THE PREMIERE OF ‘ALCESTIS’ // 08. 1993.
AMINA BEGOVIC // ACTRESS
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

August 1993

Amina Begovic
Actress
THE PREMIERE OF ‘ALCESTIS’

‘It is hard to figure out what classical tragedy is. And what tragedy is, in general. But tragedy was all around us; we were a part of tragedy. So it was easy to figure out the meaning of life and death and Alcestis is exactly about that, to figure out what death is and how. I played one of the Alcestis, because it was a version where there were a lot of those women. She is a woman who sacrifices herself. Who agrees to die instead of her husband? All of us had been in those situations. Would I agree this time to go and fetch water and would my husband stay at home, or would my children, it is not important. All of us were sacrificing ourselves for somebody. So it was one feeling which was familiar to us. Death was not some far-away notion any more.’

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AUGUST 1993


• The Association of Pensioners sends a letter to embassies in 30 countries asking them for help in surviving this most tragic, difficult of periods.


• Geneva: Bosnian Serbs are willing to give up 22% of the territory of BiH, while they currently control 72%; of what remains, 29% would go to the Muslims, and 21% to the Croats.
• Bill Clinton, U.S. president: “We can undertake nothing without the consent of our allies.”


• The BH delegation establishes this condition for the continuation of negotiations in Geneva: the Bosnian Serbs must withdraw from Bjelasnica, a mountain above Sarajevo, by 5pm.
• The market has its own logic. Prices invariably correspond to the arrival of humanitarian aid, the disappearance of electricity and gas; the distribution of cigarettes to soldiers; and political events.


• City library of Sarajevo: “We have more readers than ever, but 130,000 books were destroyed, as well as part of the archives and our technical equipment.”
• The Bosnian Serb Army introduces air-bomb attacks on the city.


• NATO is ready for airstrikes. Warren Christopher and Manfred Woerner reach an agreement. Colin Powell: “Bosnia needs a political solution to end the killing.”


• Premier of the play “Alkestis”.


• NATO unanimously adopts a plan for air strikes on Serb positions around Sarajevo. Now it is up to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary General. UNPROFOR needs to set up at the Serb positions on Mt. Igman.
• Thieves from Sarajevo steal 100,000 liters of oil from a transformer station, which it needed to operate. Mayor Kresevljakovic proposes the death penalty for such crimes.
• The sounds of a piano echo in the city’s deserted streets. Alma, a student at the Music Academy, walks there and in the afternoon practices at her own home.


• No sign of a Bosnian Serb withdrawal from Mt. Igman. Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “The decision on airstrikes can only be made by the UN Security Council.”


• The Bosnian Serbs are given a deadline for their withdrawal from Igman and Bjelasnica, so that peace negotiations can continue in Geneva. If they do not withdraw, NATO will launch airstrikes.
• Prices on the market: peppers go from 35 to 40 DM.
• Warren Christopher: “Breaking the siege of Sarajevo is in the U.S. national interest.”
• Geneva, Radovan Karadzic: “If they strike, the Serbs will start a nuclear war.”
• Part of the “Mir” convoy arrives in Sarajevo. On the Split-Sarajevo road, everything is taken from them. A concert for the pacifists under the name “Dry your tears, Sarajevo sings”.


• Pacifists leave the city.


• Five cisterns of oil arrive in the city.


• The Bosnian Serb Army leaves its positions on Igman and Bjelasnica, burning and looting hotels, bungalows, houses and woods.
• Watermelons from Serbia appear at the market.
• A young girl, Irma Hadzimuratovic, is hit by sniper fire. Under great international pressure she is transported to England for treatment.
• Geneva: Alija Izetbegovic announces: “We accept the division imposed by the West. The world is not ready for military intervention. We must no longer base our actions on those presumptions.”
• Actor Admir Glamocak, who acts in the play “Waiting for Godot”, loses 2 kg between every performance. The play is put on by candlelight.
• Sales begin of “Tahebo” tea in the city.


• Geneva, August 17, 1993. Peace negotiations in Geneva: Alija Izetbegovic demands access to the sea and at least 40% of the territory.
• Departure of the Bosnian Serb Army from Igman, which the world media interprets as the lifting of the siege of Sarajevo.
Brigadier UNPROFOR, Haze: “Humanitarian aid has been blockaded from Sarajevo because of the Muslim offensive in Gornji Vakuf.”
Bosnian Serbs: “Sarajevo has never been under siege.”
Fruer: “Sarajevo is no longer besieged, but surrounded by an army.”
Ejup Ganic, member of the Presidency of BiH: “After this statement Fruer has been deemed a persona non grata.”
• Football match played between SARAJEVO- UNPROFOR. Final score: 9 - 5.


• Geneva, August 18, 1993. Peace negotiations in Geneva: Three delegations make recommendations on the status of Sarajevo.
• The Ministry of Education in Sarajevo tells the city’s inhabitants: “The textbooks have been prepared, but we lack the materials for printing them.”


• The Bosnian Serb Assembly weighs over a plan on the division of BiH. Karadzic warns the BiH government to unconditionally accept the proposed division of the country or face military defeat.
• Ivo Komsic, president of the HSS: “Bosnia has no allies, only verbal support, no one has actually helped. Advisors came to the Serbs and Croats, primary individuals from countries on the Security Council.”
• Herzeg-Bosnia proclaimed in Livno.


• Russia shuts off its gas supply to Bosnia over unpaid bills. Hungary is prepared to deliver 10,000 cubic meters of natural gas an hour from its own supplies.
• At a meeting of the Presidency of BiH a decision is made on the movement of convoys. Already for eight months, people have been waiting with their suitcases packed for a signal for departure. Eighty-seven of them die while waiting..


• New York, August 26, 1993.
The UN Security Council adopts resolution 859, reaffirming the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of BiH
The Security Council confirms that the solution to the conflict in the Republic of BiH must conform to the UN charter and principles of international law. It further affirms the continuing relevance in this context of:
a) the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
b) the fact that neither a change in the name of the State nor changes regarding the internal organization of the State such as those contained in the constitutional agreement annexed to the Co-Chairmen's report would affect the continued membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the United Nations;
c) the principles adopted by the London International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, including the need for a cessation of hostilities, the principle of a negotiated solution freely arrived at, and the unacceptability of the acquisition of territory by force or by 'ethnic cleansing' and the right of refugees and others who have suffered losses to compensation in accordance with the statement on Bosnia adopted by the London Conference;
d) recognition and respect for the right of all displaced persons to return in their homes in safety and honour;
e) the maintenance of Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a united city and a mulicultural, multi-ethnic and pluri-religious centre.


• Alain Little, BBC reporter: “In Geneva their signature marks surrender, but there’s no other way out for the Bosnian people. Their surrender has been dictated by the international community.”

Theaters

“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.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

Amina Begovic
She was born in Sarajevo on June 4, 1963. She graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo

THE SIEGE
With the beginning of the siege, she became more active in the theater. She worked in all Sarajevo theaters. She spends most of her time in the children's program department at Sarajevo television.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
I would like to be a snail. Wherever be goes that’s where his home is. He is not a refugee anywhere.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness is only for fools.

What is you biggest loss?
I never lost anything that bad.

What is your biggest gain?
I don’t ask for much, and what I do win, I win.

When and where were you happiest?
When I gave birth to my second daughter.

What are your lost illusions?
That I can’t have illusions any more.

Describe your day at work.
Cannot be described.

Sarajevo?
Sarajevo!

What words don’t you use anymore?
Supermarket, mini-market, shopping mall...

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
I would have liked it if I was brought up with less feeling for morale.

Where would you like to live?
Where I live now.

How have you survived?
I decided to survive.

What are you afraid of?
Darkness, since the war started, and dogs, forever.

Does the past exist for you?
I respect the past.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
It will either be beautiful and clean, or we will sink into filth. There won’t be a middle.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
You decide that nothing will change you, and you stick to it.

How would you like to die?
In dreams.

Do you need hope to live?
How could we live without it?

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
94 looked like 93, 93 like 92, and 92 like no other before it.

How would you call this period of your life?
Until the last breath.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
If it a perfect circle, that the end is where the beginning was, and vice versa.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I love it anyway. I live.

THE NATIONAL THEATER

The Neo-renaissance building built in 1898 during the Austro- Hungarian rule in Bosnia, is located by the Post Office bridge which was a dangerous sniper zone. Regardless of the continual danger from the snipers and shelling, the theater staged performances which filled the cold auditorium that had not been heated for years. The repertoire consisted of all kinds of plays from Greek tragedies to contemporary plays or the Japanese No plays.

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