THE PREMIERE OF SHELTER// 09. 1992. • SAFET PLAKALO// WRITER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
THE PREMIERE OF SHELTER
‘The play did accomplish something that we could not expect at that moment, and this is expressed in the words of one Sarajevan woman who watched the play 10 times and wrote the following note in our book of comments: ‘Thank you, actors of Sarajevo, for helping us not go crazy.’ Let me put it this way, for the first time in my considerable experience, I realized that the theater can truly function as what psychiatrists call psychodrama, as a method of diagnosis and therapy. As the creators of this play, we were presented with an ethical dilemma that we had to solve: is it ethically appropriate, and if so, to what degree is it appropriate to do theater in moments when all around us people are suffering and dying. Of course, this dilemma lasted only a short time. Until we realized that show, as well as the enormous theater production that was initiated by that show, did an exceptional amount of good for Sarajevans, both as some sort of therapy, and as an affirmation of our struggle and resistance in Sarajevo, because the play very quickly reached the pages of the foreign press, the world media. And at the time it was treated as a sort of cultural wonder, at least that's when it began to be referred to as a cultural wonder.’
• The Presidency of BiH decides the evacuation of children by the organization Children’s Embassy will only be carried out under the strictest security.
• Slobodan Milosevic dismisses Milan Panic, the new president of the government of Yugoslavia.
• In the Sarajevo neighborhood of Stup, the site of a bustling market, the situation grows tense. The HVO, BiH Territorial Defense and Bosnian Serbs erect barricades against each another.
• The city’s government battles epidemics of entercolitis and dysentery.
• Sarajevo’s Jewish community announces: “We want to be Bosnian Jews. During the Second World War, the Muslims acted the most justly. They protected the Jews.”
• Russian media blames the Muslims for all of the Serbs′ actions.
• Serb snipers fire at journalists from “Oslobodjenje” as they enter their office.
• An overland corridor is established between Split and Sarajevo.
• The Serbs agree to place their heavy artillery under UNPROFOR control after the expiration of the deadline of the ultimatum.
• Associations are established in Sarajevo for citizens expelled from other towns in BiH.
• An Italian humanitarian flight is shot down.
• Geneva, September 4, 1992. In Geneva, under the auspices of the UN and EC, in the Palace of Nations, an international conference begins on the former Yugoslavia.
• Humanitarian aid networks bring the citizens of Sarajevo 400 kg of food daily.
• The Children’s Embassy convoy is put on hold.
• The Ministry of Education issues a statement that enrolment in school is dependent on security conditions.
• Geneva, September 6, 1992. At the international conference, the aggressor’s side is asked to place all of its heavy artillery around Sarajevo, Gorazde, Bihac and Jajce under UN control by September 12. Karadzic doesn’t sign the agreement on placing heavy artillery under UNPROFOR control.
• Despite the deadline given Radovan Karadzic on handing over arms to UNPROFOR control, he continues to negotiate over the size of artillery pieces to be confiscated.
• Robbery of the “Fruktal” warehouse in Stup. HVO units and Juka’s unit compete over who will take more. The headquarters of the HVO in Mostar is given an ultimatum by the Armed Forces of BiH in Sarajevo to withdraw from Stup within 48 hours.
• Premier performance of the play “Skloniste” at the War Theatre “Sartr.”
• The “Holiday Inn” Hotel makes $230,000 in two months because it is the only hotel that can receive foreign journalists and supply them with food, water and electricity.
• Citizens rip out seesaws and benches from parks to survive the winter.
• The citizens of Sarajevo can buy a barrel of water up to 30 liters for 10 Deutsche Marks. Those that are able to get water from one of the rare sources in the city know that one canister of water could cost them their lives because of exposure to snipers and shelling.
• Dr Mario Landeka, at the “Paleta” gallery, displays 22 paintings on the theme of water.
• Bosnian Serb forces place their arms under UNPROFOR control at 11 positions.
• The Bosnian Serbs launch a heavy offensive. HVO units flee Stup, retreating from the city’s line of defense.
• The BiH delegation travels to Geneva for peace negotiations.
• The city lacks chlorine for the chlorination of drinking water, leading to negotations with UNPROFOR.
• The Bosnian Serb offensive on Stup continues, in an attempt to enter the city through its weakened defensive lines.
• The children’s choir “Palcici” writes to Princess Diana to tell her what’s happening to them.
• 20 authors display a portfolio of prints “SA 92”.
• Football league matches are held in Sarajevo under the slogan “It’s important to participate.”
• The city is ravaged by hunger, illness, despair and death.
• Muslims and Croats flee Grbavica, the occupied part of the city, paying ransoms on their own lives to the Serbs.
• A match is played between Sarajevo and UNPROFOR. The final score is 12 - 3.
“Kamerni teatar 55” is located in a shelled building in the main street, Marshal Tito 55. The auditorium is one of the safest places in the city. Every day at 1 p.m. (the time is determined by the difficulty of moving about in the light-less city at night) there is a performance, a presentation of a new bank, newspaper, or a commemoration of some significant event... Sometimes there are cocktail-parties where the humanitarian aid is served. Hair is the most popular hit.
Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.
THE NATIONAL THEATER
The Neo-renaissance building built in 1898 during the Austro- Hungarian rule in Bosnia, is located by the Post Office bridge which was a dangerous sniper zone. Regardless of the continual danger from the snipers and shelling, the theater staged performances which filled the cold auditorium that had not been heated for years. The repertoire consisted of all kinds of plays from Greek tragedies to contemporary plays or the Japanese No plays.