Reflection of the Migrant Crisis in Una-Sana Canton: Oral Stories about Migrants Recorded among Bihać Residents

by Amira Dervišević

The subject of my scientific interest is oral literature. It is literature that preceded written literature, but continued to exist even after the appearance of writing. Oral literature is present today through stories about life, legends,jokes, etc. Stories are transmitted orally and spread through space and time. A story is equally influenced by the narrators and the audience. Therefore, the sayings are changeable. However, the plot patterns are constant. Research on oral stories reveals that the plot patterns are the same or very similar among different nations, spatially very distant. The reason is simple. Stories know no borders, neither state, nor linguistic, nor religious. Apart from stories that have similar plot patterns and motives, such as humorous and novelistic, researchers are also interested in stories about life. Researching these stories allows us, first of all, from the aspect of oral literature, to find out how stories are formed and transmitted, but also which events from everyday life have entered the oral tradition. In addition, for the purposes of the project in which we are involved, research of life stories, but also other stories that belong to the oral tradition of this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, shows how residents of Bihac individually experience the migration crisis. Since everyday life is reflected in people’s stories, this research can help us gain a more complete insight into the situation in which the participants of the migrant crisis found themselves.

In February,a plan was completed that contained the goals, methods and carriers of research.In addition to the residents of Bihać, it has been planned to talk to volunteers of the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations that help migrants and refugees and to present their stories. 

The research was supposed to be done in June. However, the situation around COVID 19 not only delayed the research but also made it more difficult. First of all, the competent health institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina recommend that people do not gather and that physical distance is maintained. In practice, this means that people are not too happy if you visit them because you can infect them. Therefore people avoid socializing and contacts.

However, despite the aggravating circumstances, we have started the research. For now, in the first phase, we are looking for stories about migrants recorded among the residents of Golubić, a village near Bihać. During the war, the population was expelled from their homes and spent the war in the city of Bihać as displaced persons. They returned to their destroyed homes immediately after the establishment of peace in 1995. I chose Golubić precisely because of the fact that most of the inhabitants were migrants for a period of their lives and that they remember life in exile. In addition, with the establishment of the temporary migrant center Lipa near Bihać in April, the residents of Golubić are witnessing the daily presence of a large number of migrants passing through the village in order to continue their journey to the EU countries.

Respecting the recommendations of BiH health institutions regarding COVID 19 such as wearing protective masks and the physical distance of the interlocutor (which complicates the research), I try to find out whether the residents of Golubić tell stories about migrants. During the research I use a semi-structured type of interview. In an atmosphere of fear of an unknown virus, I record stories in which I recognize compassion for migrants but also a reflection of their experiences of being displaced persons in the 1990s.