Day 51- What I saw in the war

Janine di Giovanni reports from war torn regions throughout the world. She’s seen how war starts, the behaviours it causes in ordinary people, the devastating aftermath. In this talk she shares the reasons why she is a war correspondant and some of the pivotal personal stories she’s heard.
It was early 1992 in Sarajevo. A close friend of di Giovanni’s was walking to her bank job in heels and a mini skirt when she spotted a tank coming through the streets, crushing everything in its path. She ran and hid, watching as chaos began to unfold. A few weeks later she put her infant son into the arms of a stranger on one of the last buses to leave the city. She didn’t see him again for a long time; the siege lasted for over three years, without water or power. Twenty thousand people died in the city alone.
Di Giovanni had the honour of being one of the reporters who lived through the siege. She calls it an honour as she learns about herself and human nature in depth. She sees love, bravery, compassion, comaraderie. She’s learned about passion, democracy and what neighbours will do to help each other.
Since Bosnia, Di Giovanni says she’s lost count of the number of wars she has covered. At the time of this talk she was in Syria, which she reports as being strikingly similar to Bosnia. She was haunted by the genocide in Rwanda, a war which saw a million people killed between April and August in 1994. She remembers the image of standing on a road and as far as her eye could see there were bodies stacked in lines twice as tall as her.
Di Giovanni doesn’t delude herself about the contribution of war correspondants. She’s not Kofi Annan, or a conflict resolutions specialist, or an aid doctor. She can’t stop wars or save lives. What she can do is give a voice to the voiceless. Her main aim is to bear witness and in doing so, to shine a light on the darkest corners of the world.    


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