|Opening the new American Corner in Trebinje|
Although I often say that our new Embassy in Sarajevo is a concrete example (granite, to be precise) of America’s friendship with Bosnia and Herzegovina, I must also make note of our expanded partnerships outside of Sarajevo. Specifically, there are now nine American Corners in cities across BiH. At the end of April, I had the pleasure of opening our newest American Corner in Trebinje, located in a brightly renovated space on the top floor of Trebinje’s National Library.
This American Corner -- like those in Sarajevo, Doboj, Mostar, Zenica, Brcko, Tuzla, Banja Luka and Bihac – are places for learning and dialogue. They’re filled with American books, films, and music. The Corners also have computers, plus wireless Internet. Perhaps even more important than the technology and books, however, are the presentations and discussions that take place in these spaces between Americans and local residents. We are grateful to Trebinje’s Library Director, Mrs. Danica Kuduz, and the American Corner Director Ana Vlatkovic for their work in helping us to open the new Corner.
In addition to opening the American Corner, my wife and I had the chance to visit other parts of this beautiful and historic Herzegovinian city. We toured local schools, paid a visit to the region’s important hydro-power dam, spoke with leaders of local citizen groups, and visited both the mayor and the leader of the local Islamic community. We even had the pleasure of sampling some of Trebinje’s famous wine.
Unfortunately, Trebinje’s long history of diversity has not yet recovered from the recent war (nor has the region’s economy). Thankfully, some of the region’s displaced Bosniak residents have begun to return to the city. Imam Husein Hodzic, of Trebinje, has truly been courageous in his work to help returnees and in his efforts to rebuild relationships with city officials. I hope more Bosniaks will return to their homes and I wish both Imam Hodzic and all religious leaders in Trebinje success in the hard work that lies ahead. The United States believes that there is strength in diversity.
My wife, Danuta, and I also had the pleasure of meeting with three women who run organizations that try to improve human rights and the conditions for local women. Anica Ramic and her group, Stop Mobbing, have been hard at work fighting corruption. Nedeljka Ilijic’s group, Oaza, has not only opened an Internet club, but has also brought together young people from Mostar and Trebinje to begin reconciliation between these cities. Also at our meeting – held at the new American Corner – was Liljana Cickovic, director of the Women’s Center, which plans to open a shelter next year to help victims of domestic violence. I’m proud that Embassy Sarajevo has been able to support these groups and the excellent work that they do.
Finally, I wish to thank Mayor Dobroslav Cuk for his hospitality and for our constructive meeting. The Mayor and I share a common objective of rebuilding Trebinje’s economy. The region has so much potential for both tourism and agriculture.
I hope that American Corner Trebinje might somehow play a role in helping the city – and entire nation – move toward a more prosperous and bright future. Dialogue and reconciliation are needed to bring this country together so that it can someday soon join its neighbors in the European Union. The United States believes this is the only path forward for Bosnia and Herzegovina.