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Dear friend,

Earlier this year, two CVT colleagues and I visited the city of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). We were there to meet with representatives of Vive Zene, a torture treatment center that is now a partner in the CVT Partners in Trauma Healing (PATH) project.The goal of PATH is to strengthen the clinical, monitoring and evaluation, and organizational capacity of ten torture treatment centers around the world. Fundamentally, the project is about providing the best possible torture treatment services.

Bridge over Sava river destroyed in war.jpg

Looking acrss the Sava River into Croatia where two hangars were used as concentration camps during the Bosnian War.

On a day-trip to the Brčko District, a town in northern BiH, we visited the Association of Bosniak Concentration Camp Survivors in Brčko District. The president of the association spoke with an intensity I’ve seen only in people who have been in face-to-face battles around the world. He spoke of his two years in concentration camps in Brčko, never breaking eye contact with me.

After lunch in a nearby restaurant, we went out to a patio overlooking the Sava River and into Croatia. The president of the association pointed to two hangars on the right across the street and described its history as a concentration camp where he had been held, the many people who entered through those doors, and the shocking number of those who didn’t leave alive.

While walking through the city, he pointed to buildings and told of the horrors that had occurred there. In his office, two walls were nearly covered with pictures of people who had survived the camps. Their faces had the solemn gazes of people who have been to hell and back. In the corner of the room were pictures of a mass grave being unearthed by a front-end loader, the kind of tractor used to clear snow from a rural road. Bodies on top of bodies, limbs lifelessly splayed this way and that, dressed in the clothes they wore on their final day.

He and his colleague showed us photograph after photograph of those who are believed to be responsible for the planning and the executions. Some still live in the community. Like the buildings, seeing them is a daily reminder of what was lost. And a daily doubt about what was gained.

His stories are personal and nearly impossible to imagine, were I not already all-too-familiar with the inhumanity of torture. I was moved by his persistence in documenting the experiences of victims and survivors. People like him have experienced the worst of humanity, but are deeply committed to a better future. It is rewarding to be a part of the work that Vive Zene is doing to heal survivors of the war in Bosnia. It is a privilege and honor to work with so many skilled, courageous, and passionate human rights colleagues around the world. And it’s a pleasure to share this experience with you.

Kristi RendahlKristi Rendahl
Organizational Development Advisor
Partners in Trauma Healing

In addition to her work at CVT, Kristi Rendahl is a columnist for the Armenian Weekly. You can read online about her visit to Bosnia and other countries.


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