The Suitcase; Refugee Voices From Bosnia and Croatia

The Journey Out

“I shook the hand of my

neighbor when I left. We

had grown up together. I

think he took my house.”

“We watched the television,

but we never thought it

could happen to us.”

“I left and he stayed. From

the second we parted, a

pain opened inside me, so

large that it will never

heal.”

The poem The Journey Out comes from a collection of stories known as “The Suitcase; Refugee Voices From Bosnia and Croatia.” This book claims that “When you’re a refugee, no matter who you are, nobody asks, “How are you?” This book asks refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia this simple question. Here, refugees tell their own stories about their lives as refugees in their own voices, through stories, essays, poems, and letters” (Page 2). “The Suitcase” aims to elucidate the struggle of being a refugee, a transnational identity that latches onto people in times of war. Refugees who have contributed to this collection often talk about how they never expected to become refugees, and that their homes are now gone or belong to someone who was once a friend. They are caught living in the memory of a place that no longer exists in a country to which they cannot go back. In this poem in particular, every line is cut off abruptly- it stops before the sentence can reach closure. The sentence’s closure mirrors the closure that the refugees could not reach with their homes when they were forced to leave their country. What’s more, the Yugoslav Wars are rooted in the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The refugees from Bosnia and Croatia are not only removed from their home nations, but they likely lived through a complete transformation of the nation itself. These refugees have lived in many nations, both because they left and their nation changed.

-Freddy Bendekgey

4 thoughts on “The Suitcase; Refugee Voices From Bosnia and Croatia”

  1. I agree with your statement that the refugee status is a “transnational identity that latches onto people”, and I think this poem is so powerful in that it recalls an identity of “us” weaved in with an “I”, such that the speaker slowly differentiates himself from his past identity, yet he/she still clings to it through pain. The lines cuts were also interesting to me as well, not only because of what you said, but also because they seem to generalize the experience of refugees; every line seems like it could be part of any refugees’ monologue, yet while put together they create this narrative that is unique to the speaker. This refugee identity did alienate the speaker from his/her own country, but it also identified him to a new group, the group of uprooted.
    -Andreanne

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    1. I like the idea a lot. I didn’t consider how each line taken on its own can seem true to the entire refugee community rather than individual to the speaker. I also believe that the “uprooted” is certainly a new group identity in itself, although I imagine there are so many different ways to cope with being a refugee, and different levels at which people try to hold onto their old nation or adjust to the new one, that such a group must feel very scattered to the people within it.
      -Freddy

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  2. Your point about the refugees living in two countries is thought provoking. It made me think of the way in which one country can become a transnational space. Obviously most places are transnational spaces because we live in such a global world, but your idea about a country changing so much that it is essentially a new country would create a different sort of transnational space. I’m uncertain if people can be transnational, but I might argue that the refugess from Bosnia and Croatia, or those who remained in the country, were transnational people. I’m doing a horrid job of explaining what I mean here, but essentially your points are making me consider if an individual can be considered transnational. I’m leaning toward yes.

    Madison

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    1. I understand! It’s interesting to think about whether or not a country can become transnational even if the people stay. I believe that, in the case of Yugoslavia and its dissolution, such a country would become a set of transnational nations, as oxymoronic as that sounds.
      -Freddy

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