Living In Dubrovnik

I remember the first time I started to tell people that I was coming to Croatia to study, and honestly, most of them were uneasy at this thought. The country of Croatia was under war from 1991-1995 with Serbia, making this area very dangerous. At the time, I was barely a toddler, and with this, was not aware of the tremendous terror that was going on in eastern Europe, especially in small coastal cities such as Dubrovnik, where direct bombing took place.

Last week, my fellow API students and I took a day with our wonderful study abroad directors Nada and Ivana, and took a gondola ride up to the war museum in Dubrovnik that is solely contrived to give this wonderful city the respect and mourning that these people deserved. This war museum is part of Fort Imperial, which Serbia had taken under seize during the beginning of the attack on Dubrovnik. This gave Serbia a bird’s eye view over the entire surrounding area of Dubrovnik.

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Walking through the war museum became very emotional for us because we had already begun to love this city and the people even after just a week. Just the idea of it being bombed and so many lives lost, including children, was heartbreaking. But not only did we see over 500 exhibits of the war which was very interesting, Ivana, one of our amazing directors, gave us a very personal experience that she shared with us.

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Ivana, at the time of the war, was around 13 years old and lived here in Dubrovnik. She expressed the terror that the people were under and how being in a war zone really was. She lost friends in this war and witnessed many terrible things. Hearing her testimony of war was so heartbreaking yet so inspiring. She told of how the city would go without water for days at a time and have to hide at completely random times in shelters from the bombing that took place. Ivana was in school when the war started, so they would have to strategically run home to flee from the avid bombing that took place in her path from school to her home.

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With the war not ceasing, the children and women had to leave Dubrovnik to a safer place. Men over 18 years old were demanded to stay and take up arms against the Serbians. This of course meant the separation of Ivana’s family and her father. Hearing this was so devastating. I cannot even imagine leaving my father not knowing if I would ever see him again. Not only did the men have to stay, but since they were not ready for war to take place, all the men had were their own hunting rifles and whatever else they could find to defend their home country. This was only for a short time before helping countries aided this city with significant war weapons.

Hearing Ivana’s story about Dubrovnik’s time in war and seeing the exhibits of this wonderful city under attack made my love for this town and people grow even more. They have been so brave and so inspiring to never give up. Although Dubrovnik was completely under attack at every angle, the city walls protected this city. Without them Dubrovnik wouldn’t be existent and the people are so thankful for that.

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Although this day was emotional, it ended with a wonderful view of this beautiful city. This just proved to me how determined Dubrovnik was not to lose their home. Seeing the city on this beautiful day at once gave me an overwhelming proud and victorious moment for this country. The city has been rebuilt so much and although there are still areas that have not been mended the city thrives today. Even though I am not from here I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to come here and experience this day that opened my mind to the realities of war.

Tiffany Fleck is a student at Converse College and an official API Student Blogger. Tiffany is studying abroad with API in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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