"The image of her in a cemetery in Sarajevo, on the last day of our three-day trip still haunts me," said Jerry White, who had escorted Diana on what would be her last humanitarian visit before her death.
If there was one thing that set Princess Diana apart from the rest of the British royal family, it was her willingness to show that she cared for the common people without worrying about crossing the line. Every time she was out in the public, Diana had a way of relating to the people around her. The commoners never felt like they were in the presence of royalty around her. She laughed with them, often willingly extended her arms for a warm hug, and never shied away from expressing how she truly felt.
Diana was a People's Princess through and through. As a member of the British royal family, she traveled quite often as part of her royal duties. Being a humanitarian at heart, she also made it a point to travel to developing countries and parts of the world that needed more help than the rest. During one such trip to Bosnia, an unplanned visit to the war cemetery in the country resulted in an incident that shows just how empathetic she truly was.
While visiting the country to raise awareness on the landmines in Bosnia, Diana decided to take a detour to the Sarajevo War Cemetery, recalled Jerry White, in the documentary, Diana, Our Mother. White, who is an activist, was escorting her on what would be her last humanitarian mission ever, EW reports. The incident from August 8, 1997, occurred just a few weeks before the fatal car crash that resulted in Diana's untimely death.
"The image of her in a cemetery in Sarajevo, on the last day of our three-day trip [still haunts me]. It wasn’t planned. It was never on the itinerary. But Diana told me three times, 'I can’t get this picture of me in a cemetery out of my mind,'" said White.
The princess asked him if there was a cemetery nearby that she could visit. They had already been running late for the last royal engagement that was on her itinerary, and though there was no time for a detour, White agreed after he heard her say, “Jerry, I have this feeling, this image of me in a cemetery, it’s strange."
And, so, White drove her to a nearby Olympic stadium that had been converted into a makeshift graveyard for the soldiers who had lost their lives in the Bosnian Civil War. He said, "I watched as Diana took her place among hundreds of tombstones. It was eerie, now that I reflect on it. She walked slowly, among tombstones and even yellow rosebushes."
It was quite a bizarre experience for White to drive a princess to a graveyard for martyrs and watch her walk through it in silence. But Diana had a sentimental side that very few understood. As she made her way in between the graves, the princess came upon a woman crying next to a tombstone. The grieving woman had lost her son.
"She met a Bosnian mother tending to the grave of her son, grieving visibly. Diana didn’t speak Bosnian, and this mother didn’t know English," said White, who was witnessing the unexpected meeting unfold.
They may not have spoken the same tongue, but as two women, they were both familiar with maternal love, and the grief that comes with its loss. Diana didn't need to speak the woman's language to understand her pain, and, so, she comforted her. "They just embraced. So intimately, so physical, so emotional, mother-to-mother. It was vintage Diana, reaching out, wiping the mother’s tears and cheeks," White continued.
This was the real Diana. There's a lot that was written about her in the newspapers in the 90s, and she still continues to capture the attention of many even three decades after her death. But nothing comes close to really capturing just how captivated the public was with the People's Princess.
Before Diana came into the picture, the royal family had always seemed inaccessible and regal. While they may still be considered regal and follow protocols that seem all too strange for the time we live in, it was only with Diana's candid honesty that revealed that they were just as human and flawed as the commoners.
Looking back on the experience in Bosnia with Princess Diana, White said, "After her death in Paris only weeks later, I came to wonder whether the Princess intuited her own death, her burial. I don’t know, but maybe, psychically, intuitively, Diana sensed she was going to die. It still gives me chills when I recall this powerful, unscripted, unplanned moment, somehow prescient."
"It’s the only framed photograph of Diana I still have in my home."