120 000 REFUGEES ENTER SARAJEVO BY CROSSING THE RUNWAY // 10. 1993.
MUHAMED KRESEVLJAKOVIC // MAYOR OF SARAJEVO
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

October 1993

Muhamed Kresevljakovic
Mayor of Sarajevo
120 000 REFUGEES ENTER SARAJEVO BY CROSSING THE RUNWAY

‘In Sarajevo we had scores, hundreds, and thousands of problems. One of the problems that we were faced with throughout the entire war was that of feeding the population. In the summer and fall of ‘93 more and more refugees began to cross the Airport runway into a city that already had a large number of refugees. A large number had already left, but we continued to get more, and on the 2nd of October ‘93 we attempted to put a stop to the influx, because if it had been allowed to continue at the same tempo, two things would have happened. People would have to start sleeping on the streets, because there wouldn’t be anywhere left to take cover, and they would certainly have begun to die of starvation. Officially, not one citizen of Sarajevo was recorded as having died of starvation, although probably scores and hundreds died indirectly due to malnutrition. However, no one died specifically of starvation. If we had allowed our city to grow weekly by several hundred or a thousand, I think a catastrophe would have been unavoidable.’

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OCTOBER 1993


• The executive committee of the city reaches a decision on the increase of apartment rent from October 1st.


• An “interreligious event” is held: participants include the Orthodox priest Avakum Rosic, head of the Catholic church Vinko Puljic, Reis-ul-ulema Effendi Ceric, Brother Petar Arandjelovic, President of the Jewish community David Kamhi. A mass is held at the Sarajevo cathedral and liturgy at the Orthodox church.


• During the siege of Sarajevo 120,000 refugees enter the city.
• For the first time during the war the Art Gallery of BiH is opened. There is an exhibition of photographs by Annie Leibovitz. The exhibition is opened by Susan Sontag.
• Susan Sontag becomes an honorary citizen of Sarajevo.


• The Pope sends a message of peace: “Bosnians, you are not alone!”
• “Velepekara” stops working. It has neither gas nor oil.
• The Blessed Peace Buliders wounded in a peace mission across the Vrbanja Bridge. One of them dies.


• Sarajevo Brewery produces 1,000,000 beers a month as a substitute for water. The factory has a stock of raw materials that could last for two years.


• Adi Sarajlic, journalist for the radio station “Zid”, tells his early morning listeners: “260 listeners phone in between 3:30 and 4 o’clock in the morning.


• The HVO wants control over Jablanica. The owners of power plants are set to address the issue of financing Herzeg-Bosnia by exporting electricity to Dalmatia.
• In Sarajevo the smuggling of drugs, works of art and food is widespread.


• Medical evacuations reach an impasse.
• The Directorate for Refugees and Displaced Persons founds a counseling center.


• Survey by the radio station “Studio 99”: The majority of Sarajevans are in favor of the introduction of a protectorate.
• The Sarajevo air bridge is the longest running of its kind in history. It lasts 467 days – longer than that of Berlin.
• In the city frequent gas explosions result of improper installations.
• 10,000 signatories across the world for the establishment of a Court for War Crimes. War criminals cannot bring peace. The declaration is signed by George Soros, Wiesenthal, Umberto Ecco, Ginsberg…
• Serbia under sanctions. Pirates hijack oil on the Danube.


• New members of the Presidency of BiH are appointed: Nijaz Durakovic, Stjepan Kljujic, Ivo Komsic. Miro Lasic and Boras relieved from duty.


• Fikret Abdić, former member of the Presidency of BiH, signs a peace agreement with the Bosnian Serbs. Fikret Abdic works in alliance with Mate Boban.


• Opening of the Film Festival in Sarajevo. Many guests stay in Ancona, not having been able to arrange for UN planes. The slogan of the festival: “We can’t promise you anything.”


• The International Court for War Crimes begins working on November 17.
• Operation undertaken by MUP and the Army of RBiH against the 9th motorized and 10th mountain brigades of the Army of RBiH. 530 people are detained. The main culprit, Caco Topalovic, is killed, and Celo surrenders. MUP and ABiH take back bases from the criminals. According to an “Oslobodjenje” survey, citizens are relieved and believe that rule of law will be restored.


• The Jewish pharmacy in Sarajevo dispenses 10,000,000 medicines to citizens.

Airport runway

Crossing the airport runway...It is necessary to cross the barricade which blocks the neighborhood of Dobrinja. You need a dark night. Wounded, or those who look like that, are taken by car. The control procedure of the Blue Helmets is very kind. With a financial agreement, one can pass in the first try. The airport runway is the only city promenade. True, in one night, the Blue Helmets may return no less than 260 people, but one can do it somehow. The attempt to run costs between 100 and 200 DM. Still, there are some tips to be remembered. The runway is equipped with photo-cells and sensors which detect anyone who might be walking by. This trap, installed by UNPROFOR, may surprise you with alarms or spotlights which go on immediately after you are spotted. Different divisions of the UN force - the Blue Helmets - react in accordance with their national, regional and personal sense of humor. The French are amused by our wit. Ukrainians are made nervous by our stubbornness, but they can be talked into a deal. The best guys are the Egyptians. They are running after the old lady who is smuggling a carton of bananas from Hrasnica to Dobrinja. They forgive the guy who is running with crutches. One such guy was forced to return no less then eight times: the ninth time he wrote his own obituary in French. Since the French have respect for the dead, he left the city on the air-transport. All sides catch smugglers, but also those who manage to crawl across half the runway. In short, the journey is hard, but once the basics are completed, and you are on the right side, everything is a matter of superstructure - skill, papers, money. It is no secret that for 1000 to 2000 DM one can fly out on a humanitarian aid plane. The only drawback is that there are no guarantees at which airport you are going to land.

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