Balkans conflict should not be forgotten - Jane Bradley

As a child, I remember first hearing about the Bosnian war on Blue Peter. The popular BBC programme was holding a fundraising drive for children affected by the conflict there and, without giving away too many of the horrific details I have since learned, managed to put across the situation in a way which left a lasting impression.

The ID card of schoolgirl Elvira Mujkanović, who fled to Scotland after being held in a concentration camp, is among items on display at the exhibition in Glasgow.

Yet, that one show aside, I remember hearing little else about it. The war, which was part of a series of conflicts in the region which raged throughout the nineties, has become known as the “Forgotten War” – yet was an horrific conflict which took place in Europe, just over 1,500 miles from Scotland.

An exhibition marking the genocide at Srebrenica - when Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladić, massacred 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys – opens this week at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The exhibition reveals the powerful stories of local people who lived through the war and explores some of Scotland’s connections with the country during and after the conflict.

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When I travelled to Serbia for work a few years ago, the scars were evident there too, almost a quarter of a century later. While Serbia is considered the aggressor in most accounts, for ordinary people there living through it – like those living in Croatia, Bosnia or Macedonia – life became a desperate bid for survival.

One woman I met told me how she gave birth in a pitch-black hospital as war planes flew overhead, only to have her newborn baby snatched from her arms by a doctor minutes later, who took him to an air raid shelter to keep him safe. The new mothers, considered too weak to be moved, were left to their own chances as bombs rained down on the building.

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Connections between Scotland and Srebenica massacre explored in exhibition

The exhibition tells the stories of more of these ordinary people, such as one Bosnian school girl, who suffered in a concentration camp before managing to flee to Scotland. Her best friend, whose letter, filled with hopes and dreams of their future, is also on display in Glasgow, was killed. The conflict resulted in the deaths of around 130,000 people, many of them civilians and displaced more than four million people, who were forced to leave their homes. Let’s not forget them any longer.

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