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Bosnian Grandmother- Pita (Strudel) Dough Novi Travnik Grandmother making Phyllo Dough from scratch- In the archeological findings the bread oven usually had benches in front or on the side where some of the earliest artifacts of their kind in European history were found (6300-6100 BCE).

Searching for my Proto-Slavic indigenous roots through the kolo, one finds the Pech (Serbo-Croatian for stove) nearby. Under the blood and dirt and sweat we touch the beauty of our motherline and feminine metaphysics.

Emails between two average American women and the Bosnian Massage Therapies

Categorized in these topics: Baba Yaga Bioculinary Bosnia Engendered Practices Female Social Justice Feminine Matrix and Female Culture Kolo Trauma Format Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Rape Sexual Abuse Social Memory Torture Violence War Women's Trauma Issues

Dear Debra,

Reread my line how we compromise until compromised—and the real female social justice out there is female rage, and there is a severe lack of it for thousands of years.

Your response is this female rage channeled and not acted out… it is acted upon beautifully…. We need to have a voice.

That is what inspired me,


Reply from Debra Robinson

Good morning Danica,

Yes, I love that line about compromise…seems to work every time for many people. What a trap…

Thanks for your comments on the rage… I will remain fiery…

Hope your work is going well…wherever you are at the moment…

I owe you one more report from Novi Travnik….;-) This one will go only to you….and you can edit, cut and paste, or use as you like on the Kolo site…

It was wonderful to be picked up in Sarajevo by your Kolo Sumejja appointed representative. Moreso, it was the fact that her husband came with and participates in the Kolo work- a collaboration.

After being in Sarajevo for a week I was starting to get a feel for the language and found that we could communicate pretty well, though they knew little English. So we talked through it –with the little English-for most of the trip to their home. We stopped for a dinner of Cevap ci ci and yogurt at their favorite restaurant. It was easily the best cevap I had anywhere!

We planned our time together…. Saturday morning- I would go to the market, enjoy some Bosnian kava at a café and visit another elder Kolo Sumejja woman at her home.

The Kolo Sumejja women (Certifed Kolo advisors) had carefully arranged for us to have a leisurely start: saturdays morning were set aside for shopping by the other women. The Kolo women would arrive later in the day and we would begin our work then. The Kolo Sumejja women have a profound social intelligence that much was immediately evident to me.

Then, on to their lovely home. On arrival late at night, we found a group of local fellows brewing up a batch of plum brandy in their back yard. There was a wood fire and a still! Of course, there were good feelings all around! Quite a scene! Welcome to village life! Or rather, the kolo that brings in harmony carved out by necessity with the economy but based on ancient traditions.

She is a wonderful hostess but the South Slavic female ways of the home and earth ensured that I was comfortable in their son's spacious apartment. I had a wonderful night’s rest after their welcome. The Kolo spirit truly transcends the boundaries of language, culture and distance. I felt at home…

The next morning after a lovely breakfast, we walked to the village. She made a huge effort to communicate in English…(I promise not to return without a little more in the way of basic language skills.) She actually speaks much better English than she gave me to understand the night before. But it was work. She is so delightful, and expressive that we managed really well, even to the family’s surprise. But that is her….so lively, warm and wonderful.

She took me on a tour and pointed out the various buildings and talked about the damage wrought by the war. She pointed out the houses of friends as we made our way to the market. The market overflowed with fresh veggies and fruits, cheeses, herbs and all good things. It was fun to people watch, feel the atmosphere and sample things along the way.

I was introduced to some of the women she knew. There was a lively exchange with the guy who sold us grapes. He tried valiantly to turn her into a matchmaker for her American buddy, even offering a wad of cash for the chance to get a green card. It was humorous until (as I found out later) he threatened to call the radio station and accuse her of cheating on her husband if she failed to translate his requests in full. Interesting glimpse into the way things work there…

I watched her field that encounter expertly. Not as pleasant as it appeared on the outside. I can see why Danica had suggested it was better to go in the company of Sana than to wander off on my own. Soon after we finished our shopping and headed for a café. We sat in the warm sun and she told me about their lives and work before the war. She pointed out the elder Kolo woman’s house and shared some stories.

Soon we were walking into her apartment. It was really an entrance into their lives that I wouldn’t have had were it not for Danica and the Kolo women. The elder Kolo woman offered homemade juice and cookies. She showed us photos of her grandson and the 2 women chatted. I saw how painfully she got around due to her hips and legs and started to make a plan to treat her later. So bit by bit I was being made aware of things.

My hostess made lunch for us…rather a feast…and even that description doesn’t do her justice. She poured her heart into that meal…. So many wonderful things…. She is an extraordinary woman in many ways.

Her daughter in law joined us at lunch. She teaches in the local school and speaks quite good English. While her mother-in-law was preparing ‘the feast’, she shared her story and taught me a great deal. Compared with the Healing Hands experience of a brief remark or 2 at the beginning and end of the treatment, this in-depth story telling is invaluable for educating us. Living history…

It seems that so much more is not said in this culture where things are held inside and as I was to find later in the evening that even a woman’s tears are regarded as a terrible sign of weakness.

Soon after we were joined by the woman in the vibrant pink house planted on a back street of Novi Travnik. It is most likely the biggest newest house in the whole town in the Muslim section bordered by Croat neighborhoods. We chatted about Healing Hands and I shared what I knew thus far.

On a private note, I was grousing a bit about some of the wealthy people coming for free services at the expense of others who really needed help and I was politely cut off and told that the work will begin now…not with elder Kolo woman, as planned, but with the rich woman in the pink house. Not knowing she was the woman from the big pink house, I had accidentally stepped on toes…not that anything is an accident ultimately.

Eventually, the others (Certified Kolo advisors-Kolo Sumejja women) trickled in. I began with Thai massage on some soft quilts and blankets that we arranged on the living room floor. Women arrived over the next hour or so and took a seat to observe what must have seemed like strange work. Maybe 9 or 10 altogether.

We paused for introductions as we could. I found the work deep and compelling and started to trance slightly. They chatted, watched, visited, laughed with Rasema’s comments. I haven’t done Thai like this in a very long time, but I love to work this way. Family style, talking or not talking, very relaxed and natural. Once, I got the sense of how the women would be, I tranced a little deeper and got to work.

With each one, I did Thai and the PTSD massage along the spine. I think we worked for nearly 8 hrs, so it was fairly intense. The women were so open and receptive…

As we moved into evening, the women were at times, chatty, listening, watching, moved to tears and laughter along the way. Compassion, sadness, grief and relief mingled. There was a very holy atmosphere in the room.

The outpouring of energy was great…consistent with the needs. Each one had her story in her body…

Onto specifics….

The elder Kolo woman hides her force and pain down deep and low in her body… age aside, I decided to sit on her for as long as it took for her to release. Interesting how the body tries to hide from its pain. Everything is held somewhere in the trunk of the body. Locally or diffused…it’s there.

In layers that seem to go on forever at times. You have to talk to it, coax it to the surface, weave the splintered soul parts back into their places and watch as the body mind and soul effect their healing….

I sat and sat and waited. The eruption came in an unexpected way, she began to laugh. She…and I, as I sat or laid on her… bounced and bucked and heaved with laughter…great release of force and energy and emotion. Quite surprising for the women who perhaps expected something more sedate and proper… I loved it!!! By the end of the evening, she was showing off her new hips, as well as her old attitude.

She danced, made some lewd gestures and, I suspect, some lewd comments (which everyone probably still continues to laugh about). It was just a great mix up everything womanly and good.

The women showed real courage in accepting treatment. I was /am struck by the depth and dignity of the older women. They made such an impression on me. I would love to hear their stories…to sit with them for days. Each one was a profound experience.

I hope the experience of being together in that helped create more openness and bond between them. I wish I had taken pictures and that I could put the right name to each face, but in the experience of the moment, it did not seem wise to interrupt.

I was still working late into the evening as some began to leave for home. As I told you when we talked from Fargo, one of the women who stands out most was the tall , reserved woman with glasses who was initially so rigid. We had a wonderful breakthrough with her and it was as if she had been released from her prison. Beautiful to see her transform.

One of the best moments of the evening was walking back into the living room after a short break to see her flying through the air, held by arms and legs by two of the other women! They played like children! Fabulous!

I was giving her 1st massage to another woman seated on the floor while the joy of women in a circle-kolo manifested all around my working hands. Not bad!

Each woman with the exception of one very glamorous and elegant woman with a Grace Kelly feel, who was highly triggered by all that, was going on. The leader of the kolo holds her great pain in her soul more than her body yielded up some of their pain. That’s all I can measure for now. I hope that there is some follow-up to see how well they do after this work…

The next phase of my massage therapy program occurred on Sunday for family members…another 8 hrs or so. I learned that if you tke any family in Bosnia, you will see the collective of Bosnian families. The family mirrors the Bosnians and most in the aftermath of war and violence.

All are certainly is stressed and could use several more sessions. It was great that they talked and opened up so much. I suggested throughout my treatments with Helping Hands and for the Kolo, magnesium /epsom salt baths for muscles and for the heart or diabetes issues that presented in most - along with some other advice. The Bosnians wasted no time in researching the info and asking all the right questions. If they will pursue that over the winter, they should be feeling much better even without massage.

Other family members - for one of the male family members- but it across the whole of Bosnia- at the first touch, usually had their bodies trembled in strong response. I respond with Alexander Lowen’s bioenergetics concept of stress release. The males it seems (to include the other men from Sarajevo) were the most stressed of all. So we took a lot of time, talked and worked things through.

I was littered with confessions to having serious frequent panic attacks and to heart attacks - this was very common in my treatment with Helping Hands in Croatia and here in Bosnia. Much terror in their system. Again, I would want follow-up. I taught the women, too, about what was happening and about self-care, all the while, instilling positive outlooks where possible…

The other surprise was some young Sarajevans….they were the most profoundly stressed….and it was so hard to see on the surface. Amazing… I learned so much in such a short time... This part hurts to write about the women not just in Novi Travnik, but the whole of Bosnia- at least the ones I worked on.

I don’t know if it was because I was so spent energetically and physically or if the energy between us wasn’t quite right…maybe due to the roles…or I am just not perceiving it properly, but I did the same work on one energetic and caring Bosnian woman, but felt that I couldn’t get anywhere near her pain.

It was like no one could touch those depths.

I saw such a vacant expression in her eyes. Maybe she/the women I worked on in Bosnia had, too much, saved her needs for last…I don’t know, but I felt really sad that she of all, seemed to have the least help…after all that she gave to me and the others.

But isn’t that what we do to Mothers globally? It was the opposite of what I hoped… It is the women who hold the pain and bear the onslaught of violence.

Ok…so you know this about the Bosnia people and you have the long time rapport, so I’ll leave this for your consideration and comment….

Thanks ever so much for waiting for this…it helped!

I believe that mostly covers it…though a few stray comments may yet make their way to you….well, yes…here is one now. The female translator had a very different internal experience of the work…, profoundly, beautifully spiritual.

AND she could articulate it… probably one of the main reasons, though childhood war stress and a purity of spirit make me want to shield her from too much of the other’s energy. She is at a different level and she still has much on her plate to figure out this life.

Plus it seems she’s been ‘in the work’ since she was little… as a translator and assistant to the refugees while still so young…. She and the other young women grew up way too soon and was formed into strong care giver right out of the gate. It’s practically all they know and the women could use a break…

Ok Danica! I love you with all my heart! Talk with you soon… Debra


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