A BATTLE FOR ELECTRICITY// 03. 1994. • IRFAN DURMIC// DIRECTOR OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Director of the Electric Company
A BATTLE FOR ELECTRICITY
‘Our citizens mastered the electricity know-how so well that even today we can feel the results and easily find workers, as they, with some additional training, fit easily into our type of work. I mention this with a bit of irony, but that’s how it was. Stealing power was exactly what was the most difficult problem during that period because it prevented the supply of top-priority consumers, like hospitals, and so on. We fought against it permanently. The municipal government and the local councils and the police and everyone who wanted the city to survive assisted us in that. Of course this is one subject we could talk about separately. Stealing electricity is something that was invented in our city and it is not known anywhere else in the world. Neither since Tesla nor any of his predecessors.’
• NATO operation following the violation of the prohibition of the no-fly zone in the airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Four JNA planes are shot down.
• Washington: The Muslims and Croats sign an agreement on the Federation BiH.
• The Bosnian Serbs block the departure of a UN Canadian convoy from Srebrenica for 30 hours.
• After signing the agreement on the Federation of BiH, the Chiefs of Staff of the ARBiH and HVO will hold a meeting as soon as possible, in which they will, with teams of experts, draw up plans for the dynamic transition of ARBiH and HVO into a common, then later single, armed component of the future Federation of BiH.
• General Laprell succeeds Gen. Cote.
• Four travel routes to and from Sarajevo are opened.
• Fluctuations in the local markets caused by the announcement that roads are opening. Prices at the markets have dropped.
• Washington, March 18, 1994. Peace agreement signed on the creation of the Muslim-Croatian Federation in BiH and the basis for the confederation of the Federation BiH with Croatia. The agreement is signed by: Haris Silajdzic, Kresimir Zubak, Alija Izetbegovic, Franjo Tudjman and Bill Clinton.
• A football match is held at "Kosevo” stadium as a symbolic sign that Sarajevo is no longer a dangerous city. Entrance is free. The game is attended by 15,000 people. The game is played between Sarajevo and UNPROFOR. The result is 4-0 for Sarajevo.
• Tuzla airport is opened. The first passenger is Yasushi Akashi.
• A kilo of coffee on March 7th is 120 DM; on March 21st, 40 DM. Still at the markets goods can be bought for cigarettes and other bartered goods.
• A Swiss clown visits Sarajevo.
• Debate over where the center of Sarajevo is caused by the withdrawal of artillery. The Bosnian Serbs claim that the center is near the Cathedral, whereas NATO experts claim that the city center is 1 km west of the Cathedral. The Serbs need to withdraw their weapons 20 km from the city.
• For the first time since the siege began, Sarajevans can cross from one bank to another. The first bus from the city arrives in Hrasnica, a suburb of Sarajevo, accompanied by UNPROFOR.
• A Turkish UN battalion is coming to Bosnia. Turkish soldiers return to Bosnia after 116 years.
• Due to the developments in Sarajevo, Yasushi Akashi says: "I see light at the end of the tunnel."
• The Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated.
• In a show of solidarity with the citizens of Sarajevo the world's Olympic greats arrive in Sarajevo.
• Madeleine Albright in Sarajevo: "The future of America and your future are inseparable. This ceremony must show that to everyone.”
• The constitution of the Federation BiH is adopted.
• William Eagleton appointed as the civilian administrator of the UN in Sarajevo. He will devise a plan for the restoration of basic public services.
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.
THE “ELEKTROPRIVREDA” BUILDING
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.