January 1994

Edhem Bicakcic
Executive director of the Electric Company

‘In the area around Sarajevo there was heavy fighting and the first targets were power lines and transmission pylons. It took just one shell to leave the whole town without electrical power. During that period tens of thousands of shells fell on the city. In those conditions when many repairmen of those lines died, we managed to preserve the power system to some degree. We were greatly assisted in doing that by the UNPROFOR, who made it possible for our teams to go out and do the repairs. The repairs were made in the area between the demarcation lines. Those areas were heavily mined. It was extremely difficult to organize work in such conditions and it was the UNPROFOR who gave us significant support. We always had to get the UNPROFOR’s consent to go to a specific location and after a certain procedure within 48 hours we could start repairing. The repairs were not always successfully accomplished. I’d like to mention the fact that sometimes our wire-men had to climb the same pylon 15 times to change a damaged insulator, because they were thwarted by sniper fire. They didn’t want to kill them but to prevent them to accomplish their task. But the men were going out to do those complicated and difficult tasks out of spite. The principle was to do the parallel repair of either one or two pylons and then to switch on transmission lines simultaneously, because this was the only way in which to accomplish this task. The part of Sarajevo under Serbs control was supplied from Sokolac to Vogosca and that transmission line was also often without power. It was often out of order and its repair was connected with the simultaneous repair of Vogosca-Reljevo or Vogosca-Velesici lines. So when the Pretis factory got power, Sarajevo got power. However, the Pretis factory produced shells for shelling Sarajevo, and Sarajevo used the power to supply hospitals and other minimal survival needs of the people. We were forced to look for solutions while being blackmailed. At the same time we were doing repairs on the other side, in the Kiseljak area. But Sarajevo could not get power if Kiseljak wasn’t supplied simultaneously. So we arrived at a technical solution. We improvised the Jablanica-Kakanj transmission line, and connected it crudely to the Kiseljak-Sarajevo line. It was something we had to accept in order to supply Sarajevo with electricity. When I think today about that period, I think that those were the only solutions possible. It was a tremendous struggle for electric power which lasted until the end of 1994 when a 35 kilovolt cable from Igman and Bjelasnica secured the more-or-less regular minimal supply of power to Sarajevo.’



• Barbara Hendrix, opera diva, holds a New Year's concert in Sarajevo, as a gesture of solidarity with the sufferings of the city.

• Massacres of civilians from artillery attacks by Bosnian Serb positions in all parts of the city.
• Massimo Schuster, puppeteer-director from France, directs a play at the Sarajevo Youth Theatre: "I'm here because I am a citizen of Europe. This play is a means of spiritual support to this city. "
• In Belgium, the body of the Sarajevo guerrilla Juka Prazina is found in a car in a parking lot.

• Illegal connections to electricity removed in sweep as well as revocation of electrical cables used for stealing electricity from priority cases.

• UNPROFOR's General Bricquemont withdraws from office. He no longer reads UN resolutions because conditions are unfavorable to implement them on the ground.
• In Vienna, meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Croatia and BiH, Mate Granic and Haris Silajdzic. They agree on the need to devise a plan for the permanent cessation of hostilities between Bosnian Croats and Muslims.
• Bosnian Serb forces carry out the false executions of 11 Canadian UN troops just before Christmas.

• UNPROFOR's General Jean Cote says of the Bosnian Serbs: "They are cowards, bastards who shoot children, women and the elderly. We will set up an anti-sniper system so they think twice before they shoot. "
• Croatian Cardinal Franjo Kuharic visits Sarajevo to attend a concert, along with the 'concert' offered by falling shells. His message: "The inner spiritual resistance to evil is eternal and always triumphant over the forces of darkness." At a dinner at Kamerni teatar 55 in honor of the Kuharic’s visit, actor Vladimir Jokanovic recites the verses of Pope John Paul II.
• During the siege of the city, Kamerni tetar performs 652 multimedia projects, an average of two a day.

• French President François Mitterrand sends a New Year’s message: "Our policy must be brave and wise. There will be innovations in our policy toward Bosnia in 1994”.
• UNPROFOR's report reads: Problems with electricity in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina are a vicious circle. The Bosnian Serbs refuse to repair the Vogosca-Velesici lines. The system at the thermal power plant in Kakanj broke down; it has been repaired, but the Muslims won‘t connect it, asking for the Serbs to first repair the Vogosca-Velesici lines. The Croats requested that the Muslims switch on electricity from the power plant in Kakanj (TE Kakanj) so that people in Kiseljak can have electricity. This has not been done, so in the end, near Kiseljak, the Jablanica-Kakanj lines were cut, leaving the Muslims without electricity. As a result of all of this, BiH largely remains without electricity.
• The curfew in Sarajevo is repealed for the celebrateon of Orthodox Christmas: Orthodox priest Avakum Rosic sends Christmas greetings.

• Crisis in Srebrenica; Canadian UN troops are surrounded by the Bosnian Serbs. French General Jean Cote asks for air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali refuses. The UN chain of command is established so that the commanders in the field cannot issue an order. Commands can be issued only by the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Yasushi Akashi.
• Sarajevo airport has already been closed for a long period. President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, does not travel to Bonn for a meeting with Tudjman due to the suspension of flights at the Sarajevo airport. Departure from Sarajevo is impossible.
• In Belgrade, the capital of the new Yugoslavia, the inflation rate is 1 million%.

• U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher on possible air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs: "Air strikes could threaten the delivery of humanitarian aid. If requested by the alliance, whose units are on the ground, we will take part in the strikes."
• NATO develops a project for enlargement in Eastern Europe called "Partnership for Peace."

• At a NATO meeting the decision is made to support the Franco-British proposal for fast-action in the release of Canadian UN troops in Srebrenica, and the opening of the airport in Tuzla. The prevailing opinion is that negotiations, rather than battlefield agreements, will resolve the conflict. On this occasion the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Yasushi Akashi, states: "The Bosnian Serbs are for a multicultural Bosnia, and will stop all hostilities. It's best not to bother the Serbs during their holiday. This is why the ton of oil for the Sarajevo hospital will have to wait till the end of Serb New Year celebrations. "
• Vatican: "The lack of collective action is the most shameful cowardice."
• The Office for Relocation announces that new documents are required for those who want to leave the city in convoys.
• Pensioners will receive flour, instead of their pensions.
• The Soros Foundation builds an alternative water system.

• Boutros Boutros-Ghali requests from Akashi a preliminary study about the situation on the ground: the Bosnian side from the center of the city fire shells at the positions of the Bosnian Serbs, who fiercely counter by shelling civilian targets in Sarajevo. Foreign journalists located in the city are angered by the report, believing it an attempt to prevent intervention.
• The British are against attacking because their troops are on the ground.
• The city alternates between massacres from the shelling and cultural events.

• Lord Owen thinks that Bosnia should be divided. He accuses the Muslims of prolonging the war.
• French snipers assigned to the establishment of an anti-sniper team are on their way to Sarajevo.

• Islamic countries renew their request for air strikes and announce the possibility of oil sanctions against those countries that support the division of Bosnia.

• Akashi is against NATO operations for the release of Canadian UN troops in Srebrenica and the opening of Tuzla airport.
• Susan Sontag arrives in Sarajevo. She and David Riff, a writer from New York, bring a donation for Sarajevo writers that was gathered as a sign of support at a literary evening in New York.

• The burial of a Sarajevan: You need to have Deustch Marks or oil, otherwise you must arrange everything yourself. Someone brings the body in a handcart to the mortuary. Burials cost 60 DM. In the city there is no oil. On the black market oil costs between 25-30 DM. People acquire planks for coffins and gravestones from smugglers. There are no tools. In order to made a coffin school desks and cabinets are used.
• Establishment of a cultural corridor from France to Sarajevo.

• Children are massacred as they go sledding at the C block of Alipasino polje.
• British General Michael Rose takes over as Commander of UNPROFOR from General Bricquemont, who resigns. Bricquemont said that he felt personally humiliated in Bosnia, where on his arrival at a checkpoint, boys between 18 and 20 years old drunkenly held him at riflepoint.

• The UN issues a statement implicating UNPROFOR in the smuggling of cigarettes, coffee, alcohol, fuel, people and drugs, as well as prostitution.

• The new UNPROFOR commander, General Michael Rose, arriving to his office announces he is not afraid of the challanges that face him in Bosnia.
• Through a decisive MUP operation the “rat canals” which ran from downtown to the occupied territory of Grbavica held by the Bosnian Serbs is cut off. Seven fugitives arrested. The group includes five doctors and one nurse. The Bosnian Serbs react sharply with a threat of blackmail: "We will not treat the Muslims in our territory and we will not let medicines come into the city."

• Marathon runner Islam Dzugum is on Mount Igman as a ARBiH soldier. He runs between 16-22 km daily. He is satisfied with the quality of training on Igman, "And now I just need the chance to race somewhere. In the world in 1994 there will be a number of sporting events. "

• U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher dismisses claims that the United States have been standing aside and watching idly the bloodshed in Bosnia.

• At a meeting the Government of BiH ascertain that the Croatian Armed Forces are conducting open aggression against BiH.

• The Commander of UNPROFOR, General Michael Rose: "Sarajevo is not under siege."

Sarajevo by Night

SARAJEVO BY NIGHT means that life follows the line or the sun. Without civilization based on inventions of two Americans - Tesla, who was born in the neighborhood and who we are proud of, and Edison, who they are proud of - you have to learn to go to sleep early and to wake up early. So many evenings are spent in envy of those who have electricity. But Sarajevans have mastered the art of making kandilo, which is the light, usually hanging before an icon. To the Greeks have given the name - kandelos.
Recipe: Fill a glass jar, or a glass, half with water and a quarter with oil. Ten cut five to seven millimeters of a cork, and drag through it cotton string, or a carpet fringe, or any piece of burning material. In order for the wick to stay above the oil and burn, a tin strip of some two centimeters is used and placed above the jar. Through that strip runs the wick soaked in oil. Candles have burned long ago, even decorative ones. People who have saved petroleum lamps are very rare, and for them a liter of petroleum costs 30 DM. Batteries ran out at the beginning of the war. Still, they are being revived by cooking in salt water, five to ten minutes. They can come to life if connected to an automobile battery, if that one can be fed with electricity. All these tricks make batteries live five or six lives.
Of 1800 transformer stations in Sarajevo, more than half are out of use. To steal fuses is a regular thing. Three such fuses will cost you about 700 DM on the black market. Their real value is no more than 15 DM. Foreign currency is needed if you want to bring electricity from the station to the lobby of your house. To plug into a system, in all kinds of weird ways, is very fashionable. Another way is to run cables. You can steal the electricity from the houses which have it - on the right side of the street, and bring in to the houses which don’t on the left side. That has its price too, sometimes a deadly one. Some steal oil from the transformer stations to replace car fuel. To have a car battery in the apartment, that is a real treat. A radio can be plugged into it - and turned on ever hour, for the news. This battery is the source of light, too. Those less capable attach to it stronger bulbs and soon understand that the battery is drained too quickly. As time goes by, we all learned, and here is the advice - take the smallest bulb, like the one from the inside of a car. And carefully watch your lighter. You’ll need it, it, if not for lighting a cigarette, then surely to climb the staircases.


Electricity was a rare guest in the city. The citizens made do with car batteries, candles given by humanitarian organizations, home- made oil lamps which required small amounts of edible oil and bits of shoestring, and with a variety of more or less successful inventions. Some people used battery and the so called “SOROS” lamps which required solar energy. Although there was plenty of solar energy the lamps had little capacity and quickly broke down. In the hilly parts of the city people built mini power-generating plants. The “Elektroprivreda” building was on the front line, next to the bridge which borders with the occupied Grbavica district and it was frequently shelled.