48 HOURS IN WAITING AREA // 03. 1993.
IRFAN DURMIC // DIRECTOR OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

March 1993

Irfan Durmic
Director of the Electric Company
48 HOURS IN WAITING AREA

‘Until the coming of the UNPROFOR we worked without any help. We worked on the basis of an agreement with the aggressors who gave us some sort of assurance that they would allow our workers into the occupied territory to repair the transmission lines. With the coming of the UNPROFOR it became safer, it became easier. One could say that if it wasn’t for the UNPROFOR we couldn’t keep on working. However, the UNPROFOR had its procedure: when we applied to go in the field, the procedure lasted 48 hours, besides those gentlemen didn’t work on Sunday, so we had to wait for the first working day and then the same procedure, and so on.’

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MARCH 1993


• New York, March 1, 1993. Peace negotiations resume in New York. The participants include the respresentative of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, the representative of the Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban, and the representative of the BH delegation, Alija Izetbegovic. The peace conference is presided over by Cyrus Vance and Lord Robert Owen.


• The Public Prosecutor’s Office launches an initiative to extradite Radovan Karadzic to the BiH judiciary.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, in New York gives his signature to the second part of the Vance-Owen peace plan.


• Japan sends cans of tuna as humanitarian aid worth a total of $5,800,000 – the most nutritionally valuable food received yet.


• In Sarajevo an association is founded for cooperation between Bosnia and Austria. Alois Mock sends a telegram of support.
• A description of events on the airport runway: The nickname for the guide across the runway is “Rabbit.” The runway became a corridor for smuggling and carrying in food in backpacks into the city. Runners wore suits made of white bedsheets so that UNPROFOR couldn’t see them when they shined reflectors. Smugglers broke eggs and poured them through a funnel into a canister so they could carry them across the runway.
• A European edition of “Oslobodjenje” is released.
• Renewed work by the Serb humanitarian society “Dobrotvor”.


• Bosnian Serbs prevent the arrival of representatives of the Republican assembly to the city.
• “Adra”, an Adventist humanitarian society is the best connection for carrying personal packages into the city.


• Amid the humanitarian crisis in Srebrenica, French general Morillon remains with the inhabitants of Srebrenica until the humanitarian convoy whose passage was prevented by the Bosnian Serb troops has entered the town.
• A rock concert in Sarajevo is held, “Help Bosnia Now!”
• The International Center for Peace invites mayors of cities across the world to protest the division of the city.


• In the city, wall advertisements allow citizens to learn about the supply and demand for goods of all kinds.


• 85% of the BH economy is destroyed.


• In New York, the BH delegation suspends negotiations while the Bosnian Serb attacks on Srebrenica and Sarajevo last. New York, March 19, 1993. In New York, President Izetbegovic halts peace negotiations. He informs the co-chairs of the peace conference, Vance and Owen, that he cannot continue the peace negotiations while Serb aggression against Srebrenica intensifies and their fierce attack on Sarajevo continues.


• In Sarajevo, the trial against Bosnian Serb Borislav Herak for crimes against humanity. The presiding judge is Fahrudin Teftedarija.
• In Kamerni teatar 55, safe from shelling, a concert is held - “The Most Beautiful Melodies in the World”.
• Spring arrives earlier than usual: on March 20th, at 3:42pm.


• French general Morillon, UNPROFOR commander, becomes an honorary citizen of Srebrenica. On that occasion he announces: “I feel like a king, the people worship me.”
• Humanitarian aid arrives in Srebrenica. The citizens of Srebrenica stampede toward air dropped humanitarian aid. Many are killed, suffocated or trampled.
• NATO estabslishes control over the Adriatic Sea.


• Heavy artillery attacks on the city.
• The Children’s Embassy awards their mascot, ”Zlatni cupko” to General Morillon.


• The USA will participate in maintaining peace if the warring sides agree to a peace process.
• NATO will send 60,000 soldiers if a peace agreement is reached.
• New York, March 26, 1993. Negotiations on BiH are completed in New York. The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, signs documents and maps as well as an interim resolution for the Republic of BiH, the Vance-Owen peace plan. The interim solution is also signed by the leader of Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban. Radovan Karadzic refuses to sign either agreement.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, accepts the Vance-Owen plan. President Bill Clinton congratulations him on this prudent move.


• A ceasefire is declared. It begins at twelve o’clock.
• Kamerni teatar 55 holds a “Prayer for Peace”.
• The Bosnian Serbs oppose German participation in Operation “Parachute” to deliver humanitarian aid.


• The Bosnian Serbs are given a deadline of 10-15 days to sign a peace agreement. Russia applies diplomatic pressure on them. Alija Izetbegovic announces: “The plan is bad, but the best for ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”


• The Serb Cultural Society “Prosvjeta” renews its work in Sarajevo.


UNPROFOR

UNPROFOR, or for those who don’t know them: United Nations Protection Forces, were awaited as saviors when they first arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina with their white vehicles and blue berets. As time went on, they proved to be powerless. Now they are helping in repairs of the infrastructure, in cleaning the city. They are also establishing bureaucratic rules of their own. In some instances proven to be good merchants, they are driving around in trucks, jeeps transporters. Children are climbing onto their vehicles, and soldiers are throwing them sweets. They transport wounded, bring humanitarian aid, drive from and to the airport. In short, nothing is done without them. UNPROFOR Headquarters is in the building of Communication Engineering at Alipasino polje. Soldiers are in the barracks which were formerly inhabited by the soldiers of the Yugoslav Peoples Army. The main Headquarters of the UNPROFOR’s commander is in a private villa. All these successions seem to be very natural.

Sarajevo by Night

SARAJEVO BY NIGHT means that life follows the line or the sun. Without civilization based on inventions of two Americans - Tesla, who was born in the neighborhood and who we are proud of, and Edison, who they are proud of - you have to learn to go to sleep early and to wake up early. So many evenings are spent in envy of those who have electricity. But Sarajevans have mastered the art of making kandilo, which is the light, usually hanging before an icon. To the Greeks have given the name - kandelos.
Recipe: Fill a glass jar, or a glass, half with water and a quarter with oil. Ten cut five to seven millimeters of a cork, and drag through it cotton string, or a carpet fringe, or any piece of burning material. In order for the wick to stay above the oil and burn, a tin strip of some two centimeters is used and placed above the jar. Through that strip runs the wick soaked in oil. Candles have burned long ago, even decorative ones. People who have saved petroleum lamps are very rare, and for them a liter of petroleum costs 30 DM. Batteries ran out at the beginning of the war. Still, they are being revived by cooking in salt water, five to ten minutes. They can come to life if connected to an automobile battery, if that one can be fed with electricity. All these tricks make batteries live five or six lives.
Of 1800 transformer stations in Sarajevo, more than half are out of use. To steal fuses is a regular thing. Three such fuses will cost you about 700 DM on the black market. Their real value is no more than 15 DM. Foreign currency is needed if you want to bring electricity from the station to the lobby of your house. To plug into a system, in all kinds of weird ways, is very fashionable. Another way is to run cables. You can steal the electricity from the houses which have it - on the right side of the street, and bring in to the houses which don’t on the left side. That has its price too, sometimes a deadly one. Some steal oil from the transformer stations to replace car fuel. To have a car battery in the apartment, that is a real treat. A radio can be plugged into it - and turned on ever hour, for the news. This battery is the source of light, too. Those less capable attach to it stronger bulbs and soon understand that the battery is drained too quickly. As time goes by, we all learned, and here is the advice - take the smallest bulb, like the one from the inside of a car. And carefully watch your lighter. You’ll need it, it, if not for lighting a cigarette, then surely to climb the staircases.

THE “ELEKTROPRIVREDA” BUILDING

Electricity was a rare guest in the city. The citizens made do with car batteries, candles given by humanitarian organizations, home- made oil lamps which required small amounts of edible oil and bits of shoestring, and with a variety of more or less successful inventions. Some people used battery and the so called “SOROS” lamps which required solar energy. Although there was plenty of solar energy the lamps had little capacity and quickly broke down. In the hilly parts of the city people built mini power-generating plants. The “Elektroprivreda” building was on the front line, next to the bridge which borders with the occupied Grbavica district and it was frequently shelled.

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