THE LAST JEWISH CONVOY LEAVES THE CITY// 03. 1993. • JAKOB FINCI// THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
The Jewish Community
THE LAST JEWISH CONVOY LEAVES THE CITY
‘The last convoy to drive out of Sarajevo left on the 5th of February 1994, the very day on which the bomb fell onto the Markale open-air market, and when more than 60 people were killed. There was even speculation that the bomb was meant for the last Jewish convoy that left the town. Actually, it was Jewish only in name, because aside from Jews, two thirds of its passengers were Sarajevans representing other ethnic groups who, of course, had permission from all the necessary officials to leave the city.’
• 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.
Convoy is the term which equals organized exit, a ticket with no return. For all such journeys there are lists, and there is time to be spent in waiting, filled with uncertainties. They are organized by Children’s’ Embassy, Red Cross, by the Jewish Community, by the Slovenian government before the elections. Those who entered one of the lists in June, who have all the needed documents, are not sure that they will be leaving the city in December. There is always a new document required, a new rule to obey, a new delay. And, no wonder, each convoy has its own rules. Children’s’ Embassy takes out children, mothers, the very old and the exhausted. The Red Cross is taking out old, sick and children. The Jewish Community took out Jews and their friends, supplying them with false documents. Slovenes took out their citizens and those who could remember one Slovenian in the family in past seven generations. At these sad departures, you could often hear anxious questions: “Father, what’s your name? Mother, what’s your name?”
One more paradigmatic dialogue:
Question: “When are you leaving?”
Answer: “Well, I am on the list Still waiting for a confirmation from Geneva.”
Discreetly, but to no one’s surprise, the City was left by wives, children, parents and friends of various officials. Illegal channels were used, starting in Stup, Ilidza, Kobilja}a. From there, to Kiseljak - a Hong Kong of Sarajevo - if heading West. To Pale, if going East. On each of these starts, there was a ‘connection’, a guy dealing with the formalities which basically means exchanging tangible hard currency with the invisible bus ticket. Starting fee is 100 to 200 DM. Additional amounts were supplied by Muslims, for they often needed false documents.
It is a well known secret that for about 1000 DM, deposited in one of the cafes close to the Veterinary college, one could get to Grbavica (a sealed part of the town, a camp from which no one can go out, and into which no one can enter). From there for the mentioned fee, the bus would take you to Belgrade. Another part of the same secret is that there is a rule according to which for one person who enters Grbavica, one from Grbavica is being released into the City. Profit is mutual.