REFUGEE SUPPORT SERVICES OFFICE OPENED// 10. 1993. • AMILA OMERSOFTIC// DIRECTOR OF THE AGENCY FOR REFUGEES AND DISPLACED PERSONS
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Director of the Agency for Refugees and Displaced Persons
REFUGEE SUPPORT SERVICES OFFICE OPENED
‘Already at that period we were thinking about the problem of getting the refugees back to their homes, and how to help them when they would actually get there. The first problem with which we met face to face was the fact that there were already a lot of refugees in neighboring countries, particularly in Croatia at that time there were about 300 thousands refugees, mostly women and children. The majority of the children were not able to enroll in school. Croatia was not in a position to include that many children in its educational system. Consequently, it was urgent that we do something in order to keep those children from falling back in their studies. At that point we sent our colleague Azra Krajisek to the Refugee department opened by the Bosnian Embassy in Zagreb. Here in Sarajevo we copied everything onto diskettes. I remember that we had a pretty cold winter with no electricity. We accosted the late Hakija Turajlic in his entrance hall and he gave us permission to work in that small area. We put all of our educational programs, as well as plans for all schools onto the computer. A number of professors came and wrote a short history of BH for us. In particular the geography of BH. We worked; we typed in some very good books of math exercises. All of this we put onto diskettes, which we took out of Sarajevo and brought to Zagreb, where Azra had them, printed out with the help of several different humanitarian organizations. And then we founded the so-called extra-territorial schools, which gathered those pupils, and teachers who were available, as well as professors who were exiled in these foreign countries taught mostly according to the educational curricula of BH. In the meantime, supporting the Ministry of Education, we made provisions for the teachers to continue their work and we also made sure that those pupils would receive verified diplomas. I have to add that these diplomas were later accepted in the host countries as well and consequently that they had a certain quality, they carried some weight. We had schools in Croatia, Hungary, Denmark, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, and as far as I remember the numbers, 16 thousand diplomas were issued, in other words, 16 thousand pupils were given credit for a year of schooling. It was very good for the children. They were not left out on the street. We think that it was also some sort of mental therapy for the refugees that were abroad. In cooperation with BH Radio-Television, we taped everything we were able to find about Bosnia. About rivers, mountains, cities. In this way, the children in our schools got the chance to watch these tapes, and they were actually in contact with Bosnia all that time. For this reason our project was named Contact. We wanted the refugees to be in continual contact with Bosnia.’
• 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.