Adela Bukva's dreams were frequently interrupted by gunfire and grenades. Her family lived in Bosnia-Herzegovina during an ethnic cleansing campaign known as the Bosnian genocide.
The campaign, committed by units of the Army of the Republika Srpska under the command of Ratko Mladi?, aimed to systematically rid the world of Bosnian Muslims.
The entire country of Bosnia was in a relatable state to that of Nazi Germany when Bukva and her family lived there. She was born in Goradze, Bosnia when the politics of the genocide were set into motion.
(Photo — Caleb Combs)
A struggling power agreement between the Party of Democratic Action, the Serb Democratic Party, and the Croatian Democratic Union gave way to a dispute regarding borders and politics as Bosnia-Herzegovina separated itself from Yugoslavia. The Memorandum of Sovereignty, passed by parliament, declared that Bosnia-Herzegovina would be a democratic, sovereign state of equal citizens called the "Peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Despite the opposing 73 Serb duties against the memorandum, the action passed, leading to the development of the Assembly of the Serb People in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska). The Assembly disagreed and fought for control of territories, districts, municipalities, and regions of high Serb populations in Bosnia. They were heavily backed by the Yugoslavian Army.
With each party fighting for power, and Bosnia leaning further toward the ways of Slovenia, Croatia, and a separation from Yugoslavia entirely, the politics of the Serbian people became increasingly pressured. Radovan Karadi?, the former president of the Republika Srpska, announced in the parliamentary meeting pushing the "Memorandum of Sovereignty" as loud as his voice would allow: "We have ways of preventing Bosnia-Herzegovina from going the way of Slovenia and Croatia. Don't you think that you will not lead Bosnia-Herzegovina into Hell, and the Muslim nation cannot defend itself if there is war?"
Bosnia didn't have a military by the time the Serbians invaded. Civilians were forced to fight for themselves. "My father served in the resistance, he was a military officer," says Bukva. While he served an order had gone out to the snipers of the Republika Srpska; an order to shoot any and all civilians walking in the streets. Bukva became accustomed to the procedures of "duck and cover" as they moved about the country.
As a child, living in Vitkovice, Bukva was drawn from her sleep by the sounds of people moving outside her home. The disturbance would bring most children to tears and screams, while she listened to a click echoing in the night. Someone had pulled a grenade pin. Bukva had close to five seconds before the delayed ignition sparked an explosion through the darkness. Instinctual and robotically, Bukva assumed cover in the way she was taught as small razor blade shrapnel pieces pierced in to the walls of her home.
Firefights and explosions were a constant in Bukva's childhood. Her family needed to escape. A little girl, living in a time most Americans relate to finger-paint and discovery, was doing more running and dodging bullets than enjoying summers and being creative. The war technically ended in 1995, but the years after still held tensions and occasional militaristic skirmishes. Bukva and her family were on the very last U.N. funded refugee ship out of Bosnia. The program was brought to a halt after Sept. 11, 2001 due to tensions of national security, immigration and Muslim extremist groups.
Bukva did not speak English when she arrived in America; her communication with English speakers consisted of crudely drawn pictures to get across what she wanted. The pictures of food and locations started to find splashes of color as Bukva assimilated further into the American way of life. Her art supplies became the counteractive weapons toward repressed and traumatic memories of war and genocide. Her pictures used for communication became art of deeper meaning beyond just showing what she wanted or needed to say. Her art became what she felt.
"Everything was so new when I moved to America. Everyone looked so different, the language was different, and I felt a little lost. The only things that stayed the same were colors of crayons and shapes, stuff like that," said Bukva in a recent interview.
Bukva and her family, consisting of mother, father and little sister, are locals of Lake Placid. She recently graduated from Lake Placid Central Schools at the age of 18 with a Regents Honor Diploma. She plans to attend Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts on a presidential scholarship to study graphic design. Her art work has been featured in the New York State Art Teachers Association art show in Albany, the New Hampshire Institute of Art National Juried Show, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts juried art show, and the Montserrat Accepted Student Work Art Show.