Blog Global Health Center COVID-19

COVID-19 and war in Bosnia

Written by Adisa Kalkan, MA, project administrator in the Clinical Research Training Center at Washington University in St. Louis

I was recently asked by a friend how am I doing with the current COVID-19 situation. My first instinct was to think back to my war experience. I was a teenager when the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina started in April 1992.  With daily bombings and snipers on the city streets, I spent days in a building basement. With family and neighbors, while the bombs were falling on our streets we were playing cards, chess, and listening to a radio for news and songs.

©Tom Stoddart – Lady walking in the streets of Sarajevo in 1994 – my memory of war in Bosnia and resilience

It was very hard for my parents to keep me calm in the basement when all I wanted to do was to be outside and hang out with my friends. Today, I am a parent and my kiddos want to be outside with friends playing soccer, riding bikes, and hanging out. Isn’t it ironic I tell my friend, that in my lifetime I have seen firsthand how freedom in war seems parallel to freedom during a pandemic?

I remember how neighbors were sharing food and supplies since our city of Sarajevo was under siege; now I see again that same human solidarity. Today, through my window I saw a neighbor knock on a balcony door of an elderly lady leaving her a homemade meal and some supplies. Different city, different neighbor, and a different time, but people are still good people.

Days, weeks, months, and years went by and war in Bosnia was still going on. People learned to live with the war. They adjusted to a new abnormal world around them by being resilient. It is almost funny to hear that word again but now in another language and another scenario. Translated from Bosnian to English this word could also be interpreted as Full of Life… that is what we are!

So, I told my friend that no matter how surreal our world gets, we are built to survive, adjust, and rise. I am doing well, thank you for asking.