JEWISH CEMETERY MAIN SERB STRONGHOLD AGAINST THE CITY// 07. 1992. • SONJA ELEZAR// JEWISH COMMUNITY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
JEWISH CEMETERY MAIN SERB STRONGHOLD AGAINST THE CITY
‘The Jewish Cemetery is, first, the part of the town near which I grew up, and second, a place to which I am emotionally tied. My grandmother and grandfather are buried there, and I remember as a child accompanying my parents to the funerals of their friends, and distant relatives, because sadly our close relatives had died in concentration camps. And for me that cemetery was always a symbol of links with family and tradition. I was very sad that people were using it to shoot from, that it was being destroyed. Especially knowing that it was a cultural site, very old. It’s the oldest Sephardic cemetery in Europe; it’s under UNESCO protection.’
• 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.
On the fifth of April, 1992, around Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had about 500,000 inhabitants, around the city in the valley of the river Miljacka surrounded by mountains which made in the host of 1984 Winter Olympics, in the very center of what was Yugoslavia, appeared: two-hundred-sixty tanks, one-hundred-twenty mortars, and innumerable anti-aircraft cannons, sniper rifles and other small arms. All of that was entrenched around the city, facing it. At any moment, from any of these spots, any of these arms can hit any target in the city. And they did hit, indeed - civilian housing, museums, churches, mosques, hospitals, cemeteries, people on the streets. Everything became a target. All exits from the city, all points of entry, were blocked.
The beauty of old Sarajevo cemeteries has been ruined by growing needs. They have been reopened when two contemporary cemeteries Bare and Vlakovo - become inaccessible. Small old cemeteries which were active for certain neighborhoods, even streets (mahalska) were closed in 1878, with the arrival of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. More than a century later, they started functioning again. People are being buried next to the mosques, on playgrounds in front of their houses. The old military cemeteries - Austrian, of the First Yugoslavia, German, and a partisan one - are full. Since September, the small stadium in the sports complex Kosevo, was turned into a cemetery, too. Funerals are held in early morning or dusk hours, to avoid the shelling. There is a rule not to go to the funerals and not to have flowers and wreaths. They cannot be bought anyway, even if someone would want to.
At the beginning of the siege the Yugoslav National Army and the SDS terrorists (the Serbian Democratic Party members were proclaimed terrorists by the Bosnian government) deployed their snipers in tall buildings and in the barracks to shoot at citizens. Even when they were removed from the city the distance between the city streets and the tall buildings on the hills in the occupied territory was sufficient to allow sniping by semi-automatic guns produced by the Yugoslav army. According to the data gathered in 1995 the snipers, shooting from small holes made in the walls of the buildings or from the bushes, had wounded 1030 and killed 225 persons, 60 of whom were children. In some European newspapers one could read reports about the “war tourism” which included sniping the citizens of Sarajevo. The Russian avant-garde writer Limonov was caught on camera indulging in this “enjoyable sport”.