Munira Suljic considered herself a strong woman until Srebrenica left her with inconsolable grief and anger. Weeping, sleepless and barely able to function years after the horror there, she nearly drowned in her torment.
"I felt so bad. . . . it is indescribable what happened to our people," said Suljic, one of 40,000 Bosnian refugees who resettled in St. Louis in the '90s.
Edin Mehmedovic, too, struggles with memories -- of life in Serbian concentration camps, of being forced to swallow scraps of glass and metal, and worst of all, of standing by powerlessly as his niece and nephew were shot and killed.
"June and July are hard for me," he said. "I still see those pictures in my memory. I'll see them for the rest of my life."
Ten years later and a world away, survivors of Srebrenica still try to put the horror of the war behind them.
They are handicapped by indelible memories of the murders of as many as 8,000 Bosnian Muslims; by slow efforts to identify victims of the attack on the U.N.-declared "safe haven" of Srebrenica, which began on July 11, 1995; by their community's disapproval of therapy.
Most suffer in silence, according to those who work with St. Louis's Bosnian community, one of the largest outside of Europe. They vent their pain privately, in tight-knit family relationships, or avoid it by busying themselves with work.
"Therapy is a foreign concept to many Bosnians and carries a stigma," resorted to only by those who can no longer function, said therapist Jean Abbott, clinical director of the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma here.
But unless they address their trauma through therapy, Srebrenica survivors will relive the atrocities, and suffer nightmares, sleeplessness and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.
"Denial does not rid you of the trauma," Abbott said. "It will come back. In my opinion, someone has to deal with it. If they don't deal with it, their children have to, or their grandchildren will."
Therapist Basia Waite-Wright, of International Institute, a St. Louis refugee resettlement agency, agreed. "For us as professionals," she said, watching as trauma is passed down to another generation "is the most painful thing to see."
She said one of her Bosnian clients has transferred her post-traumatic anxiety to her 7-year-old daughter, who, consequently, is not doing well in school. She has inherited "this sense of dread, that the world is a dangerous place."
Edin Mehmedovic is among her clients. He has met with her twice a week for the past two years, and on a recent visit the 32-year-old refugee leaned back on his familiar, overstuffed chair, his eyes pressed shut against memories that still creep in.
Mehmedovic, who has a wife and two children and works as a machine operator in St. Louis, lost his father and four uncles as they and thousands of other Bosnian Muslim men tried to escape to the free zone through the forest in July 1995.
He survived the trek only to be arrested in Serb territory and imprisoned and tortured in a series of concentration camps. He is haunted by the memory of the deaths of his niece and nephew while they clung to him as he and other men tried to protect their village.
Mehmedovic said he suffered insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks and a near-suffocation for years before seeking help, "when my life changed dramatically." Now he recommends it to fellow war trauma victims, including a fellow concentration camp detainee who refuses to seek help.
He said Bosnians are stubborn, traditional people who thought him crazy for seeking help. "I can sense they are ashamed," he said.
"They try to work as much as they can, but in my opinion, that's wrong. It's an additional pressure. I can guarantee them two jobs will not help erase the pictures of Srebrenica. It will only exhaust them more. I am a living example that therapy is the only solution. Without it, I would not be well."
But Besim Mustafic sees no point in professional help. He has a good life here -- a wife and little girl, a job, a comfortable home he renovated, a growing ease with the English language.
But the chain-smoking, 25-year-old Bosnian is still angry: "Serbs don't want to admit the massacre . . . but everyone in the world knows what happened there. For us, we ask, how is it possible this could have happened?"
And he is still pained by the slaughter of 30 uncles, male cousins and brothers-in-law in Srebrenica. He still wakes up with nightmares, especially as the July anniversary approaches.
Mustafic's small stature saved his life. Serb forces passed him over, thinking he was younger than he really was. But he will never forget the wailing of people crammed into a factory when their loved ones were taken from their arms, or picked off by Serb nationalists.
For Munira Suljic, too, there was no escape from memories of Srebrenica: rape and torture, babies snatched from mothers, truckloads of corpses, the slaying of family members.
"I felt like jumping from the second floor," she said.
Instead, "I decided then to do something."
Suljic, 51, turned to psychotherapy, and then group therapy and healing touch. She said through an interpreter that "I am better than I used to be. Allah knows that."
Still, it probably would have been "better to die with the rest of our folk," she said, adding, "I'm sorry I survived."
She resolved to return to the source of her pain. Bolstered by insights from her therapy and medicines from her psychiatrist, Suljic left for Bosnia to participate in a public commemoration of this week's anniversary. She also planned to help bury the recently identified remains of her brother-in-law at a memorial cemetery in the suburb of Potocari.
Many survivors of Srebrenica have participated in international efforts to help identify remains of the thousands of victims being uncovered in mass graves.
They have offered blood samples for DNA matching, pored over photographs of jewelry, articles of clothing and other personal effects found in the graves, and contributed to a database of victims' dental history, broken bones and other personal markers.
"They say, 'If we could just have the bones, we could give [loved ones] an appropriate funeral,' " said Hazira Caus, a mental health caseworker and interpreter for English-speaking therapists.
Bosnians feel obliged to give them a respectful burial, but without the remains, they cannot conduct the rituals that will help them find closure. "It leaves the wound open all the time," Caus said.
Suljic awaits the remains of two brothers and a nephew. She remembers one brother's words when she last saw him, as the three set off through the woods to escape to a free zone.
"Take care of yourself and the children," he said. "I am going to Tuzla, but I don't think too many of us will make it."