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Iulia reports on her latest visit to Tuzla.