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The Suitcase

Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia

Julie A. Mertus (Author), Jasmina Tesanovic (Author), Habiba Metikos (Author), Rada Boric (Author), Cornel West (Foreword)

Not available in Yugoslavia, HR, SI, BA

Paperback, 267 pages
ISBN: 9780520206342
January 1997
$31.95, £23.95
The whirlwind of Europe's longest war in half a century has produced this powerful collection of personal narratives—essays, letters, and poems—from refugees fleeing Bosnia and Croatia. Taking us behind the barrage of media coverage, these stories tell of perseverance, brutality, forced departure, exile, and courage. With startling immediacy and in moving detail, speakers tell of stuffing a few belongings—a handful of photographs, a rock from the garden, a change of clothes—into a suitcase and fleeing their homeland.

Contributors from all ethnic groups and every region of Bosnia and Croatia describe their sense of lost community, memories of those left behind, recollections of town squares that no longer exist, and homes now occupied by neighbors. The editors of The Suitcase, themselves representing the diverse peoples of the region, traveled to camps and temporary homes across the globe to collect these stories. An antidote to apathy, this work moves beyond and outside the vicissitudes of daily politics to portray the human tragedy at the center of present-day Bosnia and Croatia. Probing the intimate losses of countless individuals, it delivers a powerful indictment of injustice, militarism, prejudice, and warfare.
Julie Mertus was a Fulbright scholar, human rights activist, and Professor of Law in Bucharest, Romania. She is now Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at American University. Jasmina Tesanovic is a writer and publisher in Belgrade, Serbia. Habiba Metikos was a lawyer in Sarajevo; she now lives in Canada. Rada Boric is a Director of the Center for Women War Victims in Zagreb, Croatia. Cornel West is Professor of African American Studies at Harvard University and author of Race Matters (1993), among many other books.
"For four excruciating years, these overwhelmingly civilian victims of bloodthirsty armies have been degraded, dishonored, dislocated, and displaced. And the world has looked at this appalling mistreatment with both horror and complacency. . . . In this unique book we move from the searing headlines about the people to the courageous voices of the people . . . whose will to persist and prevail is so nobly evident."—Cornel West

"This is a sad, lovely, human, heartwarming book. The urgency, immediacy, and power of these first-hand accounts of pain, suffering, loss, and survival make this a uniquely compelling collection and a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit."—Mahnaz Afkhami, author of Women in Exile

"These voices bring us close, they make us intimate with the losses of refugees—loved ones killed, connections destroyed, homes and country left behind, pieces of one's self lost. We touch their grief, pain, the chaos that surrounds them."—Ervin Staub, author of The Roots of Evil

"There are more than two million displaced people from the war in Bosnia. This collection at last gives a voice to those silent millions. Their stories are moving, harrowing, and faithfully reflected in this authentic work."—Laura Silber, Balkans Correspondent, Financial Times and co-author of Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation

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