HUNGER IN SARAJEVO// 07. 1993. • JAKOB FINCI// PRESIDENT OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
President of the Jewish Community
HUNGER IN SARAJEVO
‘1993 was certainly one of the most critical years of the war, when all of our resources had dwindled away, and when it was extremely difficult to get in humanitarian aid. There was a crisis in relations with the other side, so that there was no agreement even for the humanitarian convoys that were sent via the United Nations to bring aid to the citizens of Sarajevo. Then we were came to an agreement with all the warring parties to allow a convoy of over 14 trucks drive to Sarajevo. They carried food from La Benevolencia, Caritas, and Merhamet, and in this way we found a way of slightly improving that difficult situation. But at that moment it was just a drop in the ocean.’
• Speaking of the peace plan for BiH, Lord Owen announces: “With this division Musilims will not just get the 10% they control but more than they expect.”
• 300 American Marines are sent to Macedonia.
• Hunger strike at the City Assembly.
• Great public interest in the departure of convoys.
• Jean Cote appointed new Chief Commander of UN troops.
• A coordination committee established for the local Croat community. Dr. Ante Kovacevic announces: “All those who wish to defend the whole of BiH are welcome.”
• Vuk and Danica Draskovic, opposition leaders in Belgrade, in prison. Vuk Draskovic launches a hunger strike in protest.
• Countless barricades set up from Split to Sarajevo. Conducting humanitarian missions becomes impossible.
• HUNGER in Sarajevo. Gardens and balconies become the only sources of food.
• A Sarajevan actor says: “Sire, the actors are dying! On stage I act as if I were sated and we will keep on performing even if there are two catafalques on stage in which actors are truly dying.”
• Russian withdraw from Cuba, having first arrived in 1962.
• Hunger strikers at the City Assembly lose 1-3kg daily.
• Sarajevo becomes HELLISH.
• Although there is no oil, the TV news is still broadcast.
• Almost all work is suspended at hospitals. There are no diagnoses, and doctors skip tests before operations. Even when there is oil, the generators cannot provide enough power to operate the medical equipment.
• Lord Owen calls on the BiH government and the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, to agree to the division of the country as soon as possible.
• The Presidency of the City Assembly ends its hunger strike under pressure from doctors and public appeals. Once the strike ends they announce: “Our conditions have not been met, but we’re terminating the strike.”
• Prices at the market: Cooking oil - 30 DM; 1 kg flour - 10 DM or 2 packs of cigarettes.
• Convoys prevented from leaving the city.
• The Draskovics are released from prison, after receiving a visit from Lord Owen who announces this to Slobodan Milosevic.
• Designer Josip Nose fashions a regulator for gas.
• Susan Sontag comes to Sarajevo to direct a performance of “Waiting for Godot.”
• 8,000 new UN soldiers arrive to BiH.
• Publication of the diary of Sarajevan girl Zlata Filipovic.
• Promotion of the slogan of the season, months, years, the ultimate slogan of the siege: “With cigarettes you’re never alone”.
• The famous Nazi war criminal hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, makes an appeal to former camp inmates and members of the resistance movement during the Second World War: “speak out against the barbarism and brutality in Bosnia.”
• Geneva, July 27, 1993. In Geneva, the peace conference on Bosnia continues. Participants include: Alija Izetbegovic, Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudjman, Mate Boban, Radovan Karadzic. Co-chairs: Lord David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg.
• New rules: Expecting mothers in Sarajevo must bring with them to the hospital when about to give birth: bed sheets, diapers, soap and water. Immediate after giving birth they must go home.
• The humanitarian organization “Caritas” asks for its own airplane, seeing UNHCR status.
• Peace negotiations in Geneva: Ceasefire signed and free passage for a convoy of humanitarian aid, as well as non-aggression towards UNPROFOR.
• The Bosnian Serb Army attacks UN troops, but air strikes are absent.
• Geneva, July 30, 1993. In Geneva at the peace negotiations, Izetbegovic, Karadzic and Boban order an end to the war. They agree that daily meetings will be held at Sarajevo Airport between the commanders of the armed forces, together with UNPROFOR commanders. Owen and Stoltenberg offer a new compromise peace plan for BiH. Under this plan the country will be divided into three republics, but not along ethnic lines, and will be under loose federal control.
• Geneva: BiH remains a single country within its existing borders, with three republics not formed exclusively on the basis of nationality.
• The U.S.A. seeks support from France and the U.K for air strikes to lift the siege of Sarajevo.
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.
PLACES OF WORSHIP
Built in stone in the Neo-gothic style, with two spires of 43 meters each, the Cathedral represents one of the 4 places of different religious worship situated within 100 meters from each other. On its left side are the Jewish temple and the mosque and on its right the Orthodox church. Some 50 meters further to the right is St. Vincent, and to the right the old Orthodox church and the well-known Gazi Husrev-bey mosque. Throughout the war religious ceremonies were held in all places of worship. Concerts were held in the Cathedral and the “midnight mass” in 1992 stared exactly at noon.