A CONCERT FOLLOWED BY SHELLING// 12. 1993. • GERTRUDA MUNITIC// PRIMADONNA OF THE SARAJEVO OPERA
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Primadonna of the Sarajevo Opera
A CONCERT FOLLOWED BY SHELLING
‘I realized then that my mission was here, that I had to be here. And of course, I sang the concert was beautiful, with a cannonade of shells in the background as usual. One UN general approached me and asked, ‘madam, tell us what you need, just name it. We will give you everything for this experience that you provided’. And I said, ‘General, I'm not asking anything for myself. If you want to give me something then do so. Because I am not going to keep it for myself, I'll share it with my neighbors. But I have heard those trucks with chocolates and toys are coming to Sarajevo. Is it possible that my organization receives such a truck?’ He was surprised that I didn't ask anything for myself, and aside from that, he was not aware that I was the president of the Our Children organization and that I was providing help for children in the city. He said, ‘It's not possible that you are requesting something for children.’ ‘What do you mean, it's not possible,’ I replied. ‘Children are our future.’ He said, ‘I don't know how you found out, but 30 trucks really will arrive in Sarajevo and you have my word. First four trucks that arrived were given to our organization. I will never forget that.’Then we went to Dr Dizdarevic at the Paediatric Surgery with beautiful gifts. Dr Dizdarevic was delighted and he said: ‘We have a couple of children that are in really serious condition after their operations. Gertruda, we have one three-and-a-half-year-old girl who has just got out of surgery and she's about to wake up. I beg you, go to her, because she is going to be in pain, we didn't have any pills to ease her pain. Go to her so that you are the first person that she sees, go with that Barbie doll and candies.’ And of course I went to see her, with a smile that heals all wounds, as people would say. When I got close to her bed I saw her face, her big blue eyes full of pain, I felt as if something was stuck in my throat. I raised my hand with the Barbie doll in it and the other with candies. And I said, ‘look sweetheart, this is for you, don't you like it?’ And she looked at me with those eyes; the pain stopped for a moment and happiness appeared when she smiled. And she said, ‘Am I in heaven?’ My heart broke, but I did not want to show any change on my face, so I said, ‘That's right, honey, you are in Heaven, because you came back to life, and you are going to live for a long, long time.’ And she said, ‘What is this?’ and I said, ‘This is for you.’ She took the Barbie doll and the candies, but suddenly she was seized by a cramp, and she said: ‘Auntie, it hurts’.’
• Peace negotiations in Geneva: negotiations on maps and percentages of territory. The BiH delegation requests: access to the sea, to the Sava and to a harbor.
• Yasushi Akashi appointed Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the former Yugoslavia.
• UNICEF helps establish a radio-school. Classes are held over this medium.
• Rounds of humanitarian aid to the citizens of Sarajevo include: a liter of cooking oil, 300 grams of beans, 200 grams of sugar, 400 grams of mackarel, 200 grams of detergent, and 2 candles per household.
• “Opresa” opens a small store in the city with the slogan “Life is about the small things”.
• The Soros Foundation donates a piano to the organization “Nasa djeca”.
• Mate Boban, President of “Herzeg-Bosnia”, promises to close camps holding Muslims.
• Founding of counseling for psychological help: “Staying Sane in Bosnia”.
• The theft of electricity in the city goes on in different ways: setting up of illegal connections, underground cables, connecting to prioritized sources and transformers.
• The Soros Foundation finances the production of 10 tons of rat poison. The active toxin is “Sanofarm”, but because the poison is not registered by law it cannot be distributed.
• “Oslobodjenje” receives the “Sakharov” award. Zlatko Dizdarevic, journalist and editor, receives the award at the European Parliament.
• The fairytale “A Dragon in Love” is shown in one of the apartment blocks in Alipasino polje.
• The bobsled team trains for the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, but do not know how to leave Sarajevo. They train every day, lift weights and run, depending on the shelling. On average they lose 5 kg of weight. The team must borrow a bobsled because theirs is burnt.
• The Russians reveal their own peace plan. Foreign Minister Vitali Churkin travels extensively in major European cities.
• Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, present a plan on the division of BiH. 33.33% would go to the Muslims and 17.5% to the Croats. Lord Owen must convey this plan to the President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic.
• The Sarajevo Tobacco Factory wraps cigarettes in book pages. “Toward the History of BiH Literature” is next in line”.
• In Sarajevo Cathedral a ceremonial Christmas concert is held.
• On the occasion of Catholic Christmas, the Pope sends a message: “Let light shine on upon the suffering peoples.”
• The city lacks electricity, water and salt for bread.
• The Festival “Sarajevo Winter” organizes screening of cartoons for children.
• A kitchen opened for people working in the public and culture sectors. UNPROFOR gives them food.
The besieged city defends itself by culture and thus survives. Groups and individuals create whatever they used to create before the siege In impossible circumstances they produce films, write books, publish newspapers, produce radio programs, design postcards, stage exhibitions, performances, make blueprints for rebuilding the city, found new banks, organize fashion shows, shoot photographs, celebrate holidays, put on make up... Sarajevo is the city of the future and of the life in the post-cataclysm. In it on the ruins of the old civilization a new one is sprouting, an alternative one, composed of remains of urban elements Sarajevo lives a life of futuristic comics and science fiction movies.
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.