Bosnia-Herzegovina is at once beautiful and heart- breaking. Spectacular landscapes are punctuated by the scars of war and ethnic hatred. At every bend in the road one encounters the best of nature and the worst of human nature.
The photographs on this page present the two sides of Bosnia. In the slide show on the right, a glimpse of some of Bosnia's natural (and manmade) beauty. The pop-up slide show below focuses on the human penchant for destruction.
Bosnia has been at peace since 1995 and there are many visible signs of rebuilding and return to normal life. But the country and its people remain bitterly divided, both physically and emotionally. Within Bosnia-Herzegovina there is both the "Muslim-Croat Federation" – an uneasy union of formerly bitter enemies – plus the "Republic of Srpska" (Serb Republic), an area controlled by Bosnian-Serbs who were responsible for much of the killing in their efforts to create a "Greater Serbia".
Although these political borders – enshrined by the Dayton Peace Accords that finally ended the wars – are clearly drawn on any map, one can only wonder at the emotional boundaries that have been erected between the people of different ethnic groups who once lived together as peaceful neighbors but transformed so easily into heartless killers and rapists. One wonders how many cold-blooded murderers still walk with impunity down the streets of their towns. (Two of the worst – Bosnian-Serb president, Radovan Karadžić, and the leader of his Bosnian-Serb military, Ratko Mladić – are still at large even though indicted years ago as war criminals.)
During more than three years of fighting within Bosnia, some 278,000 people (including 16,700 children) were killed. Two-thirds of the population (2.5 million people) were displaced from their homes. An estimated 20,000 women were raped. In short, virtually everyone alive in Bosnia today was touched by the war, either directly or through the loss of family members, friends or property. For many of these people, even a simple walk to the store must revive tragic memories as they pass scenes of destruction or places where people they knew used to live or work.
But there are signs of hope. Sarajevo is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city and it was clear to see even in the January off-season that tourists are coming back. New construction throughout the city shows optimism for the future. New hotels are also being built near Jahorina and it is only a matter of time until this potentially world class ski area is "discovered". Mostar is a picturesque old town and a World Heritage Site. And the mountains, the rivers and other natural splendor of Bosnia will surely one day draw the world to its door.
It all depends, of course, on continued peace. It's hard to imagine war breaking out again, but then it was hard to believe that Sarajevo could be under military siege only a few years after hosting the world at the Winter Olympic games.
Scenes of War: Although peace came to Bosnia in 1995, the scars of war remain all too visible throughout this otherwise beautiful country. Buildings, even residences occupied today, show damage from artillery or heavy caliber weapons unleashed on the families inside. Throughout Bosnia there are large cemeteries where many headstones place the date of death in the early 1990s. Then, of course, there is the most tragic scene of all: the thousands of graves of Muslim men massacred in cold blood near Srebrenica. (23 Photos) [Preview This Slide Show]