ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL // 10. 1992.
MUHAMED POLJO // PENSIONER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

October 1992

Muhamed Poljo
Pensioner
ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL

‘To fetch the water, you would go to brewery, at night to avoid the shells. It was impossible to go during the day or in the early morning. It was freezing, and your hands would go numb. When you came home, you could not dry yourself. If someone carried four 5-litre canisters attached to his back with a belt, he would come home with his back wet. I made an iron rod and carried two canisters on each rod, which means that I carried twenty litters of water. We organized ourselves in our neighborhood and we baked bread in one cooker, the only one that existed there. We waited for 4-5 hours for our turn. The food was very bad, but we could not help it. I remember that we had no onions to prepare some meal and we wished to have it, just to make the food have some taste to it. We had rice pies; we cooked what we could. We were stuffed with canned food but even that kind of food was not enough for everybody. It was very hard.’

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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.

Eating

The main dishes of 1992 are macaroni and rice. You wouldn’t believe in how many different ways they can be prepared! They can’t be bought, except on the black market. That was the case during the first months of the siege. Now everyone is saving them, jealously, if they still have any. By additions and with a lot of imagination, one USA lunch package can feed five people. Rice, macaroni and bread are often eaten together - otherwise it is difficult to survive. For one resident of Sarajevo, during the first seven months of war, you couldn’t count more than six packages of humanitarian aid. One had to invent ways to preserve and eat for as long as possible what is normally envisioned for one person, one meal, one use. In spring, summer and fall, all leaves it is possible to find were used as ingredients - from parks, gardens, fields and hills which were not dangerous to visit. Combined with rice, and well seasoned, everything becomes edible. Each person in Sarajevo is very close to an ideal macrobiotician, a real role-model for the health-conscious, diet-troubled West. A war cookbook emerged spontaneously, as a survival bestseller. Recipes spread throughout the city very quickly. People are healthy, in spite of everything, far no one eats animal fat anymore, nor meat, nor cheese - meals are made without eggs, without milk, onions, meat, vegetables. We eat a precious mix of wild imagination.

Water

Water shortages may last for days, or weeks. The reasons are always the same - no electricity, or a act of terror. Then the search starts. First, one checks a basement. Then you may go to Konak (which serves only the privileged) then to Sedam brace on Bistrik, where big lines are formed, then in the neighborhood of Pionirska dolina, where one waits under the snipers Those who carry water do so, depending on their strength and the number of canisters, several times a day, traveling several kilometers, waiting in a line for at least three hours. The lucky ones are those with bicycles, which are pushed rather than driven. The same with the owners of baby-carriages and former market carriages. Anything that rolls will do, for everything is easier than carrying the water by hand.
In one of Sarajevo neighborhoods Alipasino polje, someone with a gun made holes in the water pipe running above a little stream. Water was pouring and for hours people were hanging on the rotten bridge trying to collect as much of a precious liquid as possible. The best thing that can happen is a discovery of water somewhere in the neighborhood where you live. It doesn’t matter that the pipe emerges from the disaster left after the big Olympic hall has burned to ground. There is a pipe, and there is water, and there are big lines with people who do not worry anymore whether the water is clean, or not.
One of the ways to find water is using dowsing rods. Life, and your ability to survive is very much about natural talents In this case - you put your electromagnetic waves against those of the water. Gifted magicians are searching for the water. Those more talented and skillful can even advise you how deep you should dig. It is known that even during the First World War, Austro-Hungarian troops had special divisions which consisted of dowsers whose duty was to search for new wells. At that time, the water on the Eastern Front (also known as the Serbian) was very polluted. Yet, with them and without them, it is the rain that brings consolation. Groove gutters are, unfortunately, damaged. People stand in lines, in the rain, waiting with buckets for their portion of rain-water. Day or night - it doesn’t really matter. People drink it and use it for doing laundry. It is very good for your hair, which becomes silky and shiny. Lack of water makes the people of Sarajevo very dose to medieval knights and to French monarchs. They ration water, as if they were Bedouins. Long hair can be washed in a liter and half, the whole body in two or three - all in little pots and pans, with water lukewarm or cold.
The washing machine is a household appliance from some long-gone times. It has no function. The women of Sarajevo are again first-class laundresses. The only thing lacking is a battledore, Iye soap and a clean river to wash what they have.
To run the toilet, waste water is collected, and water is brought from springs - if they are not too polluted - or from the street…

THE BREWERY

The brewery was built in 1881 during the Austro-Hungarian period and it was the first modern brewery in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The water for the brewery comes from an underground lake under Sarajevo. As one of the rare places where people from all over the city came for water, the brewery was an important strategic target for the aggressor and many people waiting in line for water were killed or wounded. This was the place where people gathered with their carts filled with canisters after walking ten kilometers to reach water. This was also the place where filled, but also the cisterns which supplied water to citizens. In the city which had waterworks for several hundreds of years and which had boasted public drinking fountains on every corner the water supply was one of the greatest problems of the siege, because the aggressor commanded all the springs blackmailing the city, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the UN. The citizens gathered rainwater from broken drain-pipes, fetched water from the Miljacka and thawed snow. In 1993 in one of the tunnels leading to Pale the SOROS Foundation built the waterworks which supplied the city pumps.

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