Our story begins in Bosnia, site of recent and past genocides with brutal wars that have displaced and traumatized its people in unspeakable ways. The title is a reflection of this region and its many horrors since the word Balkan translates into ‘blood and honey’. All over the world, women, men and children have suffered immeasurably from horrific acts of violence in countries such as Kenya, the Congo, Rwanda, India, Sri Lanka, the Sudan and Uganda. Not only does the violence traumatize those who face it, the trauma remains with its victims wherever they travel and is passed down generation after generation.
The reality is, nothing has been effective in facing this grossly fecund intergenerational trauma—or finding a way to heal the wounds it causes. Women and children, especially young girls, bear the brunt of much of the violence perpetuated throughout the world. According to author Theodor Winkler, violence against women is the fourth-leading cause of premature death on the planet, ranking behind only disease, hunger and war.
“We are confronted with the slaughter of Eve, a systematic gendercide of tragic proportion,” wrote Winkler in his book, Women In An Insecure World. Unfortunately, many in the international community don’t even consider rape a war crime.
Many media stories have explored violence but often portray women and children only in their victim roles, turning them into poster models for humanitarian aid agencies and allies. Yet, despite such media exposure and new rules of law concerning rape as war crimes, the ripple effect of trauma continues, scarring entire communities around the globe.
Our work is informed by the kolo, an ancient round dance and circle tradition tracing beyond Paleolithic origins. The kolo has been known to South Slavs for generations since it shares the amenities of organized social life based on collaboration and peace before war became a modern reality. The kolo tradition integrates traumatized women’s lives through their first person stories. This healing process has been especially beneficial to the people of Bosnia who have experienced three wars in the past 100 years. Through the kolo, this “witnessing” enables people to escape the human bondage to intergenerational trauma and the war environment.
The integral part of the kolo, whether dancing the round folk dances or being in a circle, is the concentrated collective ability to bear witness and share one’s story. According to forensic psychotherapist Danica Anderson, PhD and founder of the nonprofit The Kolo: Cross Cultural Collaboration, this circle remains within Bosnians’ consciousness as if it were the only thing from their past that could not be erased.
To tell our story we explore how Bosnian Muslim women war survivors and Anderson, an American/Serbian woman raised in a family of violence, continually return to the kolo experience to heal their brutal intergenerational emotional wounds of trauma. As she worked with these women, two important aspects were made evident to Danica.
First, the way in which the women grew to understand that in healing their own trauma, they heal all others. The second aspect was their refusal to hover between realms of war and violence. They chose instead to bring an archaic cultural symbolism into the aftermath of war so that the literacy of abundance and peace prevails. Through their stories, they are able to author a nonviolent sequel to their lives—and the lives of their children.
The programmatic Kolo Trauma Treatment and Training Format is across the globe as a result. From Africa (Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Uganda), India and Sri Lanka, to the Haiti 2010 earthquake, the Kolo: WCCC has applied the somatic based trauma therapies, one of the earliest forms of sensorimotor psychotherapy and neuropsychological psychology practices.
There is no money, no publicity for this work to help the women heal. In Bosnia, the women are empowered by a safe and ancient archeomythology of Old Europe, a symbolic process that does not offend or provoke the ire of patriarchal religions or governing entities. The process ultimately leads to the painful but necessary bearing witness—communal applications of wisdom, resiliency and thriving life skills. And by bearing witness among those with whom they share the circle, the women remember that they are empowered to heal their families and communities.
Through the kolo’s universal communal features, Danica has experienced and worked the kolo with women in Africa, Sri Lanka and Kerala, India. The Kolo Trauma Treatment Format revokes any outside authority by empowering the participants, the women, to re-remember they manifest culture and are the healers of their global communities—societies where women and children are not invisible or erased.