My dad always had good taste in shoes. He goes for quality over quantity. He’s particular. He likes a classic shape and won’t buy a shoe unless it’s just right.
But, if we’re going to talk about my dad’s shoes, we have to talk about the war that happened in Bosnia in the 90s. Allow me to explain.
This year, December 18th marks 30 years since my dad was released from the concentration camps in Bosnia.
It’s a day I wish my family didn’t have to celebrate. It’s weird to even use that word because the way we ‘celebrate’ feels less like a confetti cannon and more like a deep sigh of relief.
My dad was in two concentration camps during the war. Strangely, he’s considered one of the lucky ones. I’m grateful he survived but I will forever struggle to understand how living with lifelong trauma makes you one of the favored.
The day my dad was taken to the camps could have been a day like any other. The war in Bosnia was getting worse by the day but people were still trying to live their lives.
Sometimes people would gather in each other's homes to share what little food they had and what little information they had heard in passing whispers. Being scared with your friends is better than being scared alone.
On that day, my dad and a few others had gone to a neighbor’s house. She was making the thinnest pita he’d ever seen because they were all running out of food. Still, in good Bosnian nature, you feed your guests, even in the midst of a war.
What else were people supposed to do? There was nowhere to go and nothing else to do but hide in your own home. Even at night people would sit in the dark for fear that turning the lights on would invite a death sentence.
Most people met gruesome fates. Nearby, a mother was forced to watch her husband and all of her sons line up in their yard and get shot squarely in the head. She’d have to return to that home.
These unimaginable things were becoming all too common as the war picked up in the Northwest pocket of Bosnia, where my parents are from.
Some of the Bosnian men were trying to meet in the forest to form a militia and fight back, but it was too late.