Good People in an Evil Time

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Dr. Svetlana Broz

Dr. Svetlana Broz, cardiologist, author, filmmaker and lecturer, founder and Executive Director of NGO Gariwo, joins BOLDtalks to share her incredible story of – what started as a travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 to offer help at least one human being devoid of normal medical care because of the war – publishing a collection of ninety first-hand testimonies from people who survived the war, illustrating the ways in which anonymous people were upstanders.

When war broke out in Yugoslavia in the early nineties, every day the only words spoken in conversations and read in newspapers in its capital city Belgrade were words of the evil. The city where Dr. Broz had grown up, where she had completed my medical studies and which she loved as a cosmopolitan open city had turned into a beehive in which every individual bee was building its own segment, carefully feeding and storing it with hatred. The worldwide coverage of the war was black-and-white. Even her deaf, former friends participated in those unremittingly crude conversations and she found that many relationships stranded – on the question about whose contribution to evil was greater. Dr. Broz was surrounded by hatred, blame and evil.

Refusing to believe that nothing human existed amidst all the madness of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Broz searched for humanity behind the headlines. She started going to the war zones in January 1993 – first as a cardiologist, in order to help at least one human being devoid of normal medical care because of the war.

While providing care for the people of all three ethno-national backgrounds – Catholic Croats, Muslim Bosniaks, and Eastern Orthodox Christian Serbs – Dr. Broz felt their need to open their souls and talk without being questioned about their fates in the war. From their short, spontaneous confessions in the cardiology ward, she understood their need for truth, which, in places where grenades were actually falling, was surprisingly subtle and refined compared to Belgrade’s and the world's much more simplistic, black and white pictures of the Bosnian war zone.

Dr. Broz was told stories of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina who had the courage to stand up to crimes being committed against the innocent, even when they had no weapons to help them. These individuals served as genuine examples of the goodness, compassion, humanity and civil courage that continued to exist in these times of evil. They broke free from the identity of bystander, that person who chooses to look away, to ignore, and to silently accept the suffering of others. Instead, these human beings provide compelling examples of what she call upstanders, people who stick to their moral convictions and norms and demonstrate great civil courage through their acts, even in a situation as horrific as the Bosnian war. Her book "Good People in an Evil Time" is a collection of ninety first-hand testimonies from people who survived the war, illustrating the ways in which anonymous people were upstanders.

Some people may dismiss these stories, believing that wartime examples of violent behavior reveal far more about human nature. Dr. Broz disagrees. We must pay careful attention to these stories, because they hold up a mirror and require us to reflect on our own acts and behavior. They clearly demonstrate the possibility of choice. When shared, these stories can therefore encourage more people to stand up and speak up against evil, and to act in accordance to their moral norms. The hundreds of interviews she's conducted and the tens of thousands of people she have shared these stories of humanity with have repeatedly confirmed this. Indeed, Dr. Broz found that imparting upstanders' actions can have the very real and enduring effect of inspiring others to follow their example. 

Dr. Svetlana Broz, cardiologist, author, filmmaker and lecturer, founder and Executive Director of NGO Gariwo (www.gariwo.org). She works in Sarajevo where established unique in Europe educational program on civil courage to mobilize the bravery of individuals to oppose ethnic and religious prejudice, bigotry, corruption, intimidation, inhumanity and violence.

Dr Broz is founder of Dusko Kondor Civil Courage Award.

Lecturer at over 150 universities in USA and Europe including Harvard U. - Kennedy School of Government, Yale U., UC Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford U., Boston U., Tufts U., Boston College, Wellesley U., Haverford, Dartmouth College, Dickey Center, Indiana College, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin, Hampshire College, Wittenberg University, Antioch College, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, Monterey Institute of International Studies, and also in London, Berlin, Geneva, Lausanne, Graz, Prague, Milan, Bolzano, Warsaw, Trento, Verona, Arco, Rimini, Forli, Bologna, Amsterdam, Den Hague, Orebro, Malme, Varnamo, Norrkoping, Goteborg, Braunschweig, Marseille, Sesto San Giovanni, Lillehammer, Oslo, Munchen, Stockholm, Edinburgh.

Dr Broz is the author of the books Good People in an Evil Time – Portraits of Complicity and Resistance in the Bosnian War, translated by Ellen Elias Bursac, Other Press, New York, 2003 and Having What it Takes – Essays on Civil Courage, edited by Tom Butler, Gariwo Sarajevo, 2006 as well as essays published in the books The Iraq War and Its Consequences – Thoughts of Nobel Peace Laureates and Eminent Scholars, World Scientific, New Jersey, 2003;  Peace Movements Worldwide – Peace Efforts That Work and Why, Marc Pilisuk and Michael N. Nagler, Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 2011.

She is the author and producer of over thirty 30 minutes documentary films and one long documentary film (80 minutes) about civil courage.

Dr Broz is awarded by The Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award at Tufts University (USA); L’ ordre National du Merite (France); L'Ambrogino d'oro by City Government of Milan (Italy); La Bussola dell’ Educazione – “Margherita Zoebeli” in Rimini (Italy); Honorary citizen of the City of Tuzla (B&H);  Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide in Milano (Italy) etc.