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Bosnian Genocide Survivor Visits UT, Commemorates Tragedy

The Center for Global Engagement welcomed noted author and oral historian, Hasan Hasanović to Knoxville on Feb. 16, 2024, for events that commemorated the Bosnian genocide.

Hasanović, one of the foremost experts on the Srebrenica Massacre, the largest in Europe since World War II, discussed his harrowing journey through the mountains of eastern Bosnia in July of 1995. Isolated and cut off from the rest of Bosnia by Serbian forces, Hasanović was forced to walk more than sixty miles with his father and twin brother.  In the chaos and amid the bullets, Hasanović was separated from his father and twin brother. He would never see them alive again as their bodies would be located by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in a mass grave at the conclusion of the war.

Dedicating his life to the remembrance of his lost family members, Hasanović, has used his talents as a curator of the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center, located on the site of the former UN Command Post during the war, to serve his community and publicize the memory of the victims of genocide.  He has worked with the University of Denver Social Work professor, Ann Petrila, to write the best-known chronicle of the genocide, Voices from Srebrenica: Survivor Narratives of the Bosnian Genocide.

In a morning event at the UT College of Social Work in Henson Hall, Hasanović discussed how working with social workers helped him to process the scale of trauma he and others in his position have experienced while finding constructive ways to tell the stories of those lost.

Mary Gitau, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion in the College of Social Work, said Hasanović’s discussion, “presented an opportunity for those in attendance to learn more about Genocide, the impact on those affected and the importance of uplifting the voices of survivors through narratives. As a justice issue, the talk gave a platform for social workers to learn about genocide as a crime against humanity as Hasan spoke about his Oral History project”.

An afternoon university-wide event in Alumni Memorial, co-sponsored by the Departments of Religious Studies and Political Science, had an audience of predominantly undergraduates and community members. Hasanović talked wistfully of Yugoslavia before the war, the uncertainty in Bosnia leading up to the genocide and how the aftermath has shaped his path in life after the massacre. During his discussion, Hasanović urged undergraduates, most largely born after the genocide, to continue to tell the story of what happened in Bosnia and to not allow the horrors of that situation to repeat itself.

Faculty Director for Global Learning at CGE, Will Jennings, noted the importance of bringing major global figures to campus like Hasanović. “For UT students, the ability to interact, question, and hear from someone who was a firsthand witness to history, even painful events, adds so much to their in-class experiences at UT. Too often students may feel isolated from current events happening overseas, or historical events from a generation ago, but being able to see and hear from someone like Hasan makes history come alive.”

Hasanović’s visit to the United States was part of a dynamic collaboration between Loyola University of Maryland, The University of Denver, the United States Air Force Academy, and East Tennessee State University.