Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the Sarajevo Haggadah is its seemingly everlasting power to connect people. Not just people across the Seder table, although judging from its wine-stained pages, it did that, many times across the years. But more than that, its power to connect people from various backgrounds in the celebration of life.
Perhaps no other leader embodies the spirit of Bosnian resistance and the nation’s will to survive than Husein-Kapetan Gradascevic, the Dragon of Bosnia. Many years after his death, a popular sentiment among the Bosnian people, Muslims, and Christians alike (particularly in the Posavina region) was that his name could not be mentioned without shedding a tear. The tragedy of his life is in many ways a quintessential embodiment of the dual nature of the Bosnian national spirit.
Many of us wish for a simple life. We dream of open landscapes, fresh air, perhaps some tending to the vegetable garden, and ultimately, a quiet escape from modernity. Lukomir, a tiny village of no more than a handful of semi-nomadic inhabitants perhaps best embodies this spirit of the freedom and hunger for a connection to primal nature and the history of what’s around us and what came before us.
If Sarajevo is indeed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s heart, the baščaršija (pronounced baash-char-shiya) is its shining historic, and cultural heart within a heart. Centrally located within the old city, the baščaršija is a remnant of Bosnia’s Ottoman past, but has been reclaimed as a point of national pride and living history within the country. This central market may be hundreds of years old, but its busy activity has not ceased since its construction in 1462.
Looking at the pale grey, sun-drenched stones from a distance, one is reminded of Tolkien’s mythical city Minas Tirith. This is no fantasy, however, but very much a real-life place, steeped in thousands of years of history and tradition.
Like a flock of migratory birds, Bosnians all over the world look forward to summertime with great yearning. It means the smell of cevapi and lamb over coals, the sight of family and friends that were only available over phone and computer monitors for most of the year, and the sounds of the mosque’s call to prayer mingled with church bells. It means the sight of ancient stone bridges, rolling green landscapes, and roaring waterfalls breaking the silence of the day. It means a return home. It means a return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.