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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Girl with Alton ties returns from Bosnia

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ashli Wallace, 21, seems to have been born to travel, having already traveled to 23 countries in her lifetime.

Wallace who is from Malden, Mo., is the daughter of Steve Wallace, formerly of Alton, and Judy Wallace, and is presently a junior studying photojournalism at Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. Wallace has just recently returned from a trip to Bosnia.

When asked how she became interested into going to Bosnia, she noted that the trip was actually a dependent study, a journalism credit obtained through the university's Bosnia Class. At the time the trip was taken, Wallace was studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Instead of doing it so much in the classroom and not ever getting real experience, we got to go to Bosnia and do our own photo story. We toured the country for about two weeks and [then] we had to turn in our final photo story," Wallace said.

When asked if she could describe what she saw while she was in the country, she said, "I've been to a lot of Muslim countries. We like the Middle East when we travel, me and my dad. I've seen a lot of crazy stuff but it wasn't like that in the Slavic countries, the satellite countries. The women were fine. They came over one day, the last day we were there to talk about what they'd gone through. They had been with us the whole trip. They cooked for us," she said, adding, that the Bosnian women also took the group to a school where donations are given for the children who were victims of the genocide that occurred between the Bosnians and the Serbs.

"They were really sweet and I thought that maybe they had kind of not really dealt with a lot of serious things until that last day and they started telling us all they'd been through," Wallace said.

When asked to share some of those experiences the Bosnian women had told her about, she said, "They killed all the boys that were 13 and up, and there were two ladies that tried to dress their little boys as girls so they'd be able to get out. Because for some reason, they let the girls and the women mostly go."

She noted that before letting the women go, they would usually be raped.

Wallace continued, "One lady that had tried to dress her little boy up, they took him and they realized he was a boy so she lost him. There was another lady that lost her entire family. Another woman and her daughter, her daughter had been raped. Everybody had two or three things that were just awful and couldn't believe it happened and they were totally normal, otherwise. They had no men left, it's really weird. When you walk around, there's mostly women."

When asked where Wallace visited while in Bosnia she noted that they were in Sarajevo and Tuzla. While in Tuzla, she mentioned that they toured a body identification center in the country which proved to be quite interesting.

"It's when they find the mass graves. They'll take in the bodies and they try to find every single piece for the family, because when they realized the Serbs were going to be charged with genocide, that there was a case building against them, they took the bodies from the mass graves and moved them to secondary mass graves. So their bones are mixed up and they're not sure what happened to whom," she said. She added that the group went to two different identification centers. One that the group visited would actually collect the bones and try to identify them for the families. She noted that identification was drawn through some of the items that were found with the bodies including a pack of cigarettes.

"We got to see the storage rooms and the cleaning process. Then we went into the City of Tuzla and we saw the DNA Center where they test the bones. They'll call the families and ask them to come in and give blood. For a long time, they weren't getting anyone because they thought they were trying to steal their blood. It was really hard for them so they're finally making some progress and they actually have the victims from the recent tsunamis. They're doing identification for those families, too."

According to Wallace, another place that was visited was Srebrenica, the site where the main massacre in the country took place.

"That was where the main massacre happened, and that's probably where the majority of my photos came from for that project. They were definitely the most powerful. What happened was the Dutch soldiers came in and tried to protect everyone. They were with the U.N.," she said, then added that, at the time, there were only about 500 Dutch soldiers, nothing to compare with the Serb soldiers that were coming in.

"They had a lot of things going on, so there was a lot of tension there. They had this battery factory right outside of Srebrenica [and] because it was so close to the Serb border, the Serbs were attacking from just over the mountain. It was so easy for them to stand back and bomb Srebrenica because it's in the middle of this valley and mountains are all around them."

Wallace next talked of the beauty of the country.

"It's beautiful. It's not like I expected at all. I thought it would be barren and dry."

When asked for the word that would describe the country, Wallace quickly said, "Luscious. Really green. It's actually kind of like home. It's not very tropical. It doesn't seem cold like you think Russia would be. It's really surprisingly nice."

The question came up whether or not she would take another trip over there to which she immediately said, "Oh yeah, I want to take my dad back."

Earlier in the article, it was noted that Wallace was studying abroad in Geneva. While she was there she studied under master photographer Francesco Visconti. While studying under Visconti in Geneva, Wallace had the first exposition of her collection of photographs.

"It was a really good experience. I came a long way from where I was before I went with landscape," she said.

When asked about her thoughts, what she walked away with from the experience, she thought a moment and said, "If I had a lesson to learn, do it all. Everything you possibly can and try your hardest. I know that sounds corny but that's the truth. Not to box anyone into a stereotype but all of my European friends were very happy-go-lucky, and free."

One of the other places Wallace got to see during her travels was France. She says that this is where she got some of her best pictures.

"I'm too much like my dad. I plan things out too much. It made a little difference to have people there who just made me do it, made me get out and do things."

As for her goals for the future, Wallace added, "I've just finished an Ophthalmology course. I got an A in the course so my teacher said I should look into it as a career. Wallace would be an Ophthalmic technician, photographer of the eye. According to Wallace, it is a lucrative paying field to get into. She has worked with the elderly with Macular Degeneration, retinal problems and younger children with eye problems.

"I think it's really interesting. It came easy to me. I'm not a medical student. It's just really different for me. That's what I'm actually going to pursue a career in," she said.

Another aspect of the field that she is interested in is fashion photography and wedding photography.

Wallace and her father, Steve, started traveling when she was 12 years-old, two years after 9-11. She noted that, after her parents divorced, he needed someone to go with him on his trips. She added at the time, she was a "little tomboy." Some of the countries they have visited include Mexico, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Germany.

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Interesting article, thanks. I heard Angelina Jolie's new movie "In the Land of Milk and Honey" is a drama surrounding how people are affected during the Serbian-Bosnia War. Good luck, Ashli! I'm sure you will succeed in any career you choose.

-- Posted by conventional1 on Tue, Jan 17, 2012, at 9:34 AM

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