CONVOY FOR BELGRADE// 05. 1994. • HAJRUDIN SMAJIC// EVACUATION OFFICE
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
CONVOY FOR BELGRADE
‘December 27, ‘93 a big convoy for Belgrade left since the one before had gone to Split. The customs regulations then in force in BH laid down that people could only take out 1,000 DEM and, because of lack of space, only two pieces of luggage.’
• 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
Convoy is the term which equals organized exit, a ticket with no return. For all such journeys there are lists, and there is time to be spent in waiting, filled with uncertainties. They are organized by Children’s’ Embassy, Red Cross, by the Jewish Community, by the Slovenian government before the elections. Those who entered one of the lists in June, who have all the needed documents, are not sure that they will be leaving the city in December. There is always a new document required, a new rule to obey, a new delay. And, no wonder, each convoy has its own rules. Children’s’ Embassy takes out children, mothers, the very old and the exhausted. The Red Cross is taking out old, sick and children. The Jewish Community took out Jews and their friends, supplying them with false documents. Slovenes took out their citizens and those who could remember one Slovenian in the family in past seven generations. At these sad departures, you could often hear anxious questions: “Father, what’s your name? Mother, what’s your name?”
One more paradigmatic dialogue:
Question: “When are you leaving?”
Answer: “Well, I am on the list Still waiting for a confirmation from Geneva.”
Discreetly, but to no one’s surprise, the City was left by wives, children, parents and friends of various officials. Illegal channels were used, starting in Stup, Ilidza, Kobilja}a. From there, to Kiseljak - a Hong Kong of Sarajevo - if heading West. To Pale, if going East. On each of these starts, there was a ‘connection’, a guy dealing with the formalities which basically means exchanging tangible hard currency with the invisible bus ticket. Starting fee is 100 to 200 DM. Additional amounts were supplied by Muslims, for they often needed false documents.
It is a well known secret that for about 1000 DM, deposited in one of the cafes close to the Veterinary college, one could get to Grbavica (a sealed part of the town, a camp from which no one can go out, and into which no one can enter). From there for the mentioned fee, the bus would take you to Belgrade. Another part of the same secret is that there is a rule according to which for one person who enters Grbavica, one from Grbavica is being released into the City. Profit is mutual.