Friday, May 15, 2009

Like Swallowing A Stone, Surviving the Past In Bosnia by Polish journalist Wojciech Tochman chronicles the plight of survivors of the 1992-95 Bosnian war as they struggle to come to terms with the peace which followed. In particular it focus’s in on the search by family members often women for the remains of their loved ones.

Tochman introduces the reader to Dr. Ewa Klonowski a Polish born member of the American Academy of Forensic Science. Dr. Klonowski is working in Bosnia helping to discover, disinter and reunite the remains of the victims of war with their loved ones. One of Dr Klonowski’s assistants is Bosnian woman Mejra Dautovic, a former resident of Prijedor, who herself searching for the remains of her children murdered during the conflict.

The author openly takes no sides. He travels to camps which are home to Serbians who when Bosnian was partitioned after the war, choose to live in the Bosnian Serb Repeublic. We learn that Serbian men, for the most part, are reluctant to be photographed and that they claim to have been cooks in the army for the duration of the conflict.

The lives of Bosnian women many of whom lost husbands, brothers and sons but who have chosen to return to their former homes is laid bare for observation. In a few sentences Tochman takes us to the heart of a group of women who have come together work their farmsteads, so as to salvage their future from their bleak and desolate past.

By the end of the account there is no ambiguity as to where the sympathies of the author lie. His non involvement allows the victims to tell their story. Tochman is reduced to being an unobtrusive recorder of women who are attempting to come to terms with their shattered lives.

Although less than 200 pages “Like Eating A Stone”, is an horrific account of people who have survived their terror of war with humanity and dignity. It will both captivate and haunt the reader.


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