A Love Letter to Mostar

Page 1


st or i

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A Love Letter to Mostar

Pro gram me

bosnia and herzegovina



ar poetry by the Most


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Editorial Director Asha Siad

Editorial Director Russ Wiltshire

Editorial Assistant Ajdina Aličić

Editorial Assistant Ivona Cvitić

Designer Kinza Arshad

Copy Editor Melanie V Hudson


Mostar Summer Youth Programme Participants and Staff

Selma Hodžić Zoom Photography

This book is dedicated to MSYP students, volunteers, friends and donors who have helped make this project live forever in the memories of all the young authors.

Foreword by MSYP Students A Love Letter to Mostar is an anthology of poems and letters created by high school students from Mostar, with the help of our poetry instructor Asha Siad. From our spoken word poetry and creative writing class, we were able to create this book. In this book we, the youth, are taking a better look at ourselves and our communities. We are exploring the themes of inequality, inner struggles and of course Mostar’s good and bad sides. Mostar is a beautiful place and you don’t have to look far to find inspiration; its charm will simply envelop you. It is a place of many contradictions - both beauty and ugliness were captured in the poems and letters. Since we, the students, are living our lives here every day, the place became monotonous and we lost the gift of observing the beauty of our city. Asha challenged us to open our eyes to the simple everyday things and try to find inspiration in what surrounds us. We were given a space where we could express ourselves, shout-out our concerns, and say what we are proud of. We come from Mostar and the surrounding areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans. We are young people, we cherish our many hopes and many pains and through this book we are trying to show that. We are trying to put ourselves out there, to tell people that we are here and that our voices are to be heard. We, the authors of this book, are people like yourselves who are trying to inspire and move you. Poetry is the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for the purpose of exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. In this book, the powerful, dynamic and energetic nature of poetry shines through our words and our work. The letters in this book was part of an exercise during the poetry workshop. The participants were expected to think and write about Mostar, a hometown for most of the participants. Of course, some of the students were visiting Mostar for the first time and their views and opinions about the city and citizens were different than to those expressed by locals. The exercise was very successful because it made every single writer embrace

and share a hidden love for writing and poetry. It also helped them open up and talk about the city on the Neretva river which faces many challenges but beneath its past and prejudices, it is a very beautiful city with a passion and desire to be a better place for its young admirers. Youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina are very gifted and we try our best to send a positive message to the world even though sometimes the media sends mixed signals. Life in Bosnia can get difficult for a young person because we don’t always have a chance to improve our knowledge or to try new things like learning informally or to express an interest in things that are not very practical here. Nevertheless, we do our best to make our dreams come true. We are inspiring youth with our aim to represent our country and be proud of who we are and what we’ve done so far. That’s where our hobbies play a huge role. They help us to escape from reality, to dream big and to create art. Our athletes, filmmakers, actors, singers and writers are inspiring and gifted young people whose successes make a difference and impact. Many of us have some hidden talents which we are afraid to show. That’s where writing comes in. Writing helps us point out the flaws in society and, hopefully, influences some changes. Thanks to the Mostar Summer Youth Programme, we were not only given a place and opportunity to write, but a huge inspiration and a push into the unknown; where many young writers discovered their talents for the first time. We are grateful to all the volunteers and teachers at the programme. Seeing their enthusiasm made students open their eyes wider and discover that the place they live in offers more than they thought. Every poem and letter carries its own unique message, but one thing we all agree on is that we learned something new about Mostar and about ourselves and we want to share that experience with you dear reader. - Iva Krešić and Sunčica Humačkić

A Place Called Mostar

As a significant location of trade and culture over many hundreds of years, Mostar has a long and fascinating history. It was an important city in the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, and more recently in Yugoslavia. During the Balkan wars of the early 1990s it was the site of heavy and prolonged fighting which saw the destruction of many buildings and even the historic stone bridge with had stood for over 400 years. While the war undoubtedly left its mark on the structure and fabric of the city, today, Mostar is once again a significant center of art, culture and economic growth within the Herzegovina region. It wraps itself around and across the shimmering green of the Neretva river, and is surrounded by dark hills that come alive and appear bright orange in the setting sun. With streets of marble and cobblestone, tree-lined avenues dotted with ruins, monumental architecture and cafĂŠs, it is a city full of contrasts.

Mostar Summer Youth Programme Presents A Love Letter to Mostar

In this book occur the themes of inequality, inner struggles and of course Mostar and its good and bad sides. Mostar is a beautiful place and you don’t have to look far and wide to find inspiration, it’s charm will simply envelop you. Since we, the students are here every day, the place became monotonous and we lost the gift of observing the beauty of our city. Asha challenged us to open our eyes to the simple everyday things and try to find inspiration in them. Poetry is the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts. In this book it’s powerful, dynamic and energetic, mainly focusing on patriotic, nature and love poems.

About the Mostar Summer Youth Programme:

The Mostar Summer Youth Programme is an educational program in the city of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina founded in 2014 by a small team of local and international graduates in arts, humanities, politics and social sciences. It has become an established fixture in the city’s calendar and much-loved by the youth who participate. One of the most compelling aspects for youth is MSYP’s educational model, which provides an alternative to that found in the country’s formal and segregated education system. The format which combines workshops, events and classroom lessons, balances theoretical knowledge with practical skills to create an engaging and interactive educational experience. The teaching style also exposes the participants to new ways of learning by encouraging self-expression and critical thinking. The diverse range of courses gives the participants an introduction to subjects not usually covered in their schools. The inclusive nature of the program promotes integration. Feedback from participants shows that they greatly value the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural qualities of the program because it gives them an opportunity to make new friends and to gain a broader understanding of their city and country. This widening awareness, coupled with exposure to local opportunities in business, education, and volunteering enables participants to explore ways in which they can influence their own future as well as the future of their community. The result is a body of youth who are actively engaged in personal and social development.

Self-expression is vital in this process. Participants are encouraged to voice their opinions in class, as well as debate and discuss different points of view. MSYP provides participants with opportunities to shape the content of the program and offers multiple outlets for their creative work. MSYP is attended by approximately 70 participants each year, aged 14 to 19, mostly from Mostar and the surrounding areas but also including a few students from other countries. Around 15 staff and many guest speakers - all of whom are volunteers - from across Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world are invited to host 3 weeks of workshops, events, day-trips and classroom courses. MSYP is an independent program. It is not affiliated with any political, religious or corporate organization. It is funded by grants, public donations and sponsors, and is only made possible with the help of some very dedicated and hard-working volunteers. At its heart, MSYP is about empowering youth. Sho Igawa, Vlatka LuÄ?ić, Freya Nowell, Russ Wiltshire & Darijn Zwart MSYP Coordinating Team

Table of Letters 1. Adna Marić p 14 2. Alina Mateos-Horrisberger p 16 3. Monika Tomić p 17 4. Max Green p 18 5. Lara Šarić p 19 6. Habiba Ačkar p 20 7. Faris Begović p 22 8. Ena Vidačković p 24 9. Natalija Petrović p 25 10. Nikolina Vuković p 26 11. Josip Barišić p 27 12. Ivona Cvitić p 28 13. Sunčica Humačkić p 30 14. Adi Maksumić p 32 15. Iva Krešić p 34 16. Anonymous p 35


Contents Poetry

1. Useless Star by Armina Šito p 39

16. The Old by Ajdina Aličić p 68

2. Free by Ana Gvozdić p 41

17. Wall by Lana Ionie Hadžiosmanović p 71

3. The Dove by Iva Krešić p 42

18. The Edge by Armina Šito p 72

4. Return by Faris Begović p 45

19. The Boy by Monika Tomić p 75

5. Two Hands by Monika Tomić p 47

20. Smart Phone by Armina Šito p 77

6. Free by Ena Vidačković p 49

21. Love by Monika Tomić p 78

7. The Murder by Sunčica Humačkić p 50

22. Standing Tall by Lara Šarić p 80

8. Humans by Lara Šarić p 53

23. Hold Hands by Ena Vidačković p 83

9. Meaning by Josip Barišić p 55

24. Bond byIva Krešić p 85

10. Promise Me by Monika Tomić p 57 11. I Tried by Lara Šarić p 59 12. Spread my Wings by Asia Odum p 60 13. Steel Bars by Iva Krešić p 63 14. Break My Heart by Lara Šarić p 64 15. A Tale of Rotten Luck By Iva Krešić p 66


Love Letters to Mostar

“When a man spends a night in Mostar, it isn't a sound that wakes him up, but rather a beam of light.“ – Ivo Andrić

Dear Mostar, I frequently ask myself, “Where is the eternal light described by Noble Laureate Ivo Andric in his poems?” “Is it hidden?” “Where is it and does it even exist?” “Or is it hidden from all the horrors, you have experienced?”

our future, a moment where beams of love and goodness will light up a sky above our city, a moment when local people will get away from their negative and destructive thoughts, which are a direct consequence of their own inability to get over “the darkest

I wish I could spare you from this question, but

hour“ of our history. The eternal light

it is simply difficult to hear about your former

will eradicate accumulated hate,

shine; about a time when the word “division” had

bringing a much-needed hope for a

a single meaning, a mere grammatical one. That

peaceful and stable future. That same

word has become, unfortunately, an unavoidable

light is not hiding somewhere

characteristic that haunts you. Why did you let

underground, nor inside numerous

that same word become a reality? I am convinced

caves or the river Neretva, but rather

that the same eternal light hasn't been lost, but

inside local people, more precisely,

rather is hidden inside something. The eternal

inside their subconscious minds,

light is filled with people's doubts, fears and

waiting to be awakened.

waiting for its time. It is waiting for a moment of



From: Adna To: Mostar

Oh my dear home city! It will be a day where people will figure out that life may be ruthless and unfair at times, but regardless of that, there must be enough space left for faith and hope. The strength of our country mostly depends on the unity of its people.

Oh my dear city, there will be a time when the terms “West Bank“ or “East Bank“ will represent nothing but meaningless abstraction, there will be a time of your awakening from an enduring poisonous dream, and there will be a time when you will shine as bright as you never have before.

Adna Marić


To: Mostar

From: Alina POSTCARD

Mostar, I first saw you in a random picture at a random moment... I've been chasing after you for months, without knowing your name, without really knowing where you are, perhaps even without knowing that I was looking for you until I finally found you and felt this is it. I have found a new home, a new love and a new place for myself in the world.

Alina Mateos-Horrisberger


My Dear Mostar, How are you? Are you still hurt? Sorry I didn't write sooner but I really didn't know what to say. Now I have the strength to ask you those questions. I want to hear your answers. I know your rivers, streets, trees and flowers will tell me what you are thinking right now. I just need to close my eyes and listen carefully.

I want to apologize for everything that my people did to you. They weren't aware of the danger and the fact that everything affects you. You are my love, my dear city. I made my first steps on your streets. I found my friends on your streets. I was hurt for the first time on you streets. I learned how to live, love, laugh, and survive. My dear city, you are my home. Thank you.

With love,

Monika Tomić


Is it you or me? Walking through your streets, am I observing us, them, or others? Confusion, complexity and plurality are the synonyms here. Perhaps, is it even deeper.. Is it destiny of yOurs to be shared with the rest? Sometimes I cannot, sometimes I do not want. Giving you to the world would be like separation of the two. Can I survive that? Still, all of those are us; you and me, masked in million of faces, painted in billions of buildings. Under all the surfaces, comes the It. You are united; United in plurality, secrecy, humor and humanity. You I see, I myself feel in You, Oh Mostar, the one and many. Do you resemble myself ? Or yourself ? Are we yOurs? Is it me or you?

Max Green



From: Lara To: Mostar

Dear Mostar, I'm writing to you because I am grateful. I am grateful for you being like this. Even though you have holes in your roads, destroyed and ruined buildings, litter and gum on your sidewalks I don't mind, because those things made me realize how special, unique and beautiful you actually are. I don't want you to change, ever.

With love,

Lara Šarić


Dear Mostar, I have been asked many questions about you. Every time I was asked I was smiling. Every time with the same answer: What is the fairytale you want me to say? How can I describe the Herzegovinian scent? If you want I'll take you on a journey that never ends. I'll show you a beautiful town surrounded by hills and valleys where emerald green river Neretva flows. From time immemorial that beauty selflessly gives the spirit to the town that is full of narrow streets. Every corner of the city is breathing out the charming scars of history. In one place you can experience the interconnection between cultures and religions. People always say, “Here in Mostar the voice of the mosque is never interrupted and will never be interrupted by the sound of the church and vice versa.� If you


How can I describe the Herzegovinian scent?

agree, we shall go to the heart of Mostar, to the old friend the Old Bridge. He lies where East and West meet. He is our guardian, our symbol, and our friend that has been standing here for many years. He still proudly stands waiting for a chance to unite people again. You see, I fell in love with their souls not faces. Every single one of us can come to see you but our memories will be occupied by your soul that is always young. There is no place on the Earth that can be compared to your greatness. The strangers’ sun does not shine like my home’s sun.

I am sending you many greetings until next time. Your Habiba


Dear Mostar, I am writing you this letter from far away. I can express to you my feelings right now, because I am filled with sadness and happiness at the same time. You must have asked yourself, “why happiness and sadness at the same time?� Sadness, because I am far away from you, far away from your streets, far away from my house at the bank of Neretva, far away from my childhood, first love, and everything in my life... Happiness because I am writing this letter which reminds me I will come back.

If I hadn't come here, I wouldn't have met so many people from different countries, which I couldn't have told you about. But still nothing can be compared to you. Every day, I wake up with the sound of singing birds over Neretva, every day I drink coffee on my deck, watching your magnificent hills... Here is nice, but it is not the same sound, it is not the same coffee... I have to admit, there are a lot of people spreading rumors about you. They say you are a horrible and destroyed city. Whoever I meet here, I tell them your beautiful story, which denies those rumors. I hope that I don't sound like some pathetic young man, disappointed with everything in this world. If there were more Mostars in this world, the world would be a better place.


Your Faris



Dear Hometown, I miss you! I am writing to you from far away and I really want you to know that I miss you. I miss waking up in my old bedroom and seeing the most beautiful views from my window. I miss the smell and the atmosphere of the city. I know you don't smell very fabulous but I miss it anyway. I miss walking through the streets of my town and the hot sun in the summer. All I have here is rain... I miss my friends and family and everything connected to you. I miss the magic nights and the shiny stars I was looking at with people I love. Have you changed? Do they take good care of you? Do you miss me?

It's almost unbelievable how many feelings can be connected to the city...I love all your flaws and I miss home. See you soon, hopefully!

Ena VidaÄ?ković


Dear Mostar, When I was five years old I saw you for the first time. I wish I knew what attracted me to you, because I love everything about you. But this summer, you are number one on my list of what I loved the most on my summer break. I met you. I got to know your soul; your amazing soul that you carry in every part of you. The separation that you have inside you, like a wound that will never heal, now unites people. That is what you did to me; you introduced me to amazing people. You took me to the most wonderful places and you won my heart. You won me over and over again with your banks, bridges, cafe bars, parks and streets. I enjoyed spending time with friends, laughing and singing. With you, I am happy and satisfied. For me, the most beautiful time with you was under the Old Bridge, your main symbol, on the bank where wild Neretva was carrying our laughs to the other side. Every song that reminds me of you takes me back to your streets, to your smell, to your people. It reminds me how much I miss you. With your every breath you made warm days more bearable. You have something inside you that makes people want to run back to your hug. When I think of you, you make me feel like I am on the top of your highest building and that you are all mine. I love you Mostar.

Your Natalija


Dear Mostar, I will tell you a secret. At first, I didn't like you. I am not sure why. I didn't know you well enough to be able to love you. For years I was visiting you, but I never enjoyed your beauty. For me, you were just another town. But this summer, I've got to know you. I've met your every street, your every bridge and hidden bench. I've met your smells and your evenings. But all that would be superficial if I hadn't met your soul. People breathe for you, without them your streets would be empty, your bridges lonely and benches undiscovered. Your smells wouldn't be breathed in and the evenings would be unnoticed. This summer, you left a deep trace in me. You've changed me and taught me many things. You've taught me that people are all the same even when they point out their differences; that separation can be a thing that brings us together. You taught me to speak without words, and that fewer words can often mean more. Thank you for all the beautiful memories. Thank you for all the evenings I've spent singing in the streets with friends. Thank you for the dim sum breakfasts when I was hungover. Thank you for the people who helped me to get to know myself. Thank you for every beautiful day, every smile and every tear. Thank you for uniting the impossible and finding your way into my heart. Now I feel you with every breath and I remember you with a smile. Even though I don't live in you, you will always live in me.

I love you dear Mostar,




From: Josip To: Mostar

As I walk down the long and gloomy street of marble, rain falling onto my umbrella, making melancholic music. I look up and see the tree filled ruins glowing. Behind them a snow-covered, majestic mountain lies. The rain, the air, the sun peering through the clouds, all paint a beautiful picture.



Dear Mostar, I haven't heard from you in a while. I see you so often, yet it seems we pass each other without saying hello. I don't want you to think that I forgot you. How could I, when I wake up every morning to your sounds; whether it is loud Bura in the winter or crickets in the summer? I wake up to your smells and your beautiful, special light. There is something about your many narrow streets, the smell of coffee on every corner, the beauty of your riverbanks and bridges. There is something in the way people live, slowly and taking their time. I know we haven't always gotten along. Many times I wasn't able to see your beauty. I guess that is the way we treat people who are nearest to us. You are near, but I miss you. Your eyes the colour of Neretva, and your skin the colour of sunset. I miss all your ugly scars that make you who you are. In


the end, I did grow up in your arms with your streets watching me, your sun burning my skin and your wild winds pinching my cheeks. It wasn't always easy, but you are worthy of loving my dear Mostar. Every stone speaks to me; every little corner has a memory. I am not afraid to admit, I love your ugliness. You are, and forever will be, a part of me, my cornerstone in every sense. Please forgive me that I forget you time to time, even though we breathe together. If I ever leave, know that I will carry you with me. I am you, and you are me. Forever yours, Ivona C.

I am you, and you are me. 29

Hello Mostar,

I think you’re lost

Mostar A beautiful city on a green and cold river Do you need help? You do, but you’re so afraid to ask Why is that? Are you hurt, my beloved one? I can offer you a hand of friendship I can offer you support But I can’t offer you peace Because you’ll have to do that alone Don’t be so ignorant Don’t give us a second thought Because Peace is not given, peace is fought.

Sunčica Humačkić



Dear Mostar,

First of all, I want to tell you how much I miss you. ''Sun of the foreign sky won't be as warm as this one,'' said Aleksa Šantić, one of your hidden pearls. My dear Mostar, many of your children are scattered across the world. But they spend their days longing for the hugs of Mostar girls, just as the town longs for the hugs of the mountains surrounding it. I miss drinking coffee in Fejić street, where I would watch faces merge in a crowd of people, later finding it impossible to locate them again. I just want to meet another down on the banks of your old lady Neretva. I want to see how the sun shines on all your beauty at sunrise. I hope we meet soon and that we get to make many more memories together. I know you would love that too. I will get gray, I will get old but my Mostar is forever young.

With love, Adi M.


My Mostar is forever young.



From: Iva To: Mostar

Mostar, My beautiful lover Who drained you of your power? The Old Bridge stands tall But no one can hear its call Except the majestic river under Who asks you, "Who is your founder?" Dear Mostar, You are my home. - Iva Kreťić


Dear Mostar,

I wanted to love you, for you were too small, conservative and constraining. I felt you and started identifying with you. How your ethnic tensions shaped my mistrust for nation states and institutionalized religion. How I learned to complain and when it gets too bad, turn it all into a joke. When I come back I like to visit the spots with the best panoramas. I like to see you improve. One day, I will contribute. I promise.

- Anonymous


Photo by Ajdina Aličić



Art by Ajdina Aličić


USELESS STAR It was a Tuesday eve,

for her,

My hair was dancing along the melody

I remember

of a breeze.

My eyes were tearful

That night I stole a star for her.

I was trying my best not to cry

But she stayed prim staring at me

But she was gone, and I was asking myself

I was down on my knees


When she told me she had to leave. I was walking aimlessly It was a Tuesday Eve when I stole the

The street, old buildings were my only

star for her,

friends that night,

We were standing beneath the trees

And, on the end of the street, a green light

When she told me: ''No, please,

But she was still on my lonely mind.

Don't love me so much,

It was September,

I cannot feel your touch,

Tuesday eve,

Our arms are never meant to be

When I stole the star for her.

together.'' 20 years went past by, I remember that day

And I am still wondering why

When she told me she could not stay

She could not stay and spend her life with

And I stole a star for her,


But she told me there was nothing she

This is a song for you, my thee

could do

I hope you are happy wherever you are,

To change the situation and her point

And that someone else still steals the stars

of view.

Just for you...

It was September, On Tuesday Eve, when I stole the star

By Armina Ĺ ito



Free Fly away! Be free like a bird! They always say Thinking that just because a bird in a cage wants to get out then That’s what my freedom is all about

I flew away - that it makes me free? I couldn’t really say Flying from place to place Building nests of love and friendship Just to leave them on my individualistic path that Shifts my existence into destruction.

The birds in the cage are what we made of them The real birds are free to fly, and they fly together

I am not free when I am surrounded by the sun and the clouds they are not my friends. I am not free when my home address is on a pending request and my loved ones are words in an address book. I am not a bird. I am free when I’m with you.

By Ana Gvozdić


The Dove


A white bird,

It all formed some kind of alliance.

Haven't you ever heard

Hate wars and murders,

Its beautiful call

All in this world

It asks us "why do we fall?"

So don't forget the importance of

They say it brings peace,

this bird.

With a twig in its beak

Love knows no boundaries and neither

And they say humanity has reached its

does hate,


So be a better person

Social media, technology, and science

And try to relate.

By Iva Kreťić



Photo by Ajdina Aličić

Return I am back. Thank God, I am finally back. I see you haven't changed. I see you can go forward without me. But, you have to know, I can't. I can’t, I couldn’t, and I will never be able to. You have survived a lotYou have survived war, You have survived natural disasters, You have survived all of those things... I know you are strong. I know you will never give up. You will survive this. This horrible thing called: division. You can go forward, We can go forward, We stay here, Your youth stay here, They go nowhere. Let's do it!

By: Faris Begović


Photo by Ajdina Aličić


Two Hands When I was young, I wanted to grow up. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to have my own freedom. I wanted to stay out as long as I want. I wanted my parents to stop complaining about my behavior. I wanted to travel. I wanted to go on holiday with my friends. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to end school. I wanted to get married and have kids. I wanted to find a job. I wanted to make great people out of my children. I did all that stuff. But now, I'm holding my grandchild's hand and I'm thinking: “I want to be young without any worry on my mind.�

By: Monika Tomić



Photo by Lana Ionie Hadžiosmanović

Free He wants to be free, but the large cage won't let him. He wants to see, but the metal fence is blocking his view. He wants to dream, but his dreams are limited; he is limited. His lungs are full of hope, but he breathes in the air of discourage. He wants to be free, but the large cage won't let him.

By: Ena VidaÄ?ković


The Murder What is a murder? Murder usually equals killing But I wouldn't phrase it like that. Is it the act of pulling a damn trigger? And stealing someone else's hot pulse? Is it losing your identity? Country? Language? Freedom?

Is it losing yourself in such a way that you could never be found? I don't know because You're aware of your loss when you've already lost it And can do nothing about it. What a wicked game our life is.

By: Sunčica Humačkić

Photo by Nikolina Vuković


Humans Humans come, and Humans go. Humans don't want other Humans to ruin their flow. Humans are selfish, Humans are dumb. Humans are lame, Humans aren't fun. Humans are judgmental, Humans are cruel. Humans don't care; Humans think I'm a fool. Humans ... What are ‘humans’?

By: Lara Šarić



Meaning What is the meaning of life? There’s as many answers as there are people. We all think about it. About meaning. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Do you know? Can you know? Do we even have meaning? Maybe not. Maybe we are born without a purpose. Maybe we aren't given meaning, by God, or anyone. But why would that be bad? Why is meaninglessness bad? In my opinion, it is better. Do you think we would be better if we had meaning? Look at Sisyphus. He has meaning. He rolls a boulder up a hill until it falls back down, and then he does it again and again. Is he happy? He has meaning, so he should be, right? Is that what we want? No. We make our own meaning, through art, through work, through faith, through family. And we are happier that way.

By: Josip Barišić



Photo by Benjamin Selimotic

Promise Me Promise you'll stay by my side. Promise you'll take care of me. Promise you'll protect me. From bad people. From bad times. Promise you'll love me. With all my good. With all my bad. Promise you'll take my hand when I'm scared. Promise you'll fight for me. Even if I gave up on us. Because, you know‌ Promises are strong. And you promised me that, remember?

By: Monika Tomić



I Tried I've lost my mind trying, To understand yours.

I've broken my heart trying To fix yours.

I've darkened my soul trying To enlighten yours.

I've lost my meaning trying To find yours.

By: Lara Šarić


Spread my wings The time has come to spread my wings, it's time to fly away What awaits me, I do not know yet This cage has given me security, but the door is now open I'm going to Bosnia and Herzegovina The town of Mostar to be exact


I have not physically met the people I will be working with However they all have the same goal as me To inspire the children of Mostar and, abroad, to look at their community and world differently I'm excited for this new journey, but why am I so scared? Maybe I should just shut the door and stay in this cage I don't know if the kids will like me or if I will bring any change Is this a good idea? Is it safe? I've been told no one there looks like me, I will stand out Is this a good thing or bad? I don't speak the local language, will I be able to communicate? The more I question the sicker I feel I peer out the door and before me lies opportunity, a new journey, a group of children who will change my world for the better To be honest, this cage is too small for me I have to push these negative thoughts away My bags are packed, ticket in hand Off I go Next stop is Mostar Summer Youth Program Time to spread my wings and fly away Ready or not Mostar here I come. By: Asia Odum



Photo by Nikolina Vuković

Steel Bars What is this nonsense? Closing people off like animals. Don't you have any conscience? Look at his face, Why won't you set him free? Is it because of his race Or his family tree? Shame on you, Or perhaps shame on me? Who's to blame for this monstrosity?

By: Iva Kreťić



Photo by Nikolina Vuković

Break My Heart Do you still remember,

Can't you see,

When we were happy and free?

I'm still hurting and in pain?

Do you still remember?

Can't you see,

Our time spent under that tree?

That you left me nothing but a bloody stain?

Do you still think, Of the moments spent with me?

It didn't even have a proper start.

Do you still think?

The whole story skipped to the ending.

You and I could've been a we?

It skipped to the worst part: Me, thinking of my life ending.

Was everything an illusion? Was everything a lie?

You wanted this, didn't you?

Why did you leave me in confusion?

To see me get attached, then broken

Why did you make me cry?

apart. You wanted it, didn't you? You wanted to break my heart.

By: Lara Šarić


A tale of rotten luck


I'm going to make this quick,

My poem is my life - no beginning, no

My schedule is kind of thick.

end heck, even no name no identity no

I have no time, you have no time


We're just ticking time bombs,

And I'm fading and fading and fading.

Waiting and waiting and waiting - for

Always extracted, excluded, exiled



Love, happiness, death?

Hello friend, how are you doing?

They said to write about what you

Me? Oh just talking on a stage


everybody's booing.

But I am like a flower that can't grow.

I thought I could trust,

I'm sorry for not knowing myself well,

But you made everything turn to dust

And I'm a bit anxious can't you tell?

And now a pile of rust

Photo by Lana Ionie HadŞiosmanović

Is all I have.

Like your favourite sweater,

Why do you wish to kill everything I love?

Keeping you warm

Judging it, saying you hate all of the above.

From that snow storm

Can’t you be happy for me just once?

You’re watching from your dorm.

Trust me I’m not your average dunce.

The snow falls,

I am more than my fears, tears, careers

And we build walls.

and my peers don’t care about me,

So my rhyme stops here

And now I guess I’m lost at sea.

As the end of this poem is near.

I’m just finding my way

Please don’t let me disappear.

And all I want to say Is that I’ve made someone’s day a little

By: Iva Krešić



The Old The Old stands, to water he speaks:

Khan commands, Hayrudin performs

“Oh Neretva, cold water,

To merge two in one

My sister, of deep gorges,

My shores and my narrow streets

When you run to the sea when you escape,

And all the love of this amazing place”

The old times, do you recall? The good men, my Hayrudin

“Why have you escaped, Khan’s Hayrudin

Who ran before the break of dawn?

Your bridge was without a flaw

Who ran before I opened my eyes?”

So much beauty, he could not watch So he left before the break of dawn

The water stops, to the Old she answers:

On the day you opened your eyes”

“Oh bridge, beauty of Mostar


I recall Hayrudin of yours

“Oh Neretva, cold water,

The old times, and Suleyman Khan

My sister, of deep gorges,

Amazing nights, and extraordinary days,

Do you remember the old times?

Of gun shots, the absence of peace

Just like a real mother,

When light,

For everyone, for the whole world,”

When humanity in people was lost They wounded me, they killed me

“Oh Neretva, cold water,

But dear Lord brought me back to life”

My sister of deep gorges, You go to your sea

“Oh bridge, beauty of Mostar

Where the Old lives, God will give peace and I

Since I am flowing, since my times

stay in my own home

Nor have I seen, nor has the sea told me

The guardian of the city, love and peace, for

That there is any place more beautiful than

love is all that we need.


Something that will join us for good

Beautiful people, amazing ancestry,”

For all men and the whole world To never part us again

“So accept their forgiveness;

Oh Neretva, cold water...”

Stand still but share love

By: Ajdina Aličić



Photo by Ajdina Aličić

Wall Divided by the wall. Limited by the wall. Thwarted by it all. Enclosed by the cage. Dulled by the digital age.

By: Lana Ionie HadŞiosmanović


The Edge Everything you hear, forget Everything you see, believe; People talk a lot about people who leave. I wanted to believe that people were good That their own ambitions couldn't endanger yours But so many things have occurred during these years And now I am standing on the edge

Photo by Ajdina AliÄ?ić


Putting on my head the hood Trying to discover who I am.

And I do not know where I could goWhere do stars glow more? Is there a little bit below Where finally I can be yours?

By: Armina Ĺ ito



The Boy Behind all these walls, I'm still a boy. Watching a sunrise, Chasing stars, Waving to the moon. Behind all these walls, I'm still a boy. Hurt, but thankful. Unhappy, but optimistic. Little, but big inside.

By: Monika Tomić


Artwork by Sebastian Van Erk


SMART PHONE High speed Internet in a pocket it's working on a higher resolution when you watch it! You get to over clock it lock it so you can love it. Make a note, read a book just take a quick look. It's gonna make you believe make you see, make you dream it's gonna make you a Superior human being.

By: Armin Hadrović


Love What makes your heart beats faster

Love for your parents. Brother. Sister.

than usual? Could you think of

God. Friend. Boyfriend. Girlfriend.

anything that motivates you every day?

Country. When you love someone truly, you love him/her no matter what. If


Love. Love is such a short word but

they make some mistake, your love

it has hundreds of meanings. It is not

should be able to forgive. You should

important which type of love you feel.

be able to forgive. And forget.

Photo by Benjamin Selimotic

But love isn't always positive. It can

Love can destroy. But it is impossible to

make you do bad things just to show

live without her.

yourself to someone. You change. Your opinions change. Your life changes. Your way of understanding the world

By: Monika Tomić

changes. But in the fact, love is equal to power. Love can build.


Standing Tall

Photo by Lana Ionie Hadžiosmanović


Sometimes it's hard to be expressed.

You won't make anything happen if

Sometimes it's hard to say what you

you don't make a sound.

want out loud.

So, go, get out there and tear every-

But it's important to not be depressed.

thing up.

It's important to be proud.

Be loud, be crazy, be persistent, be hard headed

Be proud of your thoughts and feelings.

Be amazing, don't be a lump.

It's important to stand your ground.

Be happy. Be you.

Be the one who managed to climb to

Achieve your goals.

the ceilings.

And never give up.

By: Lara Šarić



Hold Hands Hold hands, hold feelings, hold love. Hold souls, look into them. Hold fear, make it go away. Hold love, make it grow. When you are shaking and you feel like something bad is going to happen and you just... hold hands. Hold your grandma's hand. Let her tell you stories of her childhood, or her first love or the tragedies in her life, or her unconditional love for you. Hold hands to let them know you care. Hold hands to feel at home.

By: Ena VidaÄ?ković



Bond The symbol of Mostar A true beauty To get people across is its duty. Underneath it a majestic river flows While the golden sun glows

By: Iva Kreťić


Closing Remarks A Love Letter to Mostar was born out of the spoken word poetry and creative writing class at the Mostar Summer Youth Programme in 2016. The students tapped into their personal experiences, stories and perspectives to express themselves through a combination of poetry, letters, art and photography. The letters written in this book were guided by the question - ‘if you could write a letter to Mostar, what would you write?’ With this question in mind, students confronted both past and present day Bosnia and Herzegovina. This book is essentially a love letter to a region that is unknown to many people outside of the Balkans. As one of my students said: “There are many sad stories about people in Mostar, and they should be told; but sometimes we forget how many beautiful people surround us. There are plenty of stories about friendship and love that overcome all the negative effects the war brought us. I think it is important to tell the story about the changes in Mostar that happened after the war, all changes - the good and the bad.” Our hope is that this book introduces you to life in Mostar today, narrated by its youth. Through their writing, A Love Letter to Mostar reveals the hopes, dreams, fears and challenges of a generation born at the end of the war. Through their poetry and letters to Mostar, it is evident that the story of Bosnian youth is one of complexity, uncertainty and most all of resilience. We hope this book inspires you to learn more about the Balkans, its history and its people. I am grateful to have been a part of an initiative that encourages education that is not only innovative and inspiring but borderless. Thank you to my colleagues Jusuf, Melisande, Kendra, Beth, Sarah, Asia, Aida, Aleksandra, Maida, Alina, Marko and Sanja who I have learned so much from.

Thank you to the coordinators of the Mostar Summer Youth Programme: Vlatka, Freya, Sho and Darijn. This book would not have been possible without your support. Thank you to the A Love Letter to Mostar team. Thank you to Kinza, our designer, who has helped make the students’ vision a reality; Melanie V Hudson, our copy editor for the English version of this book; Sunčica Kragulj for the translation of the Bosnian language letters and Eliana Trinaistic for copy editing the Bosnian language poetry; Ivona Cvitić and Ajdina Aličić; MSYP students and our editorial assistants who worked tirelessly with their fellow students to gather the content for this book. Thank you to Russ Wiltshire my MSYP colleague and friend who helped us every step of the way. Finally, a thank you to my students - my fellow storytellers for sharing their stories and believing in the power of storytelling. Thank you for believing that stories can create an understanding of one another’s journeys, and that stories can open doors to a past that can help us better understand the present, heal us, transform us, and ultimately create hope for the future. – Asha Siad

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