I READ EVERYTHING I MISSED BEFORE // 01. 1994.
ALMA LAZAREVSKA // WRITER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

January 1994

Alma Lazarevska
Writer
I READ EVERYTHING I MISSED BEFORE

‘My typewriter, which needs neither gas, nor water nor electricity, needs only my fingers. Whether they are frozen or not, and my desire, an ardent desire, used to protect me from those awful sounds, which will probably, at least it seems that way to me, remain the most deep and the most permanent trauma of war. I must admit that I did not really experience the war down in the basement. I mentioned the basement in one of my stories, but it was actually the only time I went down. My son was thirsty, so we left the basement looking for something to drink. I never went back. While other people who lived in the same area as myself, which was a very dangerous area near the Jewish cemetery, an area between two ex-sniper streets, would go down to the basement, I would read. I would read intensively. I must say, regardless of the fact that it sounds a little odd, bizarre, even perverse, I experienced the war as an another, long, long holiday, which gave me time to read everything I had failed to, read. And since I am at the age of re-reading my reading materials again, I used the time to read. I was really able to concentrate.’

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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."

Bookstores

are two that are working, and one ‘Book-Club’ - Veselin Maslesa - in which the number and selection of the books is rapidly diminishing. All the storefronts in the bookstores are gone, but no one has been stealing books. The storage of the biggest publishing house in Sarajevo, is now in the occupied territory. The destiny of those books is unknown. What can be seen is the growing interest for foreign-languages books, and dictionaries. Everybody seems to be interested in the languages of the world. Price does not matter.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

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.

Alma Lazarevska
Born in 1957. Started writing during the last year of her studies in 1980. She writes for daily and weekly newspapers and literary and arts magazines. Parallel to writing, she has spent ten years teaching sociology of culture and film and theater art.

THE SIEGE
From the very beginning of the war she has been writing commentaries for the magazine “BH Dani.” In 1994 she published the book “Sarajevo Solitaire.” She organizes her working day with usual difficulties while trying to blend in her family and profession. When there is electricity she reads and writes.

It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
As a human being. As myself.

How do you describe perfect happiness?
I cannot describe it.

What is you biggest loss?
I do not rank losses.

What is your biggest gain?
I do not rank gains.

When and where were you happiest?
I don’t know.

What are your lost illusions?
I never had any illusions.

Describe your day at work.
It cannot be described.

Sarajevo?
SARAJEVO!

What words don’t you use anymore?
All words are necessary.

In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Yes.

Where would you like to live?
In Dubrovnik.

How have you survived?
I did not survive.

What are you afraid of?
Of illness.

Does the past exist for you?
Yes.

This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
I don’t know.

Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
I don’t know the recipe.

How would you like to die?
While asleep.

Do you need hope to live?
Yes.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
’92<’93<’94.

How would you call this period of your life?
A period of failure.

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
I don’t think this is the end of the world, nor the country of last things. I don’t have a habit of sending out messages.

Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I cannot communicate with this question.

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