May 1992

Benjamin Filipovic
Film director

‘Like probably most Sarajevans I felt the need to keep up some kind of urban habits and in spite of everything that was happening, and they were foretelling very hard times, to have my 15 minutes daily with someone I loved. There was no dearer person to me then than my mother. So every morning, every working day, I waited on the corner of Salom Albahari and Vaso Miskina, today Ferhadija Street. I waited 5 minutes, 10 minutes, no mother came. Then I saw one of our BH TV crews with Cakan Dzevad Colakovic, Pupa Stijarcic, our friends, who seemed to be going to Svjetlost Park to make a completely different program from what in fact they were about to make in a minute or two. Since my mother hadn’t come for 10 minutes I decided to go with them and see what they were up to. I don’t think we’d gone more than 5 or 6 paces when it came without whistling, they say you don’t hear the whistle of the shell that’s for you. That was probably the shell that was for all of us. It was simply like somehow completely different from all that we had been experiencing for a month and a half. Then a silence, then chaos. Screaming, cries, hell, horror, panic, death, everything most terrible. Of course the TV crew reacted immediately, Dzevad took the camera and began filming. Just one little jump in time forwards. After that filming, Dzevad Colakovic has never been the same person. Why did that little jump forward happen? While he worked I saw a man becoming completely deformed. Almost physically. He went on; other members of the crew helped to collect those almost disintegrated bodies. We got people that we could still help into any kind of transport to get them somewhere they could be treated. Then it seemed somehow, that someone should give a commentary. That may seem to be superfluous now, perhaps there was no need for anything, nothing but the TV pictures just as they were. But someone put the mike into my hands. I went. And now, to go back to the beginning, I began to think of my mother in the whole drama. I was looking just like the camera was looking, a witness of those who had survived, I moved as the camera moved holding the mike, an old ‘Isenhauer’ mike, voicing a commentary and looking for my mother. For now my only thought, since I had somehow missed the shell and the massacre, was that my mother had been late meeting me because she had been queuing in that breadline, and she was nowhere. So I went looking for her, was she alive or dead, was she in pieces. Thank God, by luck, she hadn’t been there. But the terrible feeling is left that any one of us might have been there, or some other place a little before or would be years later. That we simply had no control over our paths and what might cross or tear them apart, like happened to those people in Ferhadija 27 May 1992.’


MAY 1992

• At a peace conference in Lisbon, the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, agrees to talks on territorial demarcation. The President of the EC, Jose Cutileiro, offers a map drawn up by EC experts on the basis of the three constitutent peoples of BiH.
• In Sarajevo, 17,000 refugees from various towns settle in the city. They have either been expelled from their homes, or their houses or apartments have been destroyed by shells.

• Sarajevo is under siege. The circle around the city closes, with entrenched tanks, mortars, snipers and cannons.
• As the JNA withdraws from its Command headquaters over Skenderija bridge conflict erupts. Self-organized defenders of the city attack the JNA convoy.
• After returning from Lisbon and landing at Sarajevo airport, the JNA holds captive the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, his daughter who had accompanied him, as well as the leader of the SDP, Zlatko Lagumdzija. They are released later after long exchange negotiations with the assistance of UN Commander Louis Mackenzie.
• Juka Prazina, a city paramilitary unit leader, becomes Commander of Special Units of MUP BiH.

• Members of the Presidency of BiH, Stjepan Kljujic and Fikret Abdic, sign a ceasefire agreement for the lifting of the blockade of the JNA barracks.
• In the Old City, at the entrance to Sarajevo, an old wooden barricade is set up.

• The JNA dismisses Blagoje Adzic and relieves from duty the Chief Commander of the sector of Sarajevo, Milutin Kukanjac.
• The Sarajevo neighborhood of Dobrinja is surrounded by SDS troops. SDS terrorists give an ultimatum to the defenders of Dobrinja. The SDS sets up a barricade with armed soldiers between the neighborhoods of Dobrinja and Mojmilo.

• Within the blockaded JNA barricades conflicts erupt between individual soldiers.
• Gunfire from the barracks at vehicles and passersby. The area around the barracks becomes lethally dangerous.

• The JNA leaves, destroying everything in their path.
• Fighting goes on around the JNA barracks.
• Transmissions halted of the independent news program “Yutel.”

• With the shelling of the Central Post Office from the surrounding hills by Serb paramilitary groups, 40,000 telephone lines are scorched. The reserve Telephone Exchange on Obala (bank of the Miljacka river) is mined. Sabotage is carried out by specialists from Nis.
• Street fighting goes on in different parts of the city.

• The Tobacco Factory in Sarajevo is burned after being hit by firebombs.
• Urban fighting goes on in Pofalici between Serb units and the city’s defenders. The defenders liberate this neighborhood.
• The Headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in Sarajevo is evacuated.

• The Presidency of BiH sets May 19 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the JNA.
• In Ilidza, a convoy leaving the city with 5,000 women and children is stopped by SDS troops.

• The agreement on the confederation of Bosnia and Croatia comes as a bombshell.
• The Presidency of BiH proclaims the JNA an occupation force.
• BiH becomes a member of the UN.

• After lengthy negotiations, the convoy of women and children abducted in Ilidza is released.
• SDS troops forcibly expel patients from the hospital in Jagomir. 113 mental patients roam the city.
• Sarajevan writer Abdulah Sidran, an avid chessplayer, seeks donations from 50,000 DM for BiH chessplayers to compete in the Chess Olympiad in Manila.

• In an attack on the city, the large Olympic complex “Zetra” is targeted.

• The MUP files criminal charges against members of the SDS, including former members of the BiH Presidency, Biljana Plavsic, Nikola Koljevic and Momcilo Krajisnik.
• Sefer Halilovic is named Commander of the BiH Territorial Defense.
• SDS troops attempt to break into the city through Vraca.
• Lisbon, May 24, 1992: A resolution is adopted, after new rounds of negotiations.

• Portugese Ambassador, Jose Cutileiro, initiates new rounds of negotiations. The Croat delegation from BiH led is led by Mate Boban. Radovan Karadzic represents the Serb people. The representatives of the Muslim people and delegation of BiH is led by Haris Silajdzic.

• JNA leaves the “Viktor Bubanj” barracks.
• Report from the Botanical Gardens: unique specimens are in jeopardy from incessant bombardment.
• The Apiarist Association of BiH sends out a statement to the world on the true state of affairs in the city.

• Heavy artillery attack by the aggressor on the maternity ward.
• Shelling in the city center. Massacre of civilians waiting in line for bread.
• The Presidency of BiH refuses a convoy exit from the city because of the possibility it will be taken hostage by the aggressor.

• JNA units evacuate the city barracks “Jusuf Dzonlic.”
• Artillery attack on the city. The city burns. Attack on the “Oslobodjenje” building.
• The destruction and burning of the city causes the interruption of the peace conference in Lisbon.
• The JNA leaves the Pazaric military compound.
• New York, May 30, 1992. The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 757, which imposes sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro and which:
- prevents the import of all products and commodities from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- prevents the sale of all products and commoditites to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- makes unavailable any financial resources, including Serbian and Yugoslav assets in foreign countries;
- denies permission to aircraft to take off from, land or overfly member states’ territory if it is destined to land or has arrived from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro, except for special flights approved in advance on humanitarian grounds;
- prohibits the maintenance of aircraft registered in, or serving the purposes of Serbia and Montenegro, delivering spare parts for such aircraft, providing insurance for them and charging for such services;
- reduces the level of diplomatic and consular staff in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- prohibits participation in sporting events to persons or groups representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- suspends scientific, technical and cultural exchanges and visits with individuals and groups supported by or representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro.


Stores have been broken into, shelled, deserted. This situation lasted for months and then, in October, a few brave owners reopened some of them. There you can find toothpaste, soap, toilet-paper (rarely), light-bulbs and foil for preserving food - remnants from the pre-war rich Sarajevo. Supermarkets are gone. Some, completely ravaged, since December are selling just the one and only kind of bread. People got food stamps sometime in June, but they never served their purpose - you could never buy anything with them. Only one card works, the one that appeared in December, for bread. If you manage to wait in a line, you can get 233 grams per person daily. Single men and women are forming trios, so that each of them gets a whole bread every third day. Business hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but most places close at noon. At the end of a working day, merchandise is hidden in the basements, well protected and locked with seven locks.


Every area of the city was a dangerous zone. At every moment, from all the places in the mountains surrounding the city the snipers could hit every target in the city. Therefore the most dangerous zones were those directly in the line of fire Bridges, crossroads and streets exposed to the mountains. Those were the places where the possibility of getting shot was somewhat lessened if one was a fast runner. Such places also seemed less terrifying than other parts of town where one was never sure whether one should walk fast or slow. Would the shell land where you are or in front of you? The signs DANGEROUS ZONE or WATCH OUT, SNIPER, as well as the signs showing the direction of traffic were written in oil-based paint on pieces of UNHCR plastic sheets, or on pieces of cardboard, wooden board or simply written with chalk on the wall.