News & Events

A Peacemaker in Her Own Right

From our Executive Vice President and CEO Joyce Dubensky:

It’s been a long day but a good one. I’m at the Teaching Religion, Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding consultation at Boston University. It’s an amazing convening and I’ve been moved, and challenged to think about Tanenbaum’s work in helping to mainstream the vocation of religious peacemaking. There are many interesting ideas that are emerging and it is inspiring to be with so many committed people.

But maybe my best story for the moment is a personal one. We’re in the dorms and everyone gets a room in a suite. I have one roommate, so this is a little like going back to college (including the mattress). And I have the most amazing roommate! Olga Botcharova. She’s from Russia and a psychologist who works on reconciliation including in religion and conflict transformation. Last night, we met in our suite for the first time. She was lovely but we didn’t talk much. Today, we were all in working sessions, and someone mentioned to me that he had been deeply touched when he talked to Olga about her experiences in Bosnia. He told me that she had been involved in the war, had worked at risk to save lives.

I saw her during dinner and had to ask – “Olga, do you know Friar Ivo Marckovic?” You wouldn’t have believed her face. Her eyes filled and she nearly jumped on me. “Ivo?!!!” “Of course, I know him. He was a life changing event and ‘our driver’ [during the efforts to save lives in the war]. We worked together!! Where is he now?” What followed was my telling Olga that Ivo is still in Sarajevo, is one of Tanenbaum’s Peacemakers, Olga asking me if I knew their other driver, another Franciscan Friar (I don’t), and my suggesting that we write to Ivo on my computer when we got back to the room. We just finished doing that, and Olga then read our chapter on Ivo in Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution (yes, of course, I brought a copy to the conference. Sometimes people want to see it.)

And then she came back. Her eyes were still full of tears, she said we had written truth. It was what had happened. She was glad that Ivo’s story was told. And then she spoke of her memories and they are in the form of the emotion and the stories of the experience. She remembers being in a truck, having bribed guards, and how they drove quietly – “if you can ever really drive a truck quietly, but we went slowly, very slowly” – with no lights, on long mountain roads to get into Sarajevo at night. “You couldn’t see the road. Just the snow. A little bit.”

I’ve suggested to Olga to write her stories down. The emotion of her voice needs to be shared. Maybe we’ll even share some of it here! Imagine meeting a new friend and a Peacemaker in her own right – just by going to a conference.