Director of International Theater and Film Festival-MES
SUSAN SONTAG IN SARAJEVO
‘In the summer of ’92 some professionals tried to get various projects going which would mark a continuity of life in the city, a continuity of creativity. Something that in that time of siege would have as much meaning for us as bread or medicine or water or anything else that is vital for normal human needs. In the summer of ’92, Fama started their Survival project then there was the Shelter performance of September ’92. Then, Hair, in winter ’92. And when I came to Sarajevo we started to organize the International Theatre and Film Festival, the MES, and one of the first performances was Alcestis in August ’93. And at that time, sometimes in ’93, there was snow in the winter. Then in April or a bit earlier Susan Sontag came to Sarajevo. We agreed then that she should come again in the summer of ’93 and produce a performance of Waiting for Godot. The premiere was sometime in the middle of August and made a great stir not only in Sarajevo but beyond. It was the first time that a cultural event in Sarajevo made page one of the Washington Post and also the first time that the news got out that something else not just dying was happening in Sarajevo.’
• Kosevsko cemetery is reopened after 27 years due to the lack of space for the burials of victims of snipers and shells.
• New York, April 1, 1993. The UN Security Council passes a resolution approving the use of force in enforcing a no-fly zone over BiH. At the insistence of the Russian delegation, a paragraph in the resolution is modified so that the use of force applies only to air and not ground targets.
• Cyrus Vance withdraws from his role as mediator in the peace negotiations over BiH. He is succeeded by Thorvald Stoltenberg.
• PTT reaches an agreement with UNHCR on sending and receiving letters through its weekly humanitarian flights on the Sarajevo-Split route.
• The Bosnian Serb Parliament rejects the Vance-Owen plan. The EC gives them a new deadline, April 15th, to accept the plan.
• In Sarajevo the Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated.
• 5,000,000 copies of “Oslobodjenje” are released over several continents.
• In the midst of an offensive by Bosnian Serbs on Srebrenica the international community proposes stronger pressure on the Serbs.
• UNHCR report on the airport runway: six killed while crossing.
• The PTT secures a satellite telephone exchange but cannot transport it into the city.
• In the city business spaces are stolen so that cafes and pubs can be opened. This is the most sought after asset on the market in the besieged city.
• Susan Sontag arrives to Sarajevo and meets with artists and intellectuals.
• George Soros’ foundation establishes a satellite telephone exchange for communication between Sarajevo and the outside world, through America.
• MUP establishes a new traffic system due to the large number of snipers on Strahimir Kranjcevic street.
• Joan Baez comes to Sarajevo. Her arrival is part of a campaign to bring world-famous people to Sarajevo to bear witness on behalf of the world to the fate of a European city at the end of the 20th century.
• Start of the Easter football cup. The football club “Bosna” wins the cup, and in reward receive the cup and a box of eggs.
• In Zvornik, which is under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, Serbian women dressed in black block the arrival of humanitarian aid for Srebrenica, headed by General Morillon.
• The George Soros’ foundation” distributes 16,000 bags of seed for the citizens of Sarajevo to plant in “gardens of survival”. The municipal headquarters of the Civil Defense in Novi Grad allocates plots of arable land to citizens, but without compensation.
• Easter mass is held at the Sarajevo Cathedral.
• Dr William Wagman donates his collection of phonograph records to RTVBiH.
• In an attack by the Bosnian Serb Army in Srebrenica, hundreds are killed in Srebrenica. The UN removes General Morillon from duty.
• OSBiH Commander Sefer Halilovic sends a letter to Croatian Army generals Bobetko and Petkovic. It concerns a convoy of arms for the OSBiH, which had been blocked by HVO forces, and which were intended for the rescue of Srebrenica: “You got 25 % of the arms, by agreement, and because of that you will be complicit in the crimes against Srebrenica.”
• Islam Dzugum, a marathon runner, trains for the Mediterranean Games in Montpelier for the 25 km race.
• The transportation company “Gras” prepares for peace, with reconstruction projects on shattered Trebevic.
• New York, April 18, 1993. The UN Security Council adopts the text of a resolution declaring Srebrenica a protected zone. This decision anticipates that the aggressor forces, the Bosnian Serbs, will withdraw, while peacekeepers will assume responsibility for the defense of the civilian population.
• The Canadian UNPROFOR battalion arrives in Srebrenica. Bosnia lives from one threat to the next, from one promise to the next.
• New York, April 19, 1993.
The UN Security Council adopts a new resolution which imposes tougher sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro if by April 26th Karadzic has not signed the Vance-Owen plan. According to this resolution, the marine transport of goods to or from the SR Yugoslavia is forbidden, aside from humanitarian aid with the requisite approval of the UN Committee for Sanction. Land transport can only take place at only a limited number of road and railway border crossings, also only with the permission of the UN Committee for Sanctions. River traffic on the Danube outside of Yugoslav borders is also banned. Foreign vessels that enter through the Danube into the FR Yugoslavia must be inspected and receive approval by the UN Committee for Sanctions. Twelve miles from the Adriatic coast a sailing prohibition is imposed on the FR Yugoslavia, meaning that no ship will be able to enter its territorial waters except under extraordinary circumstances and with special permission. All funds held abroad by the FR Yugoslavia are frozen. All traffic and transport vehicles found outside the borders of the FR Yugoslavia are retained and possibly subject to confiscation if found in violation of the sanctions. The same measures also apply to transport vehicles of other countries that violate the sanctions. The resolution further prohibits financial or any other ties with the FR Yugoslavia with the exception of telecommunications, legal ties or its postal system. Services related to humanitarian assistance or any other special occurrence must be undertaken with the approval of the UN Committee for Sanctions.
• Process of demilitarization in Srebrenica. Working group meeting at the Sarajevo airport. If the Bosnian Serbs attack, the UN will protect its people.
• Start of the “Sarajevo Winter” festival.
• The HVO fires at the hydroelectric plant in Jablanica, breaking off power lines to Sarajevo.
• The HVO commits war crimes against the Muslim citizens in Central Bosnia.
• The President of the self-proclaimed state of Herzeg-Bosnia, Mate Boban, and the President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, sign a new peace agreement.
• Radovan Karadzic, leader of the SDS announces: “If tonight we decide to sign the peace plan, the Serbian people will triumph, but if we decide not to, the Serbs will triumph regardless.”
• The Bosnian Serb Assembly rejects the peace agreement. This elicits the following reactions: the Secretary General of NATO Manfred Woerner advocates bombing the Bosnian Serb Army. Russian President Boris Yeltsin announces: “The Russian Federation will not protect someone confronted by the entire world community.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs BiH, Haris Silajdzic: “We cannot expect to fight against tanks with kitchen knives.”
• In Sarajevo an initiative is undertaken to revitalize the “Bentbasa” pool. Plans are immediately drawn up.
• The sanctions against the FR Yugoslavia are carried out: its borders are closed, assets and property frozen, and control is established over traffic on the Danube.
• Lord Owen: “It’s too early to bomb the Serb positions.”
• Meeting in London: Haris Silajdzic: “Let us defend ourselves. No one has the right to deny us that.”
• Slobodan Milosevic asks Radovan Karadzic and Momcilo Krajisnik to reconsider the decision of parliament, threatening to cut off economic aid. A new meeting of the parliament is scheduled for May 5th.
“Kamerni teatar 55” is located in a shelled building in the main street, Marshal Tito 55. The auditorium is one of the safest places in the city. Every day at 1 p.m. (the time is determined by the difficulty of moving about in the light-less city at night) there is a performance, a presentation of a new bank, newspaper, or a commemoration of some significant event... Sometimes there are cocktail-parties where the humanitarian aid is served. Hair is the most popular hit.
Sarajevo, boyishly astounded, is beginning to realize that it is exactly it – wrecked, wounded and grieving – that is the first city of the 21st century and now centre of European spirituality
Towards the end of his life, in 1949, Klaus Mann wrote: „A wave of suicides to which the most extraordinary and distinguished spirits would fall victim, would awaken the nations from their lethargy so that they would understand the deadly seriousness of the trial that man with his stupidity and selfishness has drawn over himself.“
This impassioned anti-fascist, calling for a campaign of suicides among European intellectuals, killed himself a short time later in Cannes. A little more than ten decades later not even an organized suicide campaign of whole nations would arouse European intellectuals from their lethargy. Instead of political suicide, they have because of their stupidity and selfishness decided on total destruction, on a long dying on warm rugs in the scent of cheap decadence. To the holocaust in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that famed European spirit of the end of the 20th century postures pitifully in its powerlessness, but does not move an inch from its self regarding, insensible egocentrism which makes it, however powerless, also evil. Corruption and hypocrisy make no attempt to hide themselves, individualism has turned into pettybourgeois narcissism. The Faust myth produced in the garrulous chancelleries of Europe is a useful cover-up for the last remains of conscience that can be as irritating as a blow-fly. „The Faustian thirst for knowledge“ is best quenched in symbols with nationalism. In 1993, a new key-word came into the salons of Europe: Sarajevo is dreadful enough, mysterious enough, and near enough, to whet and encourage a feeling of charity. Sarajevo has become an ideal digestif for the European stupidity that calls itself, in all seriousness, the European intelligentsia.
At the same time, in the real Sarajevo, a New European Spirit is being born, which does not look even in pity at the grotesque European salons. The new European spirit arises from a new discovery of meaning, from the redefinition of the world and life, death and suffering. And this could have happened only in Sarajevo the centre of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian tragedy and the end of Old Europe. In Sarajevo in the last 17 months, people of special kind have appeared, of a specially altered physiology because of the special course of(mal)nutrition through which they have passed and the sublimated mental life that has transcended the physiological. It is natural that this new spirit should have first manifested itself in young people, in the most intelligent and vital part of the population. The mystical spleen of the new European spirit is in its simplicity, and ethicalness.
From today's Sarajevan perspective, Klaus Mann looks like a good old romantic. His suicide, in the light of idea of his quoted at the beginning of this article, was the optimistic act of the lover of certain idea about the world. In the city in which the idea about the world has been changed, the feeling for the romanticism has been changed too. Klaus Mann was convinced that there were still intellectuals of his calibre when he called for an organized campaign of politically motivated suicides. It is true that he was alone from the simple reason that he was particular. Sarajevo is beginning to learn that it is not like other European cities, that it is special, unique, incomparable. Sarajevo, boyishly astounded, is beginning to realize that it is exactly it – wrecked, wounded and grieving – that is the first city of the 21st century and the new centre of European spirituality.
He was born in Sarajevo in 1961. In 1984 he graduated the Academy of Art in Novi Sad. His professional training includes the Fulbright Scholarship, High Level Training for Directors (Festival d’Avignon, UNESCO), work for Nordic Theatre Institute Holstebro in Denmark. Haris Pašović was directing in the most important theatres in former Yugoslavia before the war and has won almost every major theater award. His work has included Aristophanes’ “Birds”, Bunuel’s “Hamlet”, Jarry “Ubu Roa”, Wedekind’s “Spring’s Awakening”, “Marat/Sade”, Kiš “Simon, the Magician”.
During the siege of the city, Haris Pasovic continued to direct theater performances (“City”, “Silk Drums” based on the Japanese classical theatre, Euripides’ “Alcestis”, “Silk Drums II” “In the country of last things”, by Paul Auster) and films and organize screenings and exhibitions. He has been running the Sarajevo International Theatre and Film Festival.
It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
I wouldn’t come back.
How do you describe perfect happiness?
What is you biggest loss?
What is your biggest gain?
A new look at freedom and that I do not hate anybody.
When and where were you happiest?
What are your lost illusions?
A healthy society.
Describe your day at work.
Waking up, reading, administration, creation, reading, sleeping.
What words don’t you use anymore?
How do I remember?
In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Where would you like to live?
How have you survived?
By accident, for now.
What are you afraid of?
A world war.
Does the past exist for you?
This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
It would be nice if it was intelligent.
Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
Once you find the recipe it is often too late.
How would you like to die?
I would not like to die.
Do you need hope to live?
After hope and after fear.
What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
How would you call this period of your life?
Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
Do you like life, and what is life all about?
Yes, but I cannot answer the second part of the question.