An Emotional Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for me, and an anniversary that means a lot.
Today is the 16th of September. And today I am reflecting on that first day I arrived in Banja Luka back in 1998.
That’s 17 years ago peeps! For some, that’s half a lifetime.
Back then I had landed 2 days earlier in Split, Croatia, as a re-enforcement for the NATO Stabilisation Force (SFOR).
Totally exhausted, having completed a 2 week intensive military pre-deployment training course in the UK, we travelled straight away, (wasting some 36 hours in a departure lounge) to the aircraft at Royal Air Force Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The delay (as so often back then) was due to the Royal Air Force deciding if and when it would fly to Croatia.
On arrival at Split we stayed in old rickety containers at a shared Croatian Army Barracks, sleeping on 3 tier bunk beds. The toilets were very basic and the meals we got were typically British. You know, the breakfast where everything sails to you on a plate.
My trip from the UK Base in Divulje barracks (an old Jugoslav Air Force Base) near Trogir, to my new “home” in a former metal factory near Banja Luka was an emotional and cultural roller-coaster.
It took nearly 7 hours.
Listen to my podcast here:
I travelled through amazingly beautiful countryside but at the same time saw desolate villages that had suffered extreme and brutal violence.
This is the sort of thing I saw.
I questioned from where I had come and to where exactly I was going.
What all this was about. What would I be expected to do?
To cut a long story short, it was a media related task that would see me try to influence young people’s view of the future and being awarded a MBE as a result.
That initial 6 month deployment lasted 7 years.
Today, I see things a lot differently than back then. That’s only natural.
Today, I think I understand Bosnia and Herzegovina, (as best any foreigner can) and I think that maybe, just maybe, we all got it wrong.
This blog might provide that answer.