A BUS ARRIVES TO SARAJEVO VIA OCCUPIED VOGOSCA
‘After months and months of incredible destruction and warfare, there was this unbelievable rumor in March of 1994 that a Blue road over Ilijas to Sarajevo will be open, which means through the chetniks’ territory. All who weren’t conscripts, which means elderly people and women, and mothers with children had the right to pass. Without thinking I rushed to apply for going back, back to my city. I don’t think common sense takes any part in making those fateful decisions. Because, my common sense told me otherwise, it told me not to take my child back into a city of destruction, where people get killed, where it will have less to eat, where it won’t be able to play. There were a thousand other reasons why I shouldn’t take my child back. But an incredible yearning for my home and friends, for people who are close to me was stronger than that. Without much thought I decided to return to the city with a friend who accidentally was also given shelter in a small village near Visoko. Within three, four days we got the necessary documents in Visoko and Zenica and applied to go back. At the bus station the atmosphere was uncommonly quiet, something that doesn’t usually go together with traveling. The passengers and their companions were nervous, but they kept quiet, everybody waiting in suspense for the bus from Zenica, because it set off in Zenica, and was supposed to pick us up in Visoko on its way to Sarajevo, but it wouldn’t come. The baggage people carried had been also incredible, not at all characteristic for normal travels. The most important things to pack were potatoes, onions, canned food, and preserves. These were a real treasure, because they meant surviving for at least the next two, three months. And so with that unusual baggage, we saw the bus arrive. That was also incredible. A huge Mercedes bus arrives, the driver in a formal suit, it would sooner fit a peacetime trip abroad, than traveling through chetniks’ territory. And then the roll call, checking the lists, papers, finally we get on the bus, another roll call, we wave to our friends, off we go. That part of the journey was the hardest, because we expected the first control, I forbade my child to ask me anything, just to keep quiet till we pass that barricade. And suddenly the bus stops; there are two soldiers in combat uniforms. Since I was sitting towards the end of the bus, it took me an eternity to figure out that the emblem on the soldiers’ cap was the emblem of our army, so that it wasn’t a chetnik’s barricade, but our control. All passengers were relieved, papers and lists were checked and it was over. The soldiers got off; we still had a difficult encounter with the chetniks to go through. Everybody on the bus was silent, after ten meters the bus stops, two soldiers get on, they were very civil, they even tried to be polite, to make jokes even, but the passengers on the bus just kept quiet and were showing their papers. The control didn’t take long, only a couple of minutes, the Serb soldiers got off and into a police Golf, that followed the bus and in front of the bus there was a personnel carrier. The ride to Vogosca normally takes half an hour, but now it got longer since the personnel carrier drove some 10 kilometers per hour. We asked the driver to let us smoke, to relieve the uneasiness and tension, which he did. We looked out around us, Ilijas seemed so normal, as if it were peace, people working in their fields, gardens, nothing there to remind you of war, but then when we came close to Vogosca I realized I was approaching hell. A house on the very demarcation line was destroyed and burnt to the ground. The Traffic School where I spent some lovely time in my youth didn’t exist anymore. At the crossroads there, a soldier in the UNPROFOR got on, then they checked the papers again, he counted us again, laughing all the time, it was fun for him, and we were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Then we helped him, because he made mistakes all the time, in English of course, to count us, just so that he get off finally, then he did. While we were coming closer to Vogosca, people weren’t that nice to us anymore, through Ilijas they even waved, in Vogosca they threatened us and lifted the three fingers. So I took that also as a sign that I was entering hell and that the fighting was fierce. After that barricade, some ten meters, there’s our barricade, we are now totally nervous. Two of BH soldiers get on, ask for papers, routine check again. They search our luggage. We ask him not to keep us anymore so that we can drive on, the quarrel lasts for about 20 minutes then he finally gives permission for the bus to leave for Sarajevo. And then something incredible happens, we drive past ruins, horror, but I felt wonderful for coming back to my city. It probably wasn’t a normal reaction, only afterwards there was the reaction to stress, delayed, when the killings started, shooting at the busses, later on mothers and children got killed, and the passengers, and the line was closed. I never regretted making this step. But, when in February the following year the Blue Road had reopened and I had been informed that my father was lying on his deathbed in the Zenica hospital, I didn’t hesitate and I chose the Blue Road over the Igman, across our territory to get out of town. I would never repeat that adventure.’
• Andrei Kozyrev, Russian Foreign Minister, proposes a four-month truce.
• On the occasion of Easter, a solemn liturgy is held at the Church of the Holy Transfiguration.
• The famous Formula 1 driver Aerton Senna is killed in an accident.
• On Poljine, a hill above Sarajevo, the Bosnian Serb army requests to take a 122mm artillery piece from a UN checkpoint. The French soldiers refuse to hand over the weapon, which is under UN control, which leads to an argument. The UNPROFOR calls for NATO assistance. NATO planes fly low above the UN checkpoint.
• Taxi fares in Sarajevo: From the city center to "Kosevo" hospital – a can of fish; from the center to the neighborhood of Otoka- 1 liter of oil and 1 kilogram of sugar.
• Sarajevans fish in the city’s small river, the Miljacka, in order to survive.
• Akashi makes a secret deal with the Bosnian Serbs so that they can transport their tanks through the exclusion zone; in return they will allow through a convoy of British UN soldiers near Rogatica. The Bosnian Serbs do not hold up their end of this agreement.
• Huge lines of people in front of the Croatian Embassy wait for visas.
• A bus from Visoko arrives with 87 passengers.
• The Iranian Embassy opens.
• "The Guardian": "The destruction of Sarajevo as an ideal, the concept of Sarajevo, makes captives of us all."
• Vienna: Ongoing negotiations between Muslims and Croats over the constitution of the Federation of BH.
• UNICEF report on "Children and War in Bosnia": 79% of children have seen a wounded person, 55% of children have been shot at by a sniper; 96% of children have been shelled, 23% of children think that life has no value, 29% of children do not have feelings of sadness, 34% children have nervous stomach problems.
• Geneva, May 13th, 1994. In Geneva, a new round of peace negotiations starts.
• The new mayor of Sarajevo, Tarik Kupusovic, goes to Venice to mark the establishment of its sister city status with Sarajevo. He brings with him seven children from Sarajevo, all of them of different nationalities.
• Vienna: A document on the constitution of the Federation between Muslims and Croats is signed
• The event "Days of the National Museum" takes place in Sarajevo.
• Because of the open roads and larger supplies, prices in the market are dropping. Problems with the exchange rate due to a lack of small bills and coins. Until now, people did not use these because of the high prices at the markets; now there is a lack of small change.
• The administration of U.S. deals on three levels: 1. With the general public, 2. with the Arabs, 3. with their European allies.
• A Joint Staff is formed for the establishment of a federal army.
• Huge mass of vouchers circulates on the market, which dictates the price of the Deutsch mark. 1 DM. = 1 million bh vouchers
• Street stalls with books no longer exist - they're now a fantasy amid the current terror. An Encyclopedia cost 1 egg; today an Encyclopedia costs 5 eggs.
• The amount of $44,000 in ransom money is paid to the Bosnian Serbs for the release of imprisoned French soldiers.
• The U.K. will withdraw their troops if the warring parties do not reach an agreement within eight weeks. "The Muslims need to admit defeat," says Douglas Hogg.
• In Sarajevo water rationing is in effect. An appeal is sent to the citizens: "Do not wash carpets, do not water gardens!"
• Goats appear on Sarajevo trams. The goat has proven to be very useful for survival in Sarajevo.
• Jacqueline Onassis dies.
• France: French intellectuals lead an election campaign for the European Parliament under the slogan: "Europe begins in Sarajevo." A "List for Sarajevo" is formed. Bernard-Henri Lévy: "European values are being buried in Sarajevo."
• The first gas station reopens.
• Veterans of the Second World War lay flowers at the bust of Tito, on the occasion of his birthday.
• The Bosnian Serbs shoot at the bus to Visoko. A woman is killed but UNPROFOR manages to protect the bus.
• The U.S. Senate proposes airstrikes. UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is against the attack, as is France.
• Geneva: agreement on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina: 51% of the territory to the Federation, 49% of territory to the Bosnian Serbs.
• Dobrinja: Bosnian Serbs fire on a bus with passengers. The decision is made for UNPROFOR soldiers to ride on buses with passengers on the "blue routes."
• General Michael Rose: "This is a stalemate: the Serbs in the long run are losing the war, and the Muslims cannot reclaim the territory."
• Departure of convoy for Belgrade is expected : Passengers may bring only two bags, not weighing more than 15 kg., and no more than 1,000 DM in cash
• Water: no water in the city due to excessive spending on garden irrigation and washing carpets.
• Alexander Solzhenitsin returns to Russia after 20 years in exile.
• The "Botanical Garden", re-opens after two years. Museum workers have saved it from woodcutters during severe winters.
• Mariofil Ljubic appointed for president of the Constituent Assembly of the Federation.
• French intellectuals abandon the idea for the "List for Sarajevo."
• Marketplace: Chicken is cheaper than cabbage; cabbage is 8 DM.
• World No Tobacco Day
On the fifth of April, 1992, around Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had about 500,000 inhabitants, around the city in the valley of the river Miljacka surrounded by mountains which made in the host of 1984 Winter Olympics, in the very center of what was Yugoslavia, appeared: two-hundred-sixty tanks, one-hundred-twenty mortars, and innumerable anti-aircraft cannons, sniper rifles and other small arms. All of that was entrenched around the city, facing it. At any moment, from any of these spots, any of these arms can hit any target in the city. And they did hit, indeed - civilian housing, museums, churches, mosques, hospitals, cemeteries, people on the streets. Everything became a target. All exits from the city, all points of entry, were blocked.
THE UNPROFOR (the United Nations Protection Forces)
The role of the UNPROFOR was manifold. They served as hostages to the aggressor, they cleared the garbage, they rode in trams as a protection against snipers, they gave out sweets, brought flour, destroyed the surface of Sarajevo streets with their tanks and transporters, representing the only city transportation throughout a long period, they repaired electrical transmission lines, they controlled the airport... The most important form of the protection of citizens was driving the transporters next to them shielding them from the sniper fire while they were crossing the Tito street. For a long time they were the most significant part of the city’s commercial life because they were trading the goods available to them.