THE CONVOY FOR SPLIT LEAVES// 12. 1993. • HAJRUDIN SMAJIC// EVACUATION OFFICE
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
THE CONVOY FOR SPLIT LEAVES
‘December 29, ’93, a convoy for Split left under UNPROFOR escort even with UNPROFOR planes. We had a problem because at the HVO checkpoint in Mostar we had a long wait. Then finally, let’s put it like this, illegally, the HVO police took to a completely different border crossing and the convoy reached its destination.’
• 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.
Convoy is the term which equals organized exit, a ticket with no return. For all such journeys there are lists, and there is time to be spent in waiting, filled with uncertainties. They are organized by Children’s’ Embassy, Red Cross, by the Jewish Community, by the Slovenian government before the elections. Those who entered one of the lists in June, who have all the needed documents, are not sure that they will be leaving the city in December. There is always a new document required, a new rule to obey, a new delay. And, no wonder, each convoy has its own rules. Children’s’ Embassy takes out children, mothers, the very old and the exhausted. The Red Cross is taking out old, sick and children. The Jewish Community took out Jews and their friends, supplying them with false documents. Slovenes took out their citizens and those who could remember one Slovenian in the family in past seven generations. At these sad departures, you could often hear anxious questions: “Father, what’s your name? Mother, what’s your name?”
One more paradigmatic dialogue:
Question: “When are you leaving?”
Answer: “Well, I am on the list Still waiting for a confirmation from Geneva.”
Discreetly, but to no one’s surprise, the City was left by wives, children, parents and friends of various officials. Illegal channels were used, starting in Stup, Ilidza, Kobilja}a. From there, to Kiseljak - a Hong Kong of Sarajevo - if heading West. To Pale, if going East. On each of these starts, there was a ‘connection’, a guy dealing with the formalities which basically means exchanging tangible hard currency with the invisible bus ticket. Starting fee is 100 to 200 DM. Additional amounts were supplied by Muslims, for they often needed false documents.
It is a well known secret that for about 1000 DM, deposited in one of the cafes close to the Veterinary college, one could get to Grbavica (a sealed part of the town, a camp from which no one can go out, and into which no one can enter). From there for the mentioned fee, the bus would take you to Belgrade. Another part of the same secret is that there is a rule according to which for one person who enters Grbavica, one from Grbavica is being released into the City. Profit is mutual.