A RACE UNDER THE SNIPER FIRE // 08. 1992.
MIMA KERKEN // CITIZEN
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

August 1992

Mima Kerken
Citizen
A RACE UNDER THE SNIPER FIRE

‘I went to work, I worked in the Head Office of the BH Railroad Company and every day leaving for work and coming back I had to cross an avenue. It wasn’t a street, but an avenue, I don’t know how many meters wide. A sniper was always shooting at that avenue, killing people, injuring them, and I thought how to cross. I stayed in between the houses. One quick glance to my watch. When the first bullet was shot I counted the seconds to the next bullet. Some 15 to 20 seconds. And so I was ready when the shot was fired to run across the avenue and I had to do it in 15 seconds. At such times the fear a person feels is incredible. The legs were dead, the muscles don’t work and there’s no air in the lungs. And when I arrived to the other side then I stayed there awhile to catch my breath and rest a little and the people who were hiding there and watching were happy that somebody managed to cross that fateful avenue near the 2nd Gymnasium.’

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TOPIC RELATED TEXT

AUGUST 1992


• A convoy leaving for Germany carrying parentless children is fired on by Serb snipers, killing small children on one of the buses.


• Roma from the neighborhood of Butmir leave for the winter for Italy.


• The aggressor blackmails the city with water. The Bacevo reservoir is cut off. 90% of the city is without water.
• The airport is closed due to shelling.
• The home for the elderly now in a terrible state, being located in no man’s land.
• Israel participates in the air bridge and the provision of humanitarian aid.
• Statement of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the events in Bosnia: “Every time the international community says that it will not use force it encourages the aggressor.”
• UNPROFOR becomes the intermediary for restoring electricity and water in the city. Repairing the destroyed power lines is a Sisyphean task. Workers from the state electric company first seek approval from UNPROFOR. Later on the ground they are constantly exposed to snipers and shelling. They repair power lines that will once again be destroyed – and once again they start from scratch.
• Dino Merlin composes the Bosnian national anthem.
• Sarajevo music studios produce numerous hits.


• The Children’s Embassy suspends work. Protests follow by mothers against the Presidency of BiH.
• A Jewish convoy leaves Sarajevo.
• The President of the Yugoslav government, Milan Panic, arrives unannounced in Sarajevo. Alija Izetbegovic refuses to receive him.


• New York, August 14, 1992. The UN Security Council adopts two resolutions on BiH: Resolution 770, approving the use of military force to carry out humanitarian actions in BiH; and Resolution 771, condemning human rights abuses in BiH and enabling the use of military force to enter concentration camps.The UN Security Council confirms resolutions 713 from September 25, 1991; 721 from November 27, 1991; 724 from December 15, 1991; 727 from January 8, 1992; 740 from February 7, 1992; 743 from February 21, 1992; 749 from April 7, 1992 godine; 752 from May 15, 1992; 757 from May 30, 1992; 758 from June 8, 1992; 760 from June 18, 1992; 761 from June 29, 1992; 762 from June 30, 1992; 764 from July 13, 1992; 769 from August 7, 1992. The Security Council reiterates the necessity for an urgent political solution through negotaitions to the situation in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the aim of enabling the country to live in peace and secure its borders.
• The Security Council, acting on Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations:
1. Reaffirms its demand that all sides and interested parties in BiH immediately cease hostilities;
2. Urges all states to take the necessary measures in cooperation with the UN or through regional agencies and arrangements to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Sarajevo and other parts of BiH, wherever needed, by UN humanitarian agencies and others;
3. Requests unimpeded and continuous access to all camps, prisons and internment centers for the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relevant humanitarian organizations; and that all prisoners be treated humanely, and be provided with adequate food, shelter and medical care;
4. Urges all states to submit a report to the Secretary General on measures undertaken in coordination with the UN with the goal of implementing this resolution, and invites the Secretary General to continually consider further measures that could used to secure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid;
5. Requests all states to provide appropriate support to actions undertaken that are pursuant to this resolution;
6. Requests that all sides and interested parties take the necessary measures to insure the safety of the UN and other personnel engaged in humanitarian aid;
7. Requests that the Secretary General periodically issues reports to the Security Council on the implementation of this resolution;
8. Reaches the decision that will actively follow this issue.
• A Papal envoy attends mass at the Sarajevo Cathedral for the Feast of the Assumption.


• Shelling of Hotel "Evropa”.
• A Children’s Embassy convoy leaves for Belgrade.
• The Airport is closed because a British Hercules C-13 was shot at.
• War vouchers become currency and replace the Yugoslav dinar. The BiH dinar is printed but cannot enter Sarajevo.
• The last active Orthodox Priest Dragutin Ubiparipovic leaves Sarajevo.


• Nenad Kecmanovic, absconded member of the Presidency of BiH, issues an announcement through the Yugoslav news agency “Tanjug” that he is no longer member of the Presidency of BiH.
• Bobby Fisher plays a match in Sveti Stefan, despite the embargo on Yugoslavia.
• A football game is held between the Sarajevo and Zeljo clubs; the final score is 8 – 5.
• The National Library burns after a heavy artillery attack.


• London, August 27, 1992. A peace conference in London begins on the former Yugoslavia under the joint chairmanship of British Prime Minister John Major, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd of the United Kingdom. The BiH delegation is led by Alija Izetbegovic, and the delegation includes Mile Akmadzic, Haris Silajdzic and Nikola Kovac. The Croat delegation is led by Mate Boban, and the Bosnian Serb delegation by Radovan Karadzic.
• Jose Cutilliero resigns from his position as EC chairman.
• The Serbs are given an unconditional ultimatum to withdraw its heavy artillery within 96 hours.
• In Sarajevo hospitals doctors and medical workers are starving.

Dart Game

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.

Modern Sarajevan

He has to have, and on a visible spot, at least one accreditation, seemingly just a piece of paper with his photograph. But beware - accreditation is the law in the besieged city, a proof of belonging to someone which makes you important. Those with local ID. are not more than the second-rate citizens. So, the modern Sarajevan has the accreditation, weapons, a good car, and a complete uniform. The owner of a bullet-proof vest is regarded with honor. The one who doesn’t wear uniform, has an ax in his right hand for cutting down the trees, and a series of canisters on the left shoulder. His image would be complete with a mask against poison gas.
A modern woman from Sarajevo cuts the wood, carries humanitarian aid, smaller canisters filled with water, does not visit a hair-dresser nor a beautician. She is slim, and runs fast. Girls regularly visit the places where humanitarian aid is being distributed. They know the best aid-packages according to their numbers. They get up early to get the water, visit cemeteries to collect some wood, and greet new young refugees. Many are wearing golden and silver lilies as earrings, as pins, on the necklaces.
Sarajevo is a city of slender people. Its citizens could be authors of the most up-dated diets. No one is fat any longer. The only thing you need is to have your city under the siege - there lies the secret of a great shape. Everybody is wearing their youthful clothes of teenage size. Sarajevans lost about four thousand tons (400,000 citizens lost about 10 kilos each). They greet each other with - TAKE CARE!

SNIPERS

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”.

DANGEROUS ZONES

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.

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