Bosnia and Herzegovina Life Stories Part I, The Man With The Cherries

“Live if tough, but we’ll find a way out somehow. Look, these cherries still come from the tree.”

The man with the cherries


Just another building in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. June, 2013.

One evening. Not very late, but still dark. I went out of the airport looking for the bus. In the airport they gave me directions, but nobody told me I’ll walk in the middle of nowhere with no lights or pedestrian paths. But all went well, got safe to a tram stop.

I was waiting there for a tram to take me into the city and checking curious the surroundings.

Next to me comes a man with a bag of cherries. He offers me. I deny because where I’m from it’s polite to reject somebody offering you something to eat especially. But I wanted the cherries. How can one say no to cherries? I love them.

The Bosnian man with cherries insisted, so I said yes. And we started talking. He was a simple man, somewhere in his mid ‘50s, with a worked out hands and with a great English.

He was the first one to give me an authentic inside of the life after the Yugoslavian war. A war which I saw on TV when I was a child and was so hard for me to understanding what is going on there, a war which was yet to far to have ever impact my life, but which was just on the other side of the Danube.

First I asked him how come he knows so well English. This is something common for people at his age from Eastern Europe. He has been living and working in several countries in Africa, driving industrial machines. He left after the Yugoslavian war ended so he can maintain his family.

The man with the cherries was telling me how with the war all the industry was destroyed and together with that people lost their jobs, and the possibility to offer a better future for their children. He was telling me: “look around, all the buildings have bullet holes. Everything is destroyed.”

He had 2 children: a daughter and a son. The daughter is fine now; after searching for a job for more than a year, she has a job in a call centre and is getting married. But the son… he couldn’t find anything, he didn’t study much at school, what can he do in a country where the war didn’t leave anything?

I looked at him speechless. Romania had a tough communism, all the industry felt together to the communism regime, but we always had peace. And then with the years or maybe because our strategic geographical position we found the way to a better life. But Bosnia didn’t seem to have too many options and the history was just too different. Then, how can the youngsters to dream? How can they build something? Nobody has the right to take them this. They have to go travel, they have to discover the world!

Then the man with the cherries looked at me, smiled and said: I’ll take my son with me in Africa. He’ll learn a profession, English, save some money and then we’ll see, we’ll be back here and start building something. As long as these cherries still come from a tree we’ll find our way.

I was somewhere at the end of Sarajevo, in the dark, with somebody who had a real tough life, but who never gave up fighting for a better life.

Respect! A true inspiring life story.

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