The Heartbreak and Opportunity of Tragedy
Nadina Mrkaljevic, Division 2, 12th grade

Imagine the frustration. The suspense feels like defeat; mental strain kills those who have yet to be plundered with gunfire. She lays in an empty room, clinging onto her son. Each gunshot feeds a violent pulsation of fear. The explosions are savage, coming from every which way, stealing away souls with unfinished lives. Together, the explosions and gunfire sound off like an intricate symphony. The orchestra of soldiers parade themselves by staggering to the effects of alcohol, drunk on the idea of cleanliness. Harmonious, possibly, with indulges in hypocrisy, proving that unbounded nationalism grows into fascism like untreated weeds fed by xenophobic minds. Bloody are the hands of those who play with weapons like others play violin. But this was nothing but an overture- The hostilities had just begun. In April of 1992, ethnic cleansing began in Bosnia. My parents were caught in the crossfire; they live, but an estimated one-hundred thousand people were not as lucky.

After subsiding in Germany for five years, the German government ordered all Bosnian refugees out of Germany; my parents were faced with a decision- move back to the impoverished and mangled Bosnia or move somewhere else. This marks the first time that they saw the war as an opportunity- their children could lead lives in another country, one with endless possibilities.

What does war mean to you? Maybe you think of political policies or land ownership; disputes over something you deem worthy. You may feel a sense of pride, and perhaps it is followed by sentiments of patriotism. When I ask this question to my mother, she answers hesitantly,  “hopelessness.” She pauses. “rape, humiliation, mental abuse. Watching your son go hungry because there isn't enough food.” In this moment, she looks defeated; her eye reflects the depths of sorrow, but her will is the strongest of any person I have ever known. Once my parents arrived to Spokane, Washington, which they randomly selected on a map of the United States, they carried one small bag of clothing and not an utterance of English amongst their tongues. 

My mother smiles when she recalls her initial culture shock, “couches!” She says, “couches on peoples’ outside porches!” She laughs, then takes a breath to clarify, “indoor couches… outside! How absurd.” Although I laugh along, I understand that her challenges did not plainly lie with couches; on top of the language barrier, My parents were to raise two children in an unfamiliar city with no initial income. Living in the slums of Spokane, my parents began their journey in a small apartment with donated furniture and necessities from Value Village. Their tenacity, values and tireless efforts quickly earned them work. These unflagging endeavors, year after year, to create a new and safe environment for their children was rewarded; today, living comfortably in the suburbs with well educated children, my parents feel accomplished.  

I was raised a soldier- but not within the convention- to be clear, I do not dress in camouflage; not surprisingly, I shy away from it as a “fashion” choice. But as other soldiers do, I march to a symphony. My orchestra is not composed of battle cries, but rather a melody. The strings, sometimes brittle, represent integrity. Woodwinds, almost spiritual in a sense, symbolize cultural awareness. The percussions, the largest and most powerful of instruments, represent the rhythmic steadiness towards my goals. Finally, the brass family, known as the loudest of any orchestra, represent passion. Passion for medicine, which I wish to pursue in furthering my education. Passion for opportunities my parents never had. Passion for a future that carries their legacy. 

So perhaps this experience has been the worst of my parents’ lives; however, I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that have risen from the situation. Without this this terrible and life-threatening experience, I might not have had the chance to follow my dreams. One day, I will be an Oncologist. I’ll be fighting for patients just as my parents have fought for me. And this will all have been worth it.
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