JOURNALISTS FROM SARAJEVO FLY ABOARD UN PLANES // 02. 1993.
SENAD PECANIN // EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF MAGAZINE ‘RATNI DANI’
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

February 1993

Senad Pecanin
Editor-in-chief of magazine ‘Ratni Dani’
JOURNALISTS FROM SARAJEVO FLY ABOARD UN PLANES

‘I heard about the permission, which was given to the local journalists to use UN planes maybe a week after the decision was proclaimed in Geneva. I heard about it quite accidentally. I think that at that period the UNCHR kept the decision a secret from the local journalists. I got the transcript of that decision and I brought it to the UNPROFOR headquarters. They verified the nature of the decision. They were very uncivil though, and they did not want to help us get to the Airport. However, there was a chetnik’s checkpoint between the city and the Airport, which was an unbridgeable obstacle for us. At that period I really wanted to get out of the city. First of all, owing to the fact that I wanted to help my family, which went through a lot of troubles because of me in those times, to leave Montenegro. I tried to leave the town in every possible way. I remember, my journey started in the Center of Security Services in Sarajevo, with Boro Kontic and one deceased colleague Zeljko Ruzicic. We were given a very warm reception in the Center of Security Services. They gave us passports. I parted with Boro and Zeljko there. I went to the Fis Cafe, Zeljko went towards the Presidency, but a few minutes later he got killed. I found that out the next day when we were supposed to start our trip. The night before the trip I was not able to sleep at all. I was afraid. All the time during the war I was afraid of falling into chetnik hands. I was terribly afraid of that. I was not afraid of shells, or snipers or bullets. Not because I was particularly brave or anything, I just did not want to fall into their hands. All night long I had this on my mind: ‘God, is it possible that I will do that which I fear the most?’ I decided to go on the trip with a gun inside my coat. It was the third or the fourth of February 1993 as far as I remember. I decided to put the gun in my coat and to leave it with one of our people who worked at the Airport at that time. First thing in the morning I went to get Boro Kontic and I found him in terrible mood. ‘What’s up?’, I asked him. I knew that he was also worried about that checkpoint we were supposed to pass by on the way to the Airport. That was the checkpoint where Hakija Turajlic, the vice-president of the Government, was killed. He told me about Zeljko Ruzicic, I did not know yet that he had been killed. We sat down. I did not tell Boro that I had a gun in my pocket. I took that gun due to a very strange reason. Namely, I took that gun in order to kill myself, to shoot myself in the head, in case the chetniks stopped us at that checkpoint. A friend of Sasa Kontic, Boro’s brother who worked for UNCHR, who had a jeep, drove us. He told us that we could come with him. We asked him whether chetniks usually stopped him. He said, sometimes they do, sometimes not. Because he said sometimes they do, I decided to keep the gun, in case they stopped us. I decided to go, no matter what, but if they stopped us, then I thought that I would not be brave enough to shoot a chetnik first, at least to make amends for my head. My main concern was to kill myself because I did not want to fall into their hands alive. I put on some kind of a hat, because I thought that I would be less noticeable if I wore a hat. I thought I would look like a foreigner. Boro put, or even I put on some glasses, Boro had a hat too. And we took off. I was terrified. I had the feeling that we were on that trip for years. As we were approaching that checkpoint, he slowed down. I put my hand into the pocket to get the gun. At one moment it seemed to me that we were about to stop. But we did not. He only slowed down to cross over those barriers. We passed without stopping and came to the Airport. I was, of course, relieved. Then I told Boro that I had done a foolish thing, but that I had to do it in order to go on the trip. He asked me what I had done. I said that I took a gun. ‘A gun? What are you going to do with it now?’, he asked. Of course, UNPROFOR would not allow any weapons at the Airport. I did not know what to do. At the Airport we met Sasa Kontic, Boro’s brother, who worked there. I told him what I had done, and asked him to take the gun back to the city, since he would be going back from work to the city, whereas we were leaving. We did not know what to do because there were soldiers all over the place. We decided to go to the bathroom so that I would give him the gun. But there was no bathroom at the Airport. Then Sasa said he didn't know what to do, I knew that I would need to go through that checkup, and that my gun would be discovered, as a result I would not be able to go on the trip, and I would be in big trouble. Sasa said: ‘You know what’, I will move away from you now, about 15 meters, then I will start moving towards you, and you start moving towards me. I will open the pocket of my coat and widen it. While we pass one another, try to throw the gun into my pocket.’ As we were passing each other, I threw the gun into his pocket, but felt somebody tapping on my shoulder. I turned around and saw an UNPROFOR soldier. I was frozen. I was sure that he saw what I had done. However, he had not seen me throwing the gun, but he noticed my odd behavior, he saw me twirling round. They did not find that gun, and for the first time I left the city. It was horrible to leave the city in that way after such a long time. However, to leave the city actually meant to get a chance to live. After I came back to Sarajevo, many people, a great number of my friends were not able to believe that I was back, because in those days people only tried to leave the city and not come back.’

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FEBRUARY 1993


• The Geneva negotiations move to New York.
• Sarajevo is surrounded by five rings :
1. The Bosnian Serb Army 2.The UN 3. The HVO 4. The black market 5. The current government


• The Bosnian Serbs shell mourning processions, funerals and hospitals in Sarajevo.
• Vinko Puljic, head of the Catholic church in BiH, meets with the Pope. From Sarajevo he conveys the Pope’s message to the world: “Stop the savagery, let humanity prevail!”


• Lord Robert Owen comes out against the USA, who had rejected a plan that favored the Bosnian Serbs.
• SUBNOR, an association of soldiers from the Second World War, makes an appeal to its members to fight against facism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, and for communal life.
• Advice to patients: If you go to the clinic, bring a log, because the heating situation is critical.


• The city is struck by wartime hyperinflation .
• The International Center for Peace receives representatives from the Helsinki Citizens Forum from France who need to monitor the situation in Sarajevo, and then report to the European and world public whether civil society exists in Sarajevo.


• The UNHCR suspends flights.
• High schools begin to operate at neighborhood council centers, business premises, apartments.
• Radio “Studio 99” reports news on the division of the city. Panicked listeners contact the program. Vance-Owen mediators are in the city; this information originates from them.


• Killed and wounded lay on the airport runway. During the run across the tarmac UNPROFOR reflect lights on it, giving Bosnian Serbs the chance to aim at the moving target. Afterward UN procedures are followed – those caught are placed in UN vehicles and the blue-helmets take them back to wherever they came from.


• The best sportsmen are announced for BiH in '92: chess players Vesna Basagic and Ivan Sokolov.


• The City Assembly decides that Sarajevans, in a gesture of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia, will not accept humanitarian aid until a humanitarian convoy reaches Eastern Bosnia.


• The first wartime cinema opens, “Obala”. Screenings are held in Sarajevo basements.
• Because of the city government’s refusal to accept humanitarian aid, supplies are left lying on the airport runway. Pilots refuse to land because of the piles of undelivered food.


• “Oslobodjenje” is visited by Bianca Jagger.
• The UNHCR decides in Geneva: Government officials cannot be transported on UN planes. The previous month, Geneva had approved local reporters’ use of UN planes from the besieged city.
• The Civil Defense requests two containers from the city authorities to protect Sarajevans from snipers at intersections. The Civil Defense is unable to tow them because they have no fuel.


• Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), halts humanitarian aid to BiH, while the executive council sticks to its decision to refuse humanitarian aid out of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia. Once this decision is reversed the air bridge is reestablished.
• New York, February 20, 1993. The UN Security Council unanimously adopts a new resolution extending the mandate of the 13,000 blue-helmets in Croatia. This resolution provides for the temporary extension of the UN mandate through March 31st. Resolution 807 urges the UN Secretary General to provide additional arms in order to enhance defense capabilities and allows the use of arms in the event of an attack on the peacekeepers, under paragraph 7 of the UN Charter. In addition, the temporary extension of the mandate includes the same tasks as the previous two terms, meaning the neutralization of heavy arms and the corresponding withdrawal of warring sides.


• “Oslobodjenje” proclaimed the world’s newspaper of the year.
• The information blockade of TVBiH is broken – the programming includes Studio Zenica live during the TV news.


• At gatherings across the world, amid protests against the impotence of the EC and UN to halt the bloody aggression in Bosnia, posters appear: “In Bosnia, Europe dies”.
• New York, February 22, 1993. The UN Security Council adopts a new resolution on the formation of an international court for war crimes within the territory of the former Yugoslavia. According to the text of the resolution, all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia from the first of January 1991 will be reviewed. All those charged with war crimes, mass killings and rapes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity will be brought before this court.
• The executive council of the city halts the boycott of humanitarian aid.
• The “Alsace shipment” arrives in Sarajevo. It is at the time the largest humanitarian convoy to arrive in Sarajevo.


News

The only papers you can buy during the siege are OSLOBODJENJE and VECERNJE NOVINE Once upon a time, OSLOBODJENJE had a format like the Times or Frankfurter Allgemeine. It had thirty-two, twenty- four or sixteen pages. Since June of 1991, its size started to diminish. Now it is of a mini-format, with eight or, more often, four pages. People who sell it are the journalists themselves - between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. Due to the shortage of paper, editions came down to 10,000 copies. After November 1992, they came down to 5,000, which makes the time of distribution no longer then twenty minutes. Stronger readers seem to be winning. Radio Bosnia and Herzegovina, Studio Sarajevo, is broadcasting 24 hours a day. When there is electricity, one listens to more than just news. The news is broadcast every hour and everyone is waiting for it. Television today is no more than a few informative broadcasts, live programs and a press-conference held daily in the International Press Center.

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