Ana: “At first, to ease the anxiety, I took a deep dive into medical and research journals, hoping the science (or the experience of those before us) would make the answers easier. It did not. Soon, my thoughts became one long, jumbled, run-on sentence—a beehive that never sleeps. And I’ve lacked focus ever since. We’ve learned to navigate this new normal and I am no longer uneasy in the hospital. In fact, there, my role is very clear. There, where the human body still makes sense, I have a meaningful purpose. It is the world outside that keeps my thoughts jumbled. At first, the empty store shelves and everyone around us withdrawing into themselves, spun me overnight back to wartime Bosnia. Once the borders closed, I was that same 14-year-old woman-child, trapped between checkpoints and uncertainty. I hesitate to say that this all took me back home, because I don’t know where that place is anymore. Bosnia remains a place of great tragedy, suspended in the 90s, and without her I’ve become someone else. Someone I like better. I don’t know where that leaves me and where it is I call home. Perhaps as the world around us shut in, I began to think of this again too much, in the silence of the pandemic. And I came up with no answers.
I think of that war too much these days because I no longer feel free. I don’t know if America will be the home I’m looking for, but it has always given me open roads, trails, and freedom to move. Until now. A few weeks into the pandemic, I was talking to a close friend in Sarajevo, trying to cheer him up: ‘Hey, we’ve lived through worse. This is an upgrade. We get to live through this on our couch, not in a shelter.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘you are right. But back then, we knew where the bullet would come from, in general. We can’t hear this one coming.’
Once the world stopped moving and before I knew how to care for COVID patients, I was trapped both in this place and in my own mind, back in a country which is still drowning in nationalism. And one day, I began to wake up along with America, which is finally birthing a movement of progress and change, in which I can perhaps find a true home. So, these days, we choose to hope.
The HOPE sign was for us as much as it was for all that walk by. We will always live with some of our ghosts, which come to life in times like these. But times like these are truly temporary, as long as we support good science. In the meantime, we have hope, words, art, and neighbors, leveling the field so we ourselves remain unbroken.”