Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Ina's Path

How a Dutch therapist ended up helping Bosniak and Serb communities overcome traumas of war.
By IWPR

Augustina Rahmanovic Koning is a therapist with the Viva Zene (“Viva Women”) Association, an NGO in the Bosnian town of Tuzla set up to work with women and children – and later men too – traumatised by the effects of the war.

Originally from The Netherlands, Augustina moved to Bosnia in 1988 to get married. She first had met her future husband, Salkan Rahmanovic, five years earlier while on a beach holiday in what was then Yugoslavia.

With her background in child therapy, joining Viva Zene was a natural fit for Augustina’s skills.

“Trauma is a huge problem here, and working with trauma is like working with fire,” she says. “We work with a chain of traumas, because in Bosnia there was not just one traumatic event, but a chain of events which started before the war, continued during and after the war, and endures even today.

Augustina has been closely involved in working with women’s groups from Kravica, an ethnic Serb village, and the Bosniak (Muslim) village of Konjevic Polje.

Despite mutual suspicions in each community, and the still raw memories of war, the two groups agreed to hold joint meetings to share ideas as well as common problems.

“Both sides wanted to have a mixed group, so that we could get to know each other a bit better… to really hear what the other side has to say, because each side has its own pain and traumas from the war," Augustina says.

Jasna Zecevic, director of Viva Zene, says her group’s overall aim is “to mitigate the effects of trauma and war, not only among victims of war and torture, but also among the victims of peacetime violence – that is, domestic violence – and by doing this work, to prevent future conflicts. We believe it’s very important to offer continuing support and to work on the trauma of war, so that new generations don’t suffer from the transfer of trauma across the generations.

This film was produced as part of the Ordinary Heroes project, funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Sarajevo. IWPR is implementing the project in partnership with the Post-Conflict Research Centre in Sarajevo.  

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