THE STATE MUSEUM DAYS // 05. 1994.
LIDIJA FEKEZA // CURATOR AT THE STATE MUSEUM
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

May 1994

Lidija Fekeza
Curator at the State Museum
THE STATE MUSEUM DAYS

‘At the Museum on the opening day of our four small exhibits, the response was unbelievable. The people didn’t fit into the exhibition hall. And they were so happy to finally be able to walk around the museum’s garden after two years of war.
The preparations alone, as well as the exhibits themselves, were, as I have said, a great experience for me. First of all, because all of the material had been put into protective storage, and secondly, many of the museum’s exhibition areas had been destroyed. And so we had to rummage through everything in order to find attractive objects that could be exhibited at that time. Everyone put in a lot of effort, the ethnological, natural science, and archeological departments, as well as the library, which had also been completely evacuated. The public’s reaction to all of the exhibits was very good and even we were surprised at how well we had put them together. I can tell you about the archeological department, because that is where I have the most expertise. We arranged a small display of objects ranging from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. And all in just six showcases, because that was all we had, and we had to position them in a secure place. So that they would be somewhat protected from possible sniper shots, even though there was a cease-fire.’

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MAY 1994


• 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


History

If you play with lines on the map of Europe, you will have to find Sarajevo. It is revealed where lines cross over the Balkans. First you draw a line from Paris, through Venice and then to Istanbul, the closest East that Europe knew for centuries. A second line starts in Northern Europe, goes between Berlin and Warsaw, through the Mediterranean, and then to Africa. These lines meet over Bosnia and Herzegovina. And, in fact, they cross over Sarajevo. Here wars were started and here they went on, while people loved and longed for love. Here merchants were selling goods from all over the world and life was close and distant to ways of the East and the West. It was Western for the East, and Oriental for the West. It was the life of Sarajevo.
Its poet, Muhamed Nerkesi (1592-1634), far from his beloved city, wrote: “Nothing comes close of my city. It is the pearl on the earth, saraj of springs and gardens unique in the world...High mountains around it, old and noble, snow-peaks covered with mist are kissing the sky...It is impossible, no doubt, to name all the beauties of this place...”

Experience of Survival

During two years of war, Sarajevo has stabilized within its post-cataclysmic environment. Sarajevo became a new city with a new way and philosophy of living. The 4,000 shells falling per day onto and into this urban landscape brought destruction, but it also brought another insight into the understanding of humanity; the answer to the question of how individuals can create a community out of nothing, and how this particular community in Sarajevo can create a new social group for the 21st Century.
This new philosophy exists in Sarajevo. It is called Survival. It is a philosophy created as a response to terror, a way of recapturing freedom by retaining the fundamentals of humanity; a set of morals, a culture, creativity, tolerance, a clarity of mind, a lack of fear. Humour and innovation have been integrated into every part of life. Even without the hardware of buildings, water, electricity or gas, Sarajevo has not become a dead city. It actually – and in spite of everything – has the software the rest of the world needs.
Sarajevo became a self-contained model of how an urban structure can survive a modern cataclysm. The time of the Warsaw ghetto entered history. The siege of Leningrad has been almost forgotten. The siege of Sarajevo, its 900 days under siege, surpassed all the horrors we've seen in documentaries and read about in history books. Sarajevo's fate, its actual day to day life has become something we've only seen in science fiction movies. Sarajevo's The Day After has proved that the city holds the skills and the knowledge needed to respond to the greatest degree of change in life, using human instincts and keeping the ideals of humanity on a practical level. The knowledge and the skills Sarajevo has accumulated are the knowledge the rest of the world needs in preparation for the 21st Century.
Everything is possible. Subsisting on the bare necessities, Sarajevo doesn't use pesticides or create pollution. It has become the greatest of all green cities on Earth. The entire city is trying to realize the New Age objectives of health, ecological, agricultural awareness, recycling and self sufficiency.
But, this perfect model of Survival can only be realized through the support of the international community. Sarajevo needs technology, education, and cultural information from the rest of the World.
The World needs Sarajevo's experience of Survival.

THE STATE MUSEUM

The State Museum, located across the street from the Holiday Inn, was on the front line, as the Miljacka river separated it from the occupied Grbavica territory. Its windows are still covered by UNHCR plastic sheets which has replaced the glass. The sheeting was the UN gift to the museum which is regarded as the oldest cultural and scientific institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Established in 1888 the museum is situated in a monumental Neo-renaissance style edifice which includes the botanical gardens, the site of precious medieval tombstones (stecci). The museum houses the departments of archeology, ethnography and natural sciences. It was impossible to protect the large number of exhibits, but in spite of the shelling they were not directly hit. The most valuable exhibits, like the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, had been removed to safer places. A part of the museum burnt down and the building was hit by more than 420 shells, according to museum statistics. In front of the museum there stood a UN transporter which was supposed to protect the citizens riding in the trams. A lot of people were killed and injured in that spot. It was in this spot that the last victims in the city were killed after the signing of the Dayton agreement when a tram was hit by a shell.

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