This is the 5th in a series of articles friends encouraged me to write after returning from a trip to Bosnia and Croatia in January and February, 2011. These articles chronicle people’s generosity and kindness, my emotions and experiences. This entry focuses on wonderful memories created in the town of Bosanska Krupa from January 28-31. I’ve posted some photos here, but you can view all of them here.
Dusk fell on the train from Sarajevo as it plowed through the black and white winter landscape Bosanski Novi. I was en route to a town I’d only heard of about 4 weeks earlier to people I’d never met. Somehow, though, my intuition told me all would be ok. Little did I know that the experience would surpass anything I could have anticipated.
I stepped off the train on Friday, January 28, to the warm smiles of Jasmina Palic and Almir Kurtovic-Cupo holding a box of chocolates to make my arrival a sweet one. Well, if sweet experiences held calories I would have left Bosanska Krupa the following Tuesday with another 5 kilograms!
Jasmina and Almir kindly dropped me off at the beautiful Suljic Hotel for a brief rest before meeting the folks at KUD Grmec cultural organization for rehearsal of the concert being held in my honor. Established in 1946, KUD Grmec is well traveled and accomplished having traveled to perform in many countries. It includes folklore ensemble, folk orchestra, choir, drama troupe.
With their years of experience, president Dzevad Grosic and the members of the KUD had everything in place. The concert hall was ready, the band well rehearsed, invitations and publicity distributed, and the young ladies of the KUD ready for their part. I couldn’t have been more impressed.
The concert hall was bustling with people there for the rehearsal and concert preparation. The band was tuning up. Folks were setting up chairs. Discussions and plans were being finalized. I walked onto the stage not knowing how the band would sound, whether they were able to make sense of the information I had sent from Seattle in advance concerning the keys in which I would sing, and whether we would have any chemistry to make the music come alive.
In about five notes of the first forspiel I understood that this was a fabulous group. In only three rehearsals they had mastered my material perfectly and, yes, there was a lot of chemistry between us. This was a great bunch of guys!
Words aren’t able to communicate accurately the depth of emotion I felt at the concert. KUD Grmec had paid me a great honor holding this concert. They had gone to so much trouble on my account. I was truly humbled.
The public gave me such a warm welcome that my soul soared above their beautiful rivers and mountains. As we joined together singing sevdalinke we were all transported with joy. As if that weren’t enough I was given a number of gifts by KUD Grmec including a beautiful oar that is now hanging on my wall. Local artist and guitarist Ibrahim Bajric gave me a gorgeous watercolor of the River Una, as well.
These will be constant daily reminders of the unforgettable kindness and generosity I experienced in Bosanska Krupa.
The after party at a nearby restaurant was simply icing on the cake, a great opportunity to celebrate the concert’s success and our new friendships.
During the day, Jasmina and Almir treated me like a queen taking me on sightseeing tours of Bosanska Krupa and environs, restaurants and coffee shops. The scenery was stunning.
Nothing could have prepared me for the area’s natural beauty. I had heard that the Una was considered the most beautiful river in Bosnia and even in winter I had to agree, its turquoise color glowing in the snow. The vertical river canyon walls simply left me awestruck.
The town itself is a jewel situated between the rivers, its hills affording a gorgeous view at every turn. Almir shared with me photos of the destruction Bosanska Krupa had suffered during the war. The amount of rebuilding is more than impressive, reflecting a love and commitment to the town by its wonderful people.
In addition to music, I was in Bosanska Krupa for another reason, to deliver a donation from people in Seattle to the organization Pomozimo Nezbrinutu Djecu Opcina Bosanska Krupa.
In addition, I brought gifts from the Seattle King County Chapter of the American Red Cross to the Bosanska Krupa chapter of the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Hase Icanovic the Red Cross worker in Bosanska Krupa, was kind enough to educate me about his work in the area. I will share information about both organizations in a Seattle presentation on World Red Cross Day, May 17.
The Facebook page Pomozimo Nezbrinutu Djecu Opcina Bosanska Krupa was started by Jasmin Halkic in 2009. Mr. Halkic is a freelance reporter and works for hayat tv as a correspondent. He sought out someone in the town to implement and handle the tasks locally. Almir Kurtovic-Cupo stepped up and Jasmina Palic soon joined him six months later. With Mr. Halkic, these two young humanitarians have become my personal heroes. They saw a need and decided to fill it by providing 300 sandwiches each day to local school children in need and monthly food deliveries to families. Unemployment is a staggering 40% in Bosnia so many families are struggling to make ends meet. The organization depends on donations. As more funding is available they will expand to more families. They are in the process of completing the legal paperwork to become an official organization. Jasmin, Jasmina and Almir are making a real difference in the lives of people in Bosanska Krupa and all who hear about their work. Bravo!
Jasmina and Almir offered me the privilege of accompanying them on food deliveries to three families so I was able to see their work first hand. Not only are they delivering needed food, they treat these families with dignity and provide much needed empathy. It was beautiful to watch. The three families they currently deliver aid to include:
- a family with two disabled children, the mother is emotionally unstable and the father comes and goes.
- a single out of work dad whose wife died of cancer, their 16-year old son and daughter who had to drop out of school to take care of family needs. The neighbors bought them a milk cow for them some months ago to keep them going.
- The third, a family with six children, the 3-year old boy with leukemia.
I am indebted to Jasmin for bringing Bosanka Krupa and his family into my life. With warm Bosnian hospitality, Jasmin’s parent invited Jasmina, Almir and me to their home for a wonderful visit over coffee and sweets. Mr. Halkic later came to my hotel to give me a set of beautiful crocheted work his wife had made.
Mr. Halkic, by the way, is absolutely hilarious. I cannot wait to see them again some day!
I also had the great pleasure of spending a wonderful evening in the home of Emir Besic and family.
He and his wife Remiza are doing so much to help the people in Bosanska Krupa. They help individual families and Emir does specific work with the fire department. Emir wrote and starred in a film depicting the true story about his experience in the war, “Slunjska Brda, Zivot ili Smrt.” He would very much like to get this film released with English subtitles. That being the final evening, I returned to my room and packed for the next morning’s departure.
It was so very hard to say goodbye to Jasmina and Almir at the bus station in Bihac, but I had to go to my next stop – to sing with Bulbuli Choir in Zagreb. I have to admit I shed a few tears.
In just a few days Bosanska Krupa and its people had settled into the center of my soul. Miles and time may separate us, however, KUD Grmec, Jasmina, Almir, Mr. and Mrs. Halkic, Ibro Bajric and all my new friends in Bosanka Krupa will never be far from my thoughts and heart. Your kindness and generosity were overwhelming. Thank you and best wishes for every success and happiness!
Wonderfully, there was a nun in the seat in front of me on the bus as I left Bosnia from Bihac en route to Zagreb for a concert with the Preporod organization and Bulbuli Choir. You may remember I traveled with three imams into Bosnia. What’s with that? Coincidence? Fate? Divine intervention? Whatever it is, it’s beautiful!