Bosnian war legacy: Living with phantom limb syndrome

Adis Smajic lives with the legacy of the Bosnian war after losing an eye and part of his arm in a landmine explosion.

| | War & Conflict, Human Rights, Europe, Bosnia

War injuries sometimes make people uncomfortable: for many it is not easy to see those maimed by violence, for some they are a reminder of a conflict they would prefer to forget.

More than 20 years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 34-year-old Adis Smajic still lives with the effects of the conflict. Adis lost part of his right arm and his left eye at the age of 13 in a landmine explosion and, after undergoing dozens of operations, he still struggles with "phantom limb" syndrome and has to periodically replace his prosthetic eye.

"My prostheses only serve for others, those who look at me, but not for me," says Adis. "Sometimes I feel I don't have the patience for anything, not even for my son, Alen. My eye-nerves, the arm I lost; it's just too weird, I don't know what is going on. The problem is in my mind, my phantom limb is right here. I feel the need to clench my fist with my missing hand, to grasp something; those are the kinds of stimuli I feel most often, but I can't satisfy them."

Even with the physical absence of his arm, Adis still feels it as part of his corporeal self. It is a dead limb from a photographic point of view, but totally alive from an existential and neural perspective.

Adis's arm and eye are missing, yet they are still present as a latent image - as phantoms that are also a metaphor of Bosnia's identity. 


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