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Exhibition to commemorate Bosnian connections with Scotland

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The display will be housed at the Community Gallery at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow

A new exhibition commemorating the Bosnian War and the genocide in Srebrenica has been unveiled, revealing the powerful stories of ordinary people who lived through the war and exploring some of Scotland’s connections with the country during and after the war. 

The exhibition in the Community Gallery at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow includes a unique collection of personal items from Bosnians who now live in Scotland, and from Scots who travelled to Bosnia to deliver aid and help uncover the truth about the genocide.

Several items are also on loan from the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A new painting by acclaimed artist Peter Howson, ‘Bosnian Twilight – the Silent Forest’, which was produced for the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, will also be showcased at the museum.

The exhibition was originally planned for the 25th anniversary in 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It has now opened as the world marks White Armband Day, which takes place every May 31 to remember the campaign of ethnic cleansing that took place in the town of Prijedor, northern Bosnia-Herzegovina, when the Serb war time authorities ordered non-Serbs to mark themselves and their homes with white armbands and sheets.
Thousands were forced from their homes, interned in camps and many were killed, including children.

The exhibition will remain in place during July when the 26th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide is marked - the greatest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War – and run until 24 November.

Items on display include:

  • An ID card belonging to schoolgirl Elvira Mujkanović who was held in dreadful conditions in a concentration camp with her family, before the Red Cross helped her flee to Scotland. 
  • The international refugee camp registration certificate belonging to Jasmin Mujkanovic, who was held and mistreated along with thousands of others in another notorious concentration camp. Jasmin and Elvira were eventually reunited in Croatia. They were each convinced the other had died. They later married.
  • A letter from Elvira’s best friend which details her hopes for a future when they would both be married and have children. Only three days later she was murdered by Serb soldiers at the age of just 17.
  • A United Nations Identity Card belonging to Alan Witcutt. Volunteers Alan and his wife Christine Witcutt delivered aid from Scotland to Bosnia, but as their convoy left Sarajevo, Christine was killed by a Serb sniper. 
  • A United Nations cap belonging to Robert McNeil, a forensic technician from Glasgow who was part of the international team of experts that uncovered mass graves in Bosnia.
  • The diary kept by 11-year-old Zlata Filipović as she grew up in the war, recounting the terror and confusion of war from a child’s perspective.
  • A water canister used by people who risked sniper fire to collect water in Sarajevo and an ID card found in the pocket of one of the thousands of people killed in the city.
  • A tin of canned beef which became a symbol of failed international policy in Bosnia - food packages were handed out, but international peacekeepers did little to stop the war.

In July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladić massacred 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

Twenty-six years on, there are still families searching for the bodies of their loved ones. But there is still denial about the atrocities which took place – a modern example of attempts to spread disinformation.

Remembering Srebrenica Scotland has organised nearly 20 delegations to Srebrenica since it was established in 2015, with participants including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and MSPs from all parties.

The charity’s vision is a society free from hatred, and it works to achieve this goal by bringing communities together to remember Srebrenica through organising commemoration events in the UK; taking people on its ‘Lesson from Srebrenica’ visits programme to learn lessons from the survivors of the genocide; and developing an education resource for use in Scottish schools.

David Hamilton, secretary and treasurer of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, volunteered as an aid convoy driver during the war, and his parents-in-law Alan and Christine Witcutt also delivered aid from Scotland to Bosnia.

He said: “My late father-in-law and his wife Christine Witcutt went out to Bosnia in 1992 and sadly when they left Sarajevo, Christine was shot by sniper and died.

“So it’s very poignant to come back here and see Alan’s ID card in this exhibition, which shows the connection Scotland had with Bosnia during that terrible time.

“The exhibition really captures what life was like in Bosnia. 

“What this exhibition does is tell the story of ordinary people and how they were affected by the war.”

Robert McNeil, a forensic technician from Glasgow who helped uncover mass graves in Bosnia and is now an Ambassador of Remembering Srebrenica UK, said: “The UN cap was given to me when I first arrived in Bosnia in 1996. I wore it throughout my numerous deployments to Bosnia, particularly to Srebrenica and then to Kosovo, and I hang on to it because it’s a constant reminder of the work I was engaged with out there.

“It’s wonderful that Kelvingrove has facilitated this exhibition.

“It will mean so much to the Bosnian population, not only in Scotland but throughout the world.
“It’s a forgotten war in a lot of ways, and it’s a reminder of the genocide that happened there.”