Bosnian museum of wartime childhood helps heal trauma

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Bosnia's War Childhood Museum
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Bosnia's War Childhood Museum
Ballet shoes are seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "My childhood dream of becoming a prima ballerina never came true, but my love for ballet lived on, as did these pointe shoes," said Mela who was born in 1984. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A solar powered radio is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "We returned from the refugee camp in Croatia in 1994, and I brought this solar-powered radio with me. I knew that it would come in handy in a city without electricity," said Admir who was born in 1984. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An apple shaped pencil sharpener is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "I thought it was a real apple, but in fact it was a pencil sharpener. You can still see where I bit into it, " said Ljiljan who was born in 1984. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A ceramic bird is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "We didn't have much food, yet sometimes I would feed my bird crumbs from the last slice of bread," said Nihad who was born in 1990. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An Adidas cap is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "The hole in my Adidas cap is a reminder of the shrapnel that wounded me. Six of my friends were killed that day," said Goran who was born in 1982. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A knitted doll is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "I took such good care of this doll that I didn't even play with it. With time it came to stand for new beginnings," said Lejla who was born in 1986. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A robot toy is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "I used to imagine robots that could collect water and firewood, so my father and I would not have to risk our lives every day," said Sanin who was born in 1981. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A piece of fabric is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "This piece of fabric was for a prom dress to be worn in Spring 1992. The dress was never made," said Maja who was born in 1974 REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A soft toy is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "I lost my brother, my home, everything except for this blue bunny," said Meliha who was born in 1991. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A barbie doll is seen at the Bosnian War Childhood museum exhibition in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, June 21, 2016. "Usually when I played with her, Barbie would be sewing up wounds, or healing sick people. Later I became a doctor too," said Asmira who was born in 1989. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic SEARCH "CHILDHOOD TOYS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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ZENICA, Bosnia, July 8 (Reuters) - Bosnians whose childhood was traumatized by the 1990s war have donated thousands of cherished personal items from that era for a touring exhibition aimed in part at warning others about the folly of conflict.

The original plan was to open a permanent War Childhood Museum in the capital Sarajevo in August. But when the site chosen by the museum's founders was ruled out by municipal authorities in favor of a fitness club, the project embarked on a cross-country tour.

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The traveling museum features more than 2,800 exhibits, including toys, letters, photographs, diaries and humanitarian food packaging, with accompanying texts in both Bosnian and English.

"It all started when I put online a simple question: What does childhood in war mean for you?" Jasminko Halilovic, a 27-year-old economist spearheading the project, told Reuters.

"We have the idea to expand the museum's scope and start collecting memories from other conflict zones so as to create a universal exhibition that would serve as a warning against new wars," Halilovic said.

In 2013 he published War Childhood, a collection of wartime memories of his generation. The book was translated into several languages and helped Halilovic connect with other compatriots in Bosnia and abroad who went through the death and destruction of the 1992-95 war involving Serbs, Croats and Bosniak Muslims.

"Many people preserve wartime items, they still connect memories from the war with these objects and have an urge to share their experience and that's where the idea for the museum came from," Halilovic said.

The War Childhood Museum aims to investigate, exhibit and educate and Halilovic said donating personal possessions that people had associated with wartime had a "cathartic effect."

"They would break down in tears but they were the kind of tears you shed when you are over the past and ready to start over," said Halilovic, who will keep looking for a permanent home for the museum.

Among the display items is a Barbie doll donated by Asmira, 27, a Bosniak who was three when separatist Serb forces expelled her family from the eastern town of Bratunac in 1992 and imprisoned her father in a nearby detention camp.

Asmira found refuge in a collective center in Tuzla in northern Bosnia, where the only available toy for children, mostly boys, was a makeshift sponge ball. But then a neighbor gave her the Barbie doll.

"I took care of her as if she were sacred. She always slept in a shoe box. Barbie did not have a name. When I played with her, she was selling food, sewing up casualties' wounds or healing sick people. Later I became a doctor, too," Asmira said in a note shown at the current exhibition in the town of Zenica.

The Bosnian conflict was Europe's bloodiest since World War Two and ethnic divisions still afflict the ex-Yugoslav republic.

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