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Cultural Visions Part Five: Bosnia, Kosovo

March 14, 2017

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Boy on the road watching our Humvee, Kosovo, 2000, Frank Ward photos

Twenty years ago I traveled with Glenn Ruga, founder of Friends of Bosnia, to Sarajevo and surrounding areas. A peace accord had recently been signed to curtail the three-way conflict between Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. The country was in ruins and I would often end the day in tears after interviewing refugees and photographing bombed out towns.

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Celma, Bosnia, 1997

I am showing the portraits that compelled me through the intensity of the situation. The Roma, pictured below, had a camp by the river in Mostar. They were trapped between and within conflicting nations. They were the survivors who were not named.

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Roma Leader, Bosnia, 1997

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Roma Boys, Bosnia, 1997

These pictures were made on my second trip, in the summer, with Glenn Ruga and Barbara Ayotte from Physicians for Human Rights. The situation was still horrible, but the Bosnians were slowly rebuilding their lives after years of terror. I volunteered at Mladi Most, Youth Bridge. It was more than a youth center it was a place for the war children to eat, sleep and be teenagers.

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Bart’s Draft Party, Bosnia, 1997

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Roki Sings, Bosnia, 1997

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Bump, US Army Humvee, Kosovo, 2000

The following year, 1998, nearby Kosovo suffered attacks from Serbia. Glenn and I went to Kosovo in January 2000 and were imbedded with American forces; they drove us around Kosovo by day. At night we often ate at an Italian restaurant frequented by journalists and spies. I say that because the place seemed like Rick’s Place in the Bogart movie Casablanca. Instead of Sam, the piano player in the film, we had the Eagles. About once an hour Hotel California came over the speaker system. It seemed so appropriate.

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Cafe, Bosnia, 1997

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Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia, 1997

It took almost 20 years and an international court of law before the Serb fanatics in Bosnia were found guilty of genocide . The Serbs responsible for the atrocities in Kosovo are just now going on trial in the Hague. These were awful times. I selected a few pictures that I feel good about from those tense trips to the Balkan war zones. I’m not much of a war photographer. For example, an American military patrol, driving a version of a half-track tank, drove up to me as I was photographing with my 8X10 inch view camera on the Bosnia/Croatia border. One shouted, “What are you doing? I know you’re not a photojournalist because you are carrying a camera that is too big to run with.” That is still a good question.

For more of my Balkan pictures look here.

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