Our life, our transition – the true story of Derby’s Bosnian Community

This Saturday saw an inspiring event take place to mark the end of an incredibly important project for the Bosnian community in Derby. Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, 25 families have told the stories of atrocities they witnessed during the war, how they came to leave their homes, their first impressions on arriving in the UK and then how they adapted to life here, what lessons they’ve learned and what messages they have for others who come to live in the UK.

This was my second visit to Derby, as earlier in the year, I attended a powerful commemoration that included the unveiling of a monument remembering the victims of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina during Srebrenica Memorial Week. That was also created as part of the project and particularly focused on the mothers of Bosnia – paying tribute to their strength in the face of all the horrors they had been through.

A packed Bosnia & Herzegovina Centre heard Ferid Kevric talk about the project, the challenges and successes that they’d had. The community feel was enhanced by a display of photographs that they had collected and many of the contributors who’d worked to bring it all together were there. The audience included children as young as 5 and older members of the community up to 75, so they made a real effort to include everyone and ensure that the younger generation take ownership of this part of their history.

Each of the families who were interviewed were given a copy of the book containing all 25 stories in full, a copy of the DVD with edited footage of all the interviews and a DVD of their own individual interview that they can pass on through the generations. Chair of the association, Nermina Webster, handed these out and thanked everyone individually before the DVD was played for everyone to watch. It was a powerful occasion to be in the audience with so many of the people who had given their testimony, recalling the darkest times of their lives and reawakening the trauma that in some cases still lies inside them.

The stories in the video tell about the most horrific events that could befall anyone, but all end with a message of positivity about how they were helped by the people of Derby and how they now give back to the community. 

This is particularly highlighted through their work giving advice to new refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, sharing their understanding of what it is like to be here not knowing the language or culture and having to start a new life. These people are an inspiration and I felt very lucky to be able to attend this event on behalf of Remembering Srebrenica.

If you wish to get a copy of the book and DVD they produced, they are available for sale via the Derby Bosnia & Herzegovina Association. 

You can contact them via their website: www.bihcommunityderby.co.uk/

Joe Peacock, Communications and Engagement Manager