When you wander the streets in Dubrovnik, it’s easy to be swept away by its charm and beauty and completely forget that just 25 years ago, the city was under attack in the Yugoslavian war. I was living in former Yugoslavia at the time of the war and have very detailed memories of the things I experienced even though I moved from the area when I was six. I remember the day before we fled to Sweden. I was sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen with my relatives all there and I was crying so loud, the neighbours said they could hear me. I could not understand war then, and I can’t understand it today. The story of the Yugoslavian war is a complex one, and we don’t need to go into the details here, but it’s safe to say that many people of all religions and nationalities suffered. Some wounds were physical and some are in the mind. Those are the wounds that never heal.
If you take the cable cars in Dubrovnik, you will reach mountain Srdj, which has fantastic views of the city and the Adriatic Sea. Here, tourists gather to admire the beauty, with cameras and selfie-sticks at hand. But if you walk just one minute to the Fort Imperial, you will find the Homeland War Museum of Dubrovnik which has an exhibition on the how the war affected Dubrovnik, called War Photo Limited. It shows a whole other side of the historic town known as “the pearl of the Adriatic”. The exhibition features photography of a city under seige, of its citizens and its defenders, and many artefacts from the soldiers who fought the war as well as documentaries made during the war.
Walking there, I felt an immense sadness. I was just a couple of years old when the war broke out in former Yugoslavia, but I still remember many awful things and those scars that have been there, slowly healing, were all torn up about 10 minutes after entering the museum. It’s hard reliving memories, and it’s surreal to know that those people on the pictures, well – the ones who were lucky enough to survive, are stillwalking among us, with scars so deep they’ll never heal. With memories so dark, I can’t begin to understand how they cope with life. They have suffered, they have lost homes, loved ones, and sometimes their minds. Because, really, how do you even deal with being a victim of war?
If you’re visiting Dubrovnik, you owe it to not only learn about the history of how the city was built, but to also educate yourself on what happened here just 24 years ago and learn the history of how the city was almost destroyed as well. Dubrovnik has been through restorations worth over $9 billion to look the way it does today, and may I say they’ve done an excellent job.