The war might be over in the Balkan gulf almost two decades ago. But the scars remain raw for many Bosnians, who suffered one of the most horrible massacre in history, as a part of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs and Croatians. This is especially true for Bosnian women. Many Bosnians fled their country and dispersed in Europe. I came into contact for the first time with them in the most unexpected time and place of my life, during my travel to London, in a way that shook my conscience.
A day before leaving England I decided to go to the world-famous department store, Harrods, in Knightsbridge. The massive store is housed in a historical building from the nineteenth century. The interior is lavish, the shoppers come from the four corners of the globe. I noticed many middle-easterners ladies swarmed the place. This is where the riches burn their cash. Finished browsing around, I went outside for a cup of coffee in an Italian café across Harrods. While sipping my latte, I heard a small voice greeting me in Arabic. “Sister, do you have some money to spare for me?” she said, “I need to buy some foods for my baby”.
She is a small woman with a pale face and hijab covered her head. Her face expressed mounting hope, her hands extended to me. She told me she was from Bosnia. She brought her little brother with her. She walked away muttering thank you and looked around, perhaps for other ‘sisters’ to ask help from. My conscience slapped me from the contrast of my rich ‘sisters’ walking around with their Harrods bag and my poor Bosnian refugee ‘sister’.
As I walked my way to the Knightsbridge tube station, lots of questions bothered me. How did she get to England? Was she a war victim or a victim of human trafficking? Did somebody force her to beg around? How did she cope with the risks of living in the street? Wish I had more time to talk to her, but somehow she got to get back to work.