ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL // 10. 1992.
SEMSA MEHMEDOVIC // TELECOMMUNICATIONS ENGINEER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

October 1992

Semsa Mehmedovic
Telecomunication engineer
ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL

‘Everything that could be burned was put in our oven. At the beginning I had some wood to make fire. My family had a few planks. But this reserve went very fast and after that I was forced to use my imagination to solve this problem. I personally sawed trees; I learned how to do it. I would make briquettes out of coal dust. We all had our own techniques. We had to find a way to prepare wood so that it could be burned. It is hard to remember everything those fires were made from. We used all kinds of thing that were not important to us. Books for example. Plastic bottles and everything else made from plastic. Plastic was very good to make fire but it smelled badly. We burned pieces of carpet, or sheets. Some people had to burn their wooden floors and furniture. Thank God, I was not so desperate. But once I burned a whole set of volumes by Sholokhov, I still remember - it was The Quiet Don. Nevertheless, whatever was burned, clothes or something else, sooner or later was gone. And we had to find something new. It was '95 and we had to organize heating during the whole summer, but we did not have anything to make fires with. It came to my mind that I could make fire from little branches. They were tiny, thin and small but I made little bundles wrapped together with old socks. I guessed that it was my original invention. But the result wasn't great. It took a lot of work to make such a bundle and it would burn up in a second. I made lots of those bundles with my son. That effort was not only useful for heating but also it was healthy for my mind. Because when I was doing something useful, I was all right, I felt O.K. I believe that this manual work saved my sanity.’

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OCTOBER 1992


• Geneva, October 2, 1992: The conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva continues.
Two announcements from Geneva:
- The demilitarization of Sarajevo as the first step towards peace;
- Continued discussion on the constitutional order of BiH under the auspices of the Conference;
- Signing of the Declaration in which Croatia and Yugoslavia agree to respect existing borders, in accordance with the decisions of the London Conference. An agreement is reached on the return of refugees.
- Under the auspices of the International Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an agreement is signed on the release of civilians in concentration camps.
• The Mayor of Sarajevo issues an announcement: "Citizens, do not cut the trees! You only need to wait for the opening of the corridor, and that will probably be soon. Poplars can be cut, but those are needed by the army. "


• Statement by Rassek, the new commander of UNPROFOR, "One of the primary tasks of UNPROFOR - is to provide a continuous and smooth flow of water into the city."
• In Sarajevo, massive car theft. Although the owners remove the tires to prevent theft, thieves bring their own wheels, install them and take the car.
• The Ski Association of BiH submits an application for admission to the International Ski Federation. At the meeting they will be represented by a Slovenian delegation, because the representatives of BiH can’t leave the besieged city.
• At the peace conference in Geneva, the Foreign Minister of BiH, seeks an abolition of the arms embargo.
• New York, October 8th, 1992: the UN Security Council adopts two resolutions:
- The first forms the basis for the establishment of a commission for the investigation of war crimes in Bosnia;
- The second allows UNPROFOR to take control of the territory after the withdrawal of the former Yugoslav army from Prevlaka.
New York, October 9th, 1992:
New UN Security Council resolution 781:
The UN Security Council orders a ban on all military flights over Bosnia except for UN aircraft. The prohibition is effective immediately.
• Mile Akmadzic, Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, asks for republic officials to return to Sarajevo within five days or lose their positions.


• Generators producing electricity work in coffee shops but not in hospitals.
• Salaries of the members of the Presidency - 20 DEM - the black market rate.


• A fierce debate between the directors of the Red Cross and the Commander of the Army Forces over a convoy departure with 6,500 people from Sarajevo leaving in their private cars.
• The Volkswagen "Golf" becomes the vehicle of the season. The "Golf" can drive under any conditions.
• A convoy with 180 Jews leaves Sarajevo.


• No one has information on incoming humanitarian aid: e.g, who the donors are, the quantity of goods that has arrived, nor the quality of the goods.
• The phenomenon of survival in the besieged city:
Bicycle – in the movie "Miracle in Milan" cyclists ascend to to heaven; in Sarajevo cyclists rush through the streets to avoid a premature trip to heaven.
Heating - people search for sunlight to warm up, but can die because of it.
Bathing - you can wash yourself with a cup of water and look clean, and wash your hair with a pot of water and dry it in the oven.
Sawing- Sarajevans are awoken by the sound of chainsaws at dawn, the best time to cut down trees.
• The news of the coup in Sarajevo is launched by TV "Srna", a television station run by the Bosnian Serbs. Belgrade has taken over deceptive news broadcasts. Foreign journalists in Belgrade pass the news along to the world, bearing the TV "Srna" logo. The news comes back to Belgrade where its given the headline: "As Radio Geneva reports, a coup took place today in Sarajevo."
• On Igman the OSBiH arrests Juka Prazina, a leader of special urban guerrilla units, because of attacks on Sarajevo from Igman; cooperation with HVO units; and attacks on the BiH Armed Forces.
• "Velepekara" (a large bakery) is heavily shelled. Its mill is burnt down.
• For 21 days Sarajevo is without electricity or gas, has had no water for 19 days; and bread is distributed only on the basis of priority. The transmitter in Vogošća has been shelled. There is no electricity, and no one knows when it will be back on again.


• In Sarajevo, a command is issued to finally reckon with the crime in the city: all armed groups must be incorporated into the city defense or be forcibly disarmed. All stolen goods must be returned within 48 hours. A subsequent operation uncovers warehouses of looted goods.
• In Belgrade, Koca Popovic dies, one of the greatest figures in partisan and political circles of Socialist Yugoslavia.
• Sarajevans find water using a divining rod.
• Under UN supervision, a meeting is held between a working group comprised of military representatives from the Armed Forces of BiH and the Bosnian Serb Army.


• Sarajevo Mayor Muhamed Kresevljakovic returns from a tour. On that occasion he says: “If ships from Spain arrive in Ploce, and the Croatian side allows transport, Sarajevans could have 300 tons of potatoes." He brings a bag of letters from Ljubljana to Sarajevans.
• UNPROFOR headquarters is returned to Sarajevo.
• One of the military negotiators of the Bosnian Serbs, General Gvero, asks the UN organizations to open up roads for 60,000 Serbs to leave Sarajevo.
• Commander of the BiH Armed Forces, Sefer Halilovic, sends a message to Sarajevo: "Instead of continuously walking (strolling) on the streets, it would be better if you would sit at home and from home knit sweaters and socks for those who are defending us."
• Bosnian passports are beeing issued in limited numbers.
• Geneva, October 29, 1992.
- At the Geneva negotiations on Bosnia a proposal is made to divide the country into seven to ten provinces within its existing borders;
- The central government would have responsibility for foreign affairs, defense, government, international trade, and taxes for the central government;
- Education, cultural institutions, radio programs and a host of other issues would be the responsibility of the provinces.
• Razija Colic, a film professional, loses both of her legs while trying to rescue a film archive from fires caused by the shelling.
• A transit visa is introduced for Croatia.

Heating

Cold weather and the arrival of winter brought about new arrangements in the apartments. Chimney outlets were opened even in houses with central heating. From the basements and from the attics, from friends are acquaintances, old stoves were brought. Boiler-rooms are not working. In the absence of chimneys, people fix extra flues and stick them out of their windows. Flues are lurking on streets, smoking. Cooking still continues on the balconies, among empty flower-pots, housewives stirring the fire with newspapers. The basic stove is a tin one - furuna, made by craftsmen on Bascarsija or even by self-taught masters. Material and imagination define the form, size and the purpose (for coffee, cooking, or heating). Furuna are being sold on several markets, but only for DMs. But the major problem is fuel. You cannot buy wood or coal.
During the first summer, all dry benches, trees and wooden material were collected. This fall, parks, alleys, courtyard and cemetery trees started to fall birches, poplars, ash-trees, plane-trees, plum- trees, apple-trees, cherry-trees, pear-trees, all the way down to brushwood. Wooden backs of benches in parks were taken away, frames and doors of ruined apartments, handrails from the hallways, shelves from abandoned stores and kiosks, wooden stools and bars from restaurants, even the crosses and pyramids from the cemeteries. All bombed houses and barracks were dismantled with enviable speed. But fuel is still scarce. Those who were wise took scrap wood from their garages early in the summer. Now paper versions are being manufactured. Plastic bags, a part of US lunch packages - a leftover from the Persian Gulf War - can heat five liters of water... UNHCR supplied the city with a numerous but not sufficient thermal foils for windows. On every window, from the outside, one can read their name: UNHCR - they are the owners of our lives. November temperatures were very nice. Meteorologists have informed us they were very high, by comparison with times no one remembers any more: about 9 degrees C (Centigrade) in the apartment. It was warmer to take a walk then to sit inside. Fortunately, everyone can get warm while searching for water and wood.

PARKS

In 1992 and 1993 the price of wood in Sarajevo was 350 DM per cubic meter. Parks were places where citizens got their wood. The wood from Sarajevo parks could be bought at markets, neatly cut and packed in bags. The prices varied according to the weather forecasts. Even the park benches ended up in the hand-made stoves. The best preserved city park is the first park established in the city - the Central Park. Parks appeared relatively late in Sarajevo, during the period of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, because there were so many green areas that there was no need for them. The first parks were actually redesigned old Muslim cemeteries.

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