EUROPEAN OBSERVERS DEPARTURE FROM SARAJEVO // 03. 1992.
SENADA KRESO // TRANSLATOR
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

March 1992

Senada Kreso
Translator
EUROPEAN OBSERVERS DEPARTURE FROM SARAJEVO

‘That night while the journalists were celebrating, when we all thought we should be celebrating somewhere, sometime around midnight the barricades went up. Do you remember the stocking-covered faces. Next day we had that whole group of scared observers who knew what they’d got into because they had all been briefed at home that they were coming to a land on the edge of crisis. But all the same it’s a situation you can’t foresee and can’t make use of the experience and knowledge you have. I remember the day as one of continuous rushing between the Presidency and the Holiday Inn. While I tried to reassure the observers some others were negotiating with Kukanjac, he was commander, at least to let those people go. I remember that I went to have breakfast with them. In a way it was my job to reassure them. And since I couldn’t really believe what was happening I managed to do it quite well. I remember that while we were having breakfast the hotel manager was in the restaurant hurriedly packing lunch packets for the people on the barricades. I thought it was just a story, because it was for me still just a story. It was very dramatic. The whole morning these people were in a panic. At one moment I remember I came into the foyer and found all the people, because the observers had been told that the hotel foyer would be the safest place to be. They were all on the floor because a second ago we had heard some shooting, three of the stockinged men came in and began to shoot into the air. Then someone told me to advise them to go into their rooms, and later one of the Swiss lawyers, said to me ‘there was a man with a stocking’. I said, ‘What did you do?’, he said ‘I said, this is my room’, and the man said ‘Sorry’, and went.’

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MARCH 1992


• The European Community (EC) decides a referendum should be held as a condition of the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence. The Serbian Democratic Party urges a boycott of the referendum.


• Following the close of polling places in Sarajevo for the referendum on independence, barricades are set up along the city’s key roads after midnight. The barricades are formed from transport trucks, and communicate by walkie-talkie. Every entrance to the city is blocked. They are held by armed civilians. The SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) issues a press release announcing they have blockaded the city. The Crisis Council of the SDS demands six conditions, seeking the suspension of any further engagement of the recognition of BiH independence until an agreement has been reached between the Croats, Muslims and Serbs.
• Formation of the Republic’s Crisis Council, headed by Ejup Ganic. By order of the members of the BiH Presidency, Plavsic, Kukanjac and Delimustafic, set out to remove the blockade at the intersection of Vojvode Putnika and Bratstva i Jedinstva.
• Crisis in the city: Through armed intervention the SDS attempts to nullify the referendum results. The city’s transportation is blockaded – trolley buses are hijacked, the airport is closed. The routine of normal daily life is halted, it emerges that the train rails have been mined.


• Meeting of the Presidency held: The referendum does not prejudice the organization of BiH. Under EC supervision, negotiations are held between all three nationalities. A decision is reached to remove the barricades.
• The referendum on BiH independence draws out 57.10 % of eligible voters.


• Sarajevo: Peace demonstration move on the barricades. At around 10pm the crowd breaks through and destroys the barricades. Citizens from the parade call towards residential buildings, inviting people to come out. It is a call to join the fight against fear.


• In the Sarajevo neighborhood of Mojmilo, on Olimpijska street, no. 31-35, citizens hold “barricade barbecues”. Together they celebrate their destruction with food, drinks and music.


• The Presidency unanimously agrees to the SDS’ conditions. At the second meeting the SDS announces two additional conditions: “the abolishment of the Muslim paramilitary unit “The Green Berets,” the removal of Ejup Ganic from office and the abolishment of the Republican Crisis Committee.


• Formation of a joint patrol from MUP (Interior Ministry) and Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). These patrols contribute to the deblockade of the city. Specialist Dragan Vikic manages the joint action patrols. For the JNA, this constituted a peacekeeping mission. Pale refuses joint patrol, citing its concern over the “Green Berets.”


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, sends a message to the citizens of Sarajevo: “Stroll outside, do not succumb to fear and panic!”
• Radio M, Youth Radio on the second program of Radio Sarajevo invites citizens to a peaceful gathering in front of the Parliament Building.
• Journalists from Radio Television Sarajevo make this appeal: “Help so that we aren’t divided, that we don’t divide ourselves!”


• In front of the Parliament Building a magnificent gathering convenes as an ode to peace.
• The leaders of the nationalist parties leave for a meeting in Brussels for peace negotiations under the auspices of the EC.
• March 8, a large barricade barbecue is held at Vraca in Sarajevo under the banner: “Neighbors come before brothers.”
• Slobodan Milosevic does not come to the conference in Brussells, despite the fact that the EC considers him the key figure in the emerging crisis.
• The first American Hercules lands at the Sarajevo Airport, carrying humanitarian aid.


• The Assembly of the SDS rejects the proposals of the EC. Alija Izetbegovic spreads optimism that war will be avoided because of his aim of receiving recognition by the EC. Radovan Karadzic, president of the SDS, warns that war could break out any minute, and otherwise spreads psychosis, in order to postpone recognition.
• Mass demonstrations in Belgrade.


• SDA – is committed to the concept of a Federation of BiH, with constituent units and a strong central government.
• SDS – is committed to the concept of the three constituent peoples forming a confederation, with a weak and decentralized government.


• Sarajevo: Negotiations begin at Konak House.


• At Konak, Cutileiro pays tribute to JNA Commander, Milan Kukanjac for his efforts to forestall the war in BiH. Radovan Karadzic claims that a united MUP no longer exists, having been fractured along national lines. He also pushes for a tri-partite BiH divided along national lines.


• Satish Nambiar, Force Commander of UNPROFOR in BiH, upon arriving with UN forces to BiH, announces: “We have received guarantees that the paramilitaries will be disarmed. Our mission is exclusively peaceful in character.”


• UN troops move into a Sarajevo home for retirees.
• BiH in a state of chaos: Possible reasons for the conflict include a funeral, gunfire on a JNA observation post, or gasoline rations.


• The UN Headquarters in Sarajevo is established.
• Vice President of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Vlado Santic, presents a map of a partitioned BiH.


• The SDS takes control of the RTV transmitters, allowing for the broadcast of TV Belgrade.
• Members of the Presidency of BiH, as well as high ranking officials in the SDS, Nikola Koljevic and Biljana Plavsic, send a letter to the UN and EC complaining of the aggression of Croat and Muslim paramilitary formations in BiH, warning that the Serb people and the JNA are on the defensive.
• Major scandal erupts over MUP’s burning of money.


• Proclamation of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


• In the village of Sijekovac, 12 Serbs are killed.
• In Sarajevo a congress is held of Serb Intellectuals.
• The President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, visits Saudi Arabia.


• Negotiations continue in Brussels. The three delegations travel by separate planes to Brussels. For Alija Izetbegovic, leader of the SDA and President of the Presidency of BiH, there can be no change to the notion of BiH as an independent state, drawing the line on any further concessions. The leader of the HDZ, Miljenko Brkic: “The JNA must hand over control to the civil authorities. The HDZ is for a federal BiH.” Radovan Karadzic, leader of the SDS: “We will not accept the EC’s recognition of BiH’s independence.”
• BiH: Mass flight of the Croat and Muslim populations from Kupres.

Senada Kreso
She was born in March 1951 in Mostar. She studied English language and literature in Sarajevo, worked for Sarajevo television and radio. She translated stories, poetry, essays, and did journalistic work occasionally. She traveled when it was possible.

THE SIEGE
Since the seventh day of the attack against Sarajevo until recently she worked for the Bosnian Information Ministry. For almost a year she has been the deputy minister. She always tried to help foreign journalists report about the impossible hell of the siege. She recently started working for UNESCO. “Work, lots of work, and from time to time, laughter or attempts to laugh, so we would set aside the bitterness of the survived and the things we lived through”.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
In the same.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
Something like that does not exist.

What is you biggest loss?
People around me lost a lot, it would be cynical to speak about me.

What is your biggest gain?
Experience.

When and where were you happiest?
Happiness has various shapes, and it cannot be measured.

What are your lost illusions?
By losing some I learned, by losing others I was frustrated.

Describe your day at work.
It would not be too interesting for you.

Sarajevo?
A miracle city.

What words don’t you use anymore?
None, but some have lost their meaning.

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Yes, it still is.

Where would you like to live?
Here, but I would like to travel to, let’s say, New York or Barcelona.

How have you survived?
With irony and skepticism.

What are you afraid of?
Of fear that I could not overcome.

Does the past exist for you?
Yes, as an experience.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
The one that is about to end, which is so absurd, does not give me any worthy answers to this question.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
Ironic distance - especially towards oneself.

How would you like to die?
While dreaming.

Do you need hope to live?
Of course.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
Shocking. Difficult. Sickening. Brueghel and Chagal at the same time.

How would you call this period of your life?
A period of comprehension.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
A message to whom? To those who have stayed, or those who are leaving. I am afraid that neither have an ear to hear the message.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
There is not enough room for answering this question.

THE HOLIDAY INN

Before the siege the Sarajevo hotel capacity was 49,000 beds, but during the long siege the Holiday Inn was the only functioning in the city. The hotel was built during the Winter Olympic Games. On April 6, 1992 it was the location of the SDS terrorists who were shooting at the Sarajevo citizens gathered in front of the Parliament. As foreign journalists were staying at the hotel it was less frequently shelled than the surrounding buildings. Nevertheless a great number of rooms was burnt or destroyed. It was one of the few hotels in which the most prized rooms were those without a view. A view of the mountains meant a view of a snipers’ nest. During the siege the rule was: If you see him, he sees you The hotel took in guests all through the siege.

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