July 1993

Sead Fetahagic

‘I think I was reading something, they caused the building to catch fire, and it started to smoke. My wife and I and our older son, we thought that it would pass quickly, but then we realized that smoke had enveloped the building. We gathered some documents and left in a hurry. My older son went downstairs in his slippers. The firemen came. We watched the building burn, from down on the street. The firemen were not able to do much. I saw that the building was on fire, and then it occurred to me - and this is what really got to me the most - that all of my books were up there. I said to my wife and son, ‘let’s go’. We left. I was in a terrible, terrible, tragic mood, because they had destroyed my books; my manuscript was destroyed and everything. But the next day my son went back to the site of the fire, to our twenty-floor apartment building and saw that a third of the building was burned, but that in our apartment the room, the two rooms where the books were located were left untouched. By chance, as we were on the fifth floor, the firemen were able to enter our apartment, because it was not locked. We ran out in a hurry, and they were able to save those two rooms, and my books were left intact. They are tremendously valuable, because all other things, but when we talk about, because we are talking about things here, not about people, we’re not talking about the souls of people, but in terms of things, books were the only things around us that made us alive, that helped us to feel our own pulse, that made us feel human. But this story has a tragic ending. In the old building, my son, the older one, the one who helped the most to save those books, and who helped the most to carry them out, was lying on the couch one day, reading. I think it was Faulkner. A mortar shell fell across the way and, and it wounded him in the leg. It made him an invalid.’


JULY 1993

• 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.


Those who were lucky, still live in their apartments. Refugees and those whose apartments have been burned or destroyed by grenades are inhabiting the apartments of those who left Sarajevo before or during the war. Temporary leases and bills of sale are being issued. Some entered flats by breaking the doors and changing locks. You can change the apartment if one of your friends manages to leave the town. Some people have two or three apartments. Depending on what each of them can offer electricity, gas, water, or minimal security - they move from one apartment to another. Those who are looking for you, will find you on the address where you collect humanitarian aid. Some are living in communes. Old families have disintegrated - new ones are being formed. Windows are gone destroyed by perpetual detonations. It was kind of pleasant during the summer - plastic came only with first rains. People were fixing it to the window-frames with wide tape used in factories for packing. Glue gave up under the rain and winds. Then people used nails. Whoever had no plastic - more than a precious item on the black market - would close the windows with cardboard boxes left behind from the humanitarian aid. The best for the purpose proved to e those smaller sacks for the rice provided by UNPROFOR - the only thing you needed was good friend who happens to be handling humanitarian aid!
Some windows are protected by the lumber brought from the basements and roofs. Those homes are dark as graves. Witty people are taking down doors from closets or rooms in order to ‘fix’ the windows and damaged parts of apartments. Bricks which can be found around destroyed buildings are used by those who still have walls and holes to fill. For the sake of security - merely psychological security - one closes windows with heavy cupboards, mattresses, books, carpets. Windows are dark after daylight is gone. People accumulate all their precious belongings in some corner of the apartment which they consider safest. Bathrooms, which somehow often happen to be in the center, are storage for paintings. Photographs, documents, jewelry, money, passports are in the bag next to the exit. In the bag are a few more items: medicine, zwieback, thermos, canned pate, and blankets.