A TRAM RIDE WITH COLONEL SOUBIROU// 03. 1994. • MUHAMED KRESEVLJAKOVIC// MAYOR OF SARAJEVO
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Mayor of Sarajevo
A TRAM RIDE WITH COLONEL SOUBIROU
‘Sarajevo is a city that had trams before Vienna and Paris. And when the trams in Sarajevo stopped running at the beginning of the war, it was a kind of psychological set-back for them, because they were deprived of something that they somehow considered to be their own, something that was a part of them. General Rose, was one of them who came after General Bricquemont. He was a man who liked to rush through insignificant actions in order to put on a big show. He probably was aware of how Sarajevans felt about their oldest form of transportation, and he did quite a lot to make sure that the trams start running again. There was the little ceremony for all of the citizens of Sarajevo, the ride that we took together, and another one of those little things that he did was that famous soccer match that took place on the 20th of March 1994 between the Sarajevo football club and UNPROFOR. I think that through those small events that in effect didn’t mean anything to us in Sarajevo, he was basically trying to direct attention away from the most important problems, such as food, the problem of electricity, gas, and water without which life simply cannot go on.’
• 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.
Imagine driving through streets with no street lights (which are torn down or not working), without any traffic signs (for they are gone), without any attention paid to pedestrians, with a maximum speed across the crossroads and other dangerous spots. People are driving recklessly in both directions. No one pays any attention to crashes. Broken cars are being abandoned easily and damage is being negotiated in quick conversations. This is the war with the biggest civilian motor pool. The war is being waged in Audis, in BMWs, in Mercedes and VW Golfs, as well as in expensive yuppie jeeps. The Sarajevo car of 1992 is a GOLF DIESEL It is painted in military camouflage, and has no windows. It is entirely covered by nylon, foils, tin, cardboard and hardboard. Its fenders have been ruined, it is full of holes made by bullets, has no lights. Depending on the taste of a driver, or of his girlfriend, lights are covered with tapes in different colors: red, blue, green, all for a night drive in the city which is totally dark. Driving is fast and dangerous. There are no rent-a-car services. You rent a car with a driver - former taxi-driver-and you pay 100 DM per day.
City transportation - trams, buses, vans, trolleys, cable rail-way-does not exist. Sometimes rarely, you can see double buses but only until October, almost half of a year after the war had started. A bus is running between Alipasino polje to the French Hospital (it was once military), in case it gets fuel from UNPROFOR. When the fuel is gone, passengers leave the bus and continue on foot. Cars are running, if run by or for officials. Most were taken away form private owners, with or without, a receipt, especially if they ran on diesel. New models appeared, home-made armored cars which look like moving closets, only with a hole in front of the driver. They are slow, shaky and loud.
Bicycles - which were never too popular in this hilly terrain - are being rediscovered and put to use.
Shopping carts are now used for the transportation of water canisters, of coal and wood. Renting is not too expensive.
Taxis do not exist.
Parking is advised only on spots protected from grenades and thieves. Such places are scarce. Whole cars are stolen, but their parts are not safe either: wheels, fuel, batteries, seat-covers, lights.
Gas stations are not working. Fuel can be found at UNPROFOR, and on the black market where the price per liter is 15 DM. You can get five liters of oil in exchange for a porno video - very appreciated by the Ukrainian members of the UN forces. Don’t expect that the gas or petrol are going to be of good quality.
Car-repair, exclusively arranged through connections. There are no visible signs where repairmen are working. But they exist.
As early as the first year of the siege the official statistics showed that the number of vehicles fell from 105,000 to 5,000; of the 200 city transportation routes there remained one and of the 6,000 city transportation vehicles there remained 60. In May 1992 the city Public transportation depot was shelled and a great number of buses, trams and trolley buses were destroyed. The trolley buses stopped operating. A few buses and trams, provided there was fuel and electricity, took to the streets where they became favorite targets. The VW Golf cars, made in Sarajevo before the war, were the most widely used means of transportation. Due to the high speeds and a great number of drivers without driving licenses a poster appeared during the first months of the siege: DRIVE CAREFULLY, DON’T GET KILLED IN VAIN. It also informed the citizens that THERE WERE 300 DEAD AND INJURED in traffic accidents. White UN vehicles, which killed several Sarajevans, were the most frequent sight on the streets.