Director of the State Museum
STATE MUSEUM ON THE FRONT LINE
‘The State Museum is in a very strategic position for both defenders and attackers. You know how difficult it was until the barracks were emptied. The Museum was open to attack from all sides. The military hospital was in the barracks on one side and they shot from there too, even from the big high-rise buildings, they shot from the upper floors. The Museum was surrounded and shot at from all sides. It was with very great difficulty that the staff could get into the museum. In May I knew that some of our people, after we were cut off, wanted to get into the Museum. I live across the way, in the big yellow building, if you know it, where the American reading room used to be. I tried to get near the Museum. I tried to get to the museum too. The soldiers immediately stopped me, in early May, when there were still street battles, you know around the Faculty of Philosophy, at least that’s how it seemed to me when I tried to get near. I tried to take some food to the people working in the Museum. The police stopped me. They said, ‘you couldn’t go in’. I said, ‘I’d find some way in.’ And I did. And when I did get in, and said how I’d come, they said it was the worst possible way in, but there you are. I got in alive. 500 to 550 shells fell on the museum, on the whole museum complex. The area of the museum and the Botanical Garden cover 20,000 square meters. The Botanical Garden are 14,000 square meters. On the Museum walls and roof, they counted them in our fist repair works; there were 182 direct hits with shells or other heavy ammunition.’
• In order to protect against sniper fire, Sarajevan drivers drive through the city’s streets at great speed.
• Yeast arrives to “Velepekara” for the production of bread.
• Herzeg-Bosnia is proclaimed within the territory of BiH.
• The resale of humanitarian aid begins in different places in the city at high prices.
• A number of countries offer to participate in the air bridge for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the besieged city.
• At a meeting of the Presidency of BiH the decision is made to replace the Public Prosecutor because of his attempts to ban the nationalist parties SDA and HDZ over six common infractions .
• Munich, July 7, 1992. Summit in Munich: The seven most-developed countries in the world adopt a special resolution on the Yugoslav crisis that places pressure on Belgrade. The seven countries supporting the EC conference on the former Yugoslavia call on all sides to continue negotiations, while at the same time demanding that all sides not impede humanitarian efforts. The resolution also states that “in the event that peace negotiations fail, the Security Council will consider other measures, among which the use of military force will not be excluded. It is also emphasized that Serbia and Croatia must respect the territorial integrity of BiH.
• The new member of the Presidency of BiH from the Serb people, Nenad Kecmanovic, flees Sarajevo.
• Student Josip Capelj gives 200,000 dinars of his savings to the Armed Forces of BiH: “I want them to liberate me.”
• Juka Prazina, city guerilla leader joins the Armed Forces of BiH with his own unit.
• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic plays on the street in the center of the city.
• The Representative of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo, Ivica Ceresnjes, says that the Jewish cemetery and chapel can be destroyed in the interest of defending the city. The Jewish cemetery is among the most dangerous strongholds of Serb snipers firing upon the citiziens of Sarajevo. Serb terrorists aim at buses, trams and passersby.
• In the neighborhood of Dobrinja, which is being attacked on two sides, a teacher, “Aunt Faiza,” soothes children with games, classes, costume parties and dances.
• Collectors try to collect TV subscription fees.
• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic sends an invitation to musicians across the world to protest against the agression against Sarajevo and BiH by playing Albioni on July 17 at 12pm.
• London, July 16, 1992. A peace conference begins in London. Lord Peter Carrington presides over the peace conference. Participants at the conference include: Haris Silajdzic, Radovan Karadzic and Mate Boban.
• Developer Mirko Mer makes a protective mask against poison gases.
• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic plays for Douglas Hurd, Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom on Vase Miskina street.
• London, July 18, 1992. A ceasefire agreement is signed in London. All sides sign a ceasefire agreement placing heavy artillery under the control of the international community. They also sign a document guaranteeing the right of refugees to return to their homes and securing the free movement to all civilians.
• The new President of the Yugoslav Government, Milan Panic, arrives in Sarajevo.
• Pharmacies in Sarajevo receive humanitarian aid in the form of enormous quantities of medicines with expired dates, as well as inadequate or irrelevant medicines, such as anti-malarial agents.
• Louis Mackenzie, UNPROFOR Commander, resigns under pressure from the media for misconduct and bias.
• A convoy of mothers and children, through the organization Children’s Embassy, leaves for Italy.
• Pension payments depend on electricity.
• 27 Olympians leave Sarajevo for Barcelona.
• Armed Forces of BiH attack the chocolate factory “Zora” with the aim of disarming guerilla units of the HVO.
• The city no longer has water. Serb terrorists hold control over all reservoirs.
• At Stup human trafficking and black marketing arises through cooperation between HVO units and Bosnian Serb forces.
• Bernard Kouchner becomes the patron of a former JNA hospital, bestowing it with the name the “French Hospital.”
• Painters exhibit their paintings in the stairwells of apartment blocks.
• Haris Silajdzic, Foreign Minister of BiH, refuses the Cutilliero plan, which in March the BiH delegation had given its approval in principle.
• Athlete Mirsada Buric trains for the World Cup in the streets of Sarajevo amid sniper fire.
• Juka Prazina, with his own unit, creates a border at Stup and halts trafficking on the way between Stup and the city.
If you play with lines on the map of Europe, you will have to find Sarajevo. It is revealed where lines cross over the Balkans. First you draw a line from Paris, through Venice and then to Istanbul, the closest East that Europe knew for centuries. A second line starts in Northern Europe, goes between Berlin and Warsaw, through the Mediterranean, and then to Africa. These lines meet over Bosnia and Herzegovina. And, in fact, they cross over Sarajevo. Here wars were started and here they went on, while people loved and longed for love. Here merchants were selling goods from all over the world and life was close and distant to ways of the East and the West. It was Western for the East, and Oriental for the West. It was the life of Sarajevo.
Its poet, Muhamed Nerkesi (1592-1634), far from his beloved city, wrote: “Nothing comes close of my city. It is the pearl on the earth, saraj of springs and gardens unique in the world...High mountains around it, old and noble, snow-peaks covered with mist are kissing the sky...It is impossible, no doubt, to name all the beauties of this place...”
THE STATE MUSEUM
The State Museum, located across the street from the Holiday Inn, was on the front line, as the Miljacka river separated it from the occupied Grbavica territory. Its windows are still covered by UNHCR plastic sheets which has replaced the glass. The sheeting was the UN gift to the museum which is regarded as the oldest cultural and scientific institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Established in 1888 the museum is situated in a monumental Neo-renaissance style edifice which includes the botanical gardens, the site of precious medieval tombstones (stecci). The museum houses the departments of archeology, ethnography and natural sciences. It was impossible to protect the large number of exhibits, but in spite of the shelling they were not directly hit. The most valuable exhibits, like the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, had been removed to safer places. A part of the museum burnt down and the building was hit by more than 420 shells, according to museum statistics. In front of the museum there stood a UN transporter which was supposed to protect the citizens riding in the trams. A lot of people were killed and injured in that spot. It was in this spot that the last victims in the city were killed after the signing of the Dayton agreement when a tram was hit by a shell.