NO DIESEL! PEOPLE BRING IN BODIES ON HAND TRUCKS // 01. 1994.
VLADO RAGUZ // DIRECTOR OF THE FUNERAL SERVICES COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

January 1994

Vlado Raguz
Director of the Funeral Services Company
NO DIESEL! PEOPLE BRING IN BODIES ON HAND TRUCKS

‘We had nothing left anymore and we asked those who needed to bury somebody to give us their wardrobes. And we got those wardrobes. The people brought the wardrobes; we brought the wardrobes and various wooden planks. And we made makeshift coffins so that we could bury the dead. In 1994 we paid the black marketers 30 marks for a liter of gas. We had to buy it to transport the deceased from their homes to the mortuary and from the mortuary to the cemetery. It was horrible, horrible. It was impossible to find gas. It was impossible to find the planks for coffins. We coped and even in such conditions I can say the burials were performed in a correct manner. No burial was performed without the presence of a priest and all burials were performed in a civilized manner. This is what we are very proud of. Let me tell you that from the beginning of the war to the end of 1994 we buried 15 thousand people in Sarajevo. That would be a three-kilometer long trench, one and a half meters deep and a meter wide. You can imagine, all of it was dug manually because the Serbs took away the machine for digging. The German machine which could dig a grave in 8 minutes while we needed 2 people digging all day. Because they were exhausted and weak.’

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JANUARY 1994


• 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."

Cemeteries

The beauty of old Sarajevo cemeteries has been ruined by growing needs. They have been reopened when two contemporary cemeteries Bare and Vlakovo - become inaccessible. Small old cemeteries which were active for certain neighborhoods, even streets (mahalska) were closed in 1878, with the arrival of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. More than a century later, they started functioning again. People are being buried next to the mosques, on playgrounds in front of their houses. The old military cemeteries - Austrian, of the First Yugoslavia, German, and a partisan one - are full. Since September, the small stadium in the sports complex Kosevo, was turned into a cemetery, too. Funerals are held in early morning or dusk hours, to avoid the shelling. There is a rule not to go to the funerals and not to have flowers and wreaths. They cannot be bought anyway, even if someone would want to.

CEMETERIES

Of the two city cemeteries Vlakovo became part of the occupied territory and Bare became the front line. Because of that the citizens buried their loved ones in old cemeteries, around the mosques, in the parks, and even around some residential buildings. The largest cemeteries established during the siege were Kovaci, Alifakovac, Vrbanja and the old Lav cemetery which expanded into the auxiliary soccer field and other green areas around the Kosevo stadium. The funeral processions were often shelled, and the graves were usually dug at night and in advance so as to minimize the risk and to cut the time one was exposed to the fire from the surrounding hills. In 1995, from April to September, funerals and burials occurred only at night.

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