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An Empty Country

By Lindsay Kuhlmann

boats After a day spent in bed sick I was finally able to join my fellow students in the city of Dubrovnik. Stepping off the ship I was stunned by Croatia’s beauty. The ocean was twinkling from the sun and sailboats danced on its surface. The atmosphere was right out of a romance novel with little cafes at every corner and couples having drinks at outdoor pubs. The old city of Dubrovnik is a walled city with pristine cobble streets and white buildings. The romantic atmosphere increases ten fold when one enters the old city. Pigeons seem strategically located in squares dominated by church steeples. Yet with this entire romantic atmosphere a dark past dominates Croatia and the city of Dubrovnik. I felt this past within the emptiness of the city. croatia

            While Dubrovnik seems a perfect Croatian town there is a part that is missing. This main ingredient is the townspeople. The streets were empty, it seemed, besides Semester at Sea students, and shops were closed for the off season. It appeared that this perfect walled city was made for tourists and once these tourists took the season off so did the town. I believe that the emptiness is tied to Croatia’s violent past.

            Before arriving to Croatia, I studied the war that it was involved in during the early 1990’s. I expected to see a country rebuilding itself from a devastating war. Yet the only hint of it’s past was found in its lack of people. In “Fear, Death, and Resistance” the authors study the displaced citizens of Croatia. The article describes how people displaced saved photographs of their homes and brought them with them to displacement camps. For many these homes were burned to the ground and looted of belongings. Yet still these people keep detailed lists of where and what their homes used to be. The article explains that the photographs represent the need that these people have to show that they came from somewhere.

            Knowing the information presented in “Fear, Death, and Resistance” I was easily able to notice the discrete effect of the war of Dubrovnik. While at first I was amazed at how such a beautiful place could be so empty I reflected back on the fact that most likely it was not empty by choice. As I stayed in a beach house with eight of my friends I couldn’t help but think perhaps a picture of this house was among someone’s reminders of the past. Thus despite the fact that at first glance Croatia is not war torn, at second, one can see war's effects in its emptiness. While Croatia has unlimited beauty it also seems to have unlimited sorrow in its war-torn past.


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