The war in former Yugoslavia has shaped and reshaped me in so many different ways that it's hard to explain how much I used to depend on it. It has changed the way I think, the way I act, the way I feel about myself and other people. It has destroyed every belief I had, every image of hope, purpose, love and caring I ever created in my head. The war struck suddenly. I was unprepared.
As I was completing my junior year in high school in Cairo, Egypt, my best friend was entering the Yugoslav army, and the civil war was breaking out. I was far from it, but I could feel its intensity in my friend's letters. Over time, his words lost their original optimism and turned into repressive disrespect for human life.
The war became my worst obsession. Although abroad, I inquired about it endlessly. I gathered stories from murderers and thieves, from schizophrenics and pacifists, from refugees and from the wounded, and from the few who appeared to be unaffected. Yet, the more I tried to solve the puzzle of the war, the more it appeared to be an impenetrable maze.
As the first victims fell for whatever they fought for, I wrote in my diary: "The world is dying away to be born again in the glory of blood--and me still only 17." My world is dying away; I was in my teens, but I had to construct a new world to live in. It was a tough period of nothingness, when I had nothing to hold on to, nothing to believe in. But I was strong enough to come back from my self-imposed exile; stronger, wiser, more prepared to face challenge.
When I look back at the war, I find it is much like Camus' plague. Everyone is conscious of it, yet it strikes suddenly, because no one believes that such a horror can possibly be true. When a war comes, like Camus' plague, it destroys life and shatters hope; yet it is needed to shake up people, to wake them up and show them what life is about. The war brings with it a new ideal, a new hope, a new meaning to life.
The war has certainly refreshed me. It has made me more decisive, more aware of what I am and where I stand. The war forced me to look for myself--something I had lost and had to find again.
I found myself in the writings of existential authors, in theories of Friedrich Nietzche and Alfred Adler. I realized that I want to become a psychologist, to treat people, like the many thousands in Yugoslavia, who cannot not sustain pressure. My psychology teacher helped me make this decision. I cannot describe my thankfulness.
Looking back at the war, I can say that all the grief and sorrow and thinking were not entirely useless. After losing the sources of stability that were given to me, I had to find new ones and, through finding them, I experienced complete independence from anything or anyone around me. Being a Serb, I can criticize Serbia, I can love a Muslim. I can abandon myself and view everything objectively.
Now that I have won my individual battle with the war, I can hope that it will collapse on itself like a wave, and that the bloodshed will finally stop.