Back to the Garden

By Jheri St. James


Researching Bosnia & Herzegovina, one gets lots of pictures of armed soldiers, battlefields, destroyed buildings, graveyards and words about war. Surprised? Don’t be.

Every country on earth, with the possible exception of Switzerland, has its history of war stories. This is how countries become what they are, how they establish, expand and contract their borders. That is one thing we here at Common Ground 191 have learned. This dirt we collect goes by many names over time, but it all absorbs the blood of warfare.


By the time we got to Woodstock,
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.


Sarajevo Capital of Bosnia

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are caught in the devils bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.*

(Sarajevo, the capital and largest city in Bosnia)

Bosnia is the simple name for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country in Southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia north, west and south, Serbia east, and Montenegro southeast, Bosnia is almost landlocked, except for the 12 miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea, surrounding the town of Neum. The capital is Sarajevo (see picture above).

The soil of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a region that traces permanent human settlement back to the Neolithic age. Having been first settled by Slavic people from the 6th through the 9th centuries AD, the country has one of the richest histories in the region. The first Banate of Bosnia was established in the early 12th century by the “Dobri Bosnjani” (Good Bosnians). From the 15th through 19th centuries, the Ottoman Empire brought Islam to the region and altered much of the cultural and social outlook of the people of that time into the future. Then the annexation into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy lasted up until World War I.

Following the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia proclaimed independence in 1992, followed by a bloody war which lasted until 1995. Today the country maintains high literacy, life expectancy and education levels and is one of the most frequently-visited countries in the region; regionally and internationally renowned for its natural beauty and cultural heritage inherited from six historical civilizations, its cuisine, winter sports, eclectic and unique architecture and the distinguished Sarajevo Film and Jazz Festivals, the largest and most prominent of their kind in Southeastern Europe.


Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell where are you going?
This he told me
Said, I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm,
Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.*


The Marian Shrine of Medugorgje

The Marian shrine of Medugorje; general view of Mostar

The name “Bosnia” probably comes from the name of the Bosna river around which it has been historically situated; the roots of which seem to be bos or bogh, both of which mean “running water”. The seven rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are: The Sava, Una, Sana, Vrbas, Bosna, Drina and Neretva. The origins of the name “Herzegovina” come from the time when Stefan Vukcic Kosaca called himself “Herzog of Saint Sava, Lord of Hum and Primorje, Grand Duke of Bosnia.” Herzog is the German for “duke,” and so the lands he controlled later became known as Herzegovina (“Dukedom” from the addition of –ovina, “land”). In 1995, the Dayton Agreement and new constitution established the country’s name as Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Coast of Neum

Bosnia is located in the western Balkans and is mostly mountainous, encompassing the central Dinaric Alps; fifty percent is forested in the central eastern and western parts of the country. Herzegovina has drier Mediterranean climate. Northern Bosnia contains very fertile agricultural land along the river Sava and is heavily farmed.


Well, then can I walk beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin' turning.
And maybe it's the time of year,
But then maybe it's the time of man.
And I don't know who I am,
But life is for learning.

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden*.

* * *

Alen Savatic of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo was our collector for the soil of the amazing and beautiful country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes, “This sample was taken from the park near Olympic Stadium Kosevo where the Sarajevo Winter Olympics 1984 were opened. This is me holding a soil sample and in the background you can see Olympic Hall Zetra, a place where the ice hockey games and the speed skating events from the 1984 Winter Olympics took place (next to stadium).

Alen Savatic of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo
Bosnia Mountains in Winter
Beautiful Bridge in Bosnia

Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the pictures in this journal entry reveal, is a true wonderland garden on the surface of Mother Earth. Won’t it be nice when all mankind comes to have this view of our planet—getting back to the garden rather than the killing field? Thanks to Alen Savatic for his participation in our project. (*Lyrics by Joni Mitchell)


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