ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL // 11. 1994.
HAMZA BAKSIC // JOURNALIST
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

November 1994

Hamza Baksic
Journalist
ADVICE FOR SURVIVAL

‘Smoking is harmful to health. I’d say life is harmful to health. The cigarette was one of those rare things, which remained during the war devastation as a memento of the time of peace. The morning cigarette. In 1994 we were already on the horse, then there was enough nicotine for us, addicts. But I think that the whole story consists in the fact that the morning cigarette evoked the prewar times. This is the significance of Oslobodjenje because it was one of the peacetime things, which occurred daily in Sarajevo. As long as one possibly had one’s cigarettes, possibly one’s newspapers, and possibly one’s coffee. Coffee sold of 160 marks per kilo. We the addicts traded food for cigarettes. There were soldiers who got that pack of cigarettes a day and they could get a can of food for it. Actually cigarettes were the only currency which kept its value throughout the whole siege of Sarajevo. The German mark went up and down, also the dollar, and our dinner, which had quite a slide. But cigarettes were the currency, which surely got you the exact equivalent value.’

TOPIC RELATED PHOTOGRAPHS
TOPIC RELATED TEXT

NOVEMBER 1994


• The Army of BiH liberates the mountains of Bjelasnica and Treskavica, near Sarajevo. United States rejects the idea of General Rose to strike the ARBiH.


• Kupres is liberated with the combined forces of the HVO and ARBiH.
• From Osmica on Igman buses travel to Zagreb, Split and Zenica.
• New York, November 5th, 1994 a new resolution on Bosnia adopted in which the UN General Assembly urges the Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia, if over the next six months the Bosnian Serbs do not sign a peace treaty. 97 countries vote in favor of the resolution, while 61 countries in the General Assembly refrain. No country votes against.


• The ARBiH counters the renewed attack on Sarajevo. NATO planes fly low, and fighting ceases.
• The average wage in the city is 2 DM; for a family approximately a 350 DM salary is needed.


• The financier and philanthropist, and founder of the "Open Society Foundation", George Soros accuses UNPROFOR Commander General Michael Rose, for being pro-Serb. "UNPROFOR has become the kapo of a concentration camp."


• U.S. will no longer oversee the arms embargo on the Government of BiH. The command is issued to the U.S. Navy to no longer intercept ships carrying weapons for the Government of BiH.


• "Miss World" pageant held in South Africa. President Nelson Mandela is surrounded by 87 beauties.


• In a speech at the Royal Geographical Society in London, Lord Owen says: "Humanitarian intervention was a fatal mistake. Without humanitarian aid, the war would have already finished."


• Radovan Karadzic’s message to Croatia, "I will bomb Zagreb if you continue to support the Muslims around Bihac."
• Secretary General of NATO, Willy Claes: "The time has come for action."


• NATO bombs the airport in Udbina. 30 planes fly in the mission. All planned objectives are hit: the runway is destroyed, while the aircraft are intact. SAM 7 missiles are fired at NATO planes. The aim of the operation: prevention of future attacks by the Serb army on Bihac. It was at the time biggest action undertaken by NATO in its history.


• William Perry: "If they again carry out a bomb attack, we will return and destroy their planes." Michael Rose: "We are here to help deliver humanitarian aid and maintain the survival of the surrounding areas, and in addition we are here to support the legitimate government of this country. Because of this, unfortunately, from time to time we need to use force in self-defense, and to support the territorial exclusion zone." Akashi notifies the Bosnian Serb about the attack, and then travels to Pale to apologize for the attack.


• An even fiercer attack by the Bosnian Serb Army on Bihac follows. Buzim and civilian targets are bombed.
• Throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Serbs block UN arms checkpoins and block UN movement.
• A tram is hit: one passenger killed, 6 wounded.


• NATO has offered the UN a number of solutions: for example, successive air strikes. The UN refuses. It turns out that the world's military potential will be employed in a rescue operation of the UN in Bosnia, not of Bosnia itself. The UN resolution on the “safe areas” and the ban on flights are violated.


• In the wartime cinema "Apollo" a festival is held: "Days of Swiss Film."
• Airport: Negotiations on a cease-fire. General Rose is the mediator in the negotiations. A ceasefire is agreed upon for the entire country. 2,000 U.S. Marines head to Bosnia to rescue the UN and to give support to NATO.


• Meeting: Willy Claes, Andrei Kozyrev, Haris Silajdzic. Kozyrev discusses Russian opposition to further punitive action.
• Vatican: Vinko Puljic appointed Cardinal.
• Sarajevo shelled.


• The Fifth Corps of the ARBiH manages to repel attacks in Bihac's Krajina. The UN fails to protect the Bihac "safe area". The UN: "We have only words, not the means."
• The U.S. Congress, Newt Gingrich: "If we want to break the will of the Serbs, then NATO should lead an action to break down the will of the Serbs. Occasional tactical strikes are extremely ineffective in intimidating the enemy, which is a lesson from Vietnam. "
• The Bosnian Serbs blocked 495 UN personnel throughout Bosnia.
• The Queen of England wins $17.70 in the lottery, which divided between 18 members of her court.


• The French Library opens in Sarajevo.

Tobacco

The tradition of famous tobacco from Herzegovina and more than a century of the existence and production of the Sarajevo Tobacco Factory left a bad impact on Sarajevans. It spoiled them - people were used to the best cigarettes and tobacco for which special pipes, cigarette-cases and cigarette-holders were made.
Today, cigarettes are the biggest luxury and need. No one is quitting. You can buy them on the black market. Members too, are to be found only on the black market.
On some markets you can find tobacco dust, which before served as a high quality fertilizer for plants and vegetables. Today, that dust is precious and hard to find. Tobacco leaves are even more expensive and very rare. The most passionate smokers are smoking tea. They are drying chamomile, Swiss chard, leaves, and cut it into ‘tobacco’. That tobacco is then being rolled into regular paper or daily paper. Filters are made of toilet paper which comes as a part of lunch packages. It seems to be easier to find a pipe.

Price list

200 DM for 1 cubic mater of wood, but you have to pay 50 DM more for the delivery.
170 DM for a bottle of whiskey, or of French cognac.
120 DM for a kilo of garlic.
100 DM for a hare (white, weighing about 3 kilos), or 1 kilo of dried meat.
40 DM - for this you can get 10 packs of cigarettes, or 1 liter of oil, or 1 kilo of beans, or
children’s bicycle, or 1 can of fish and 1 can of pate, or 1 lunch package, or half a kilo of tobacco.
30 DM for a wool sweater (hand made) or 1 jar of fat.
20 DM for 1 kilo of onions, or 2 kilos of cabbage, or a big pumpkin.
10 DM is the price of four batteries of 1,5 V, or of 5 liters of water - at all times except the summer.
Then the price of 5 liters of water raises to 30 DM.
3 DM for a chocolate bar, or a bunch of parsley. A circular saw is worth as much as seven kilos onions. One liter of milk is between 2,5 and 5 DM, but can be gotten for a pack of cigarettes. This is the best exchange between babies and smokers known in history.
What functions best is bartering. For two kilos of raw coffee, you can get a propane gas bottle of 12 kilos. A package of antibiotics is worth two local phone-calls. For a liter of cooking oil you can get a carton of cigarettes and a liter of cheap liquor, or three liters of cherry-syrup. For two liters of oil you can wear almost new Reeboks. A used male winter jacket costs 3 kilos of onions. A once-standard package of 18 kilos of paint is being exchanged for any kind and amount of food. 10 liters of oil, the amount which supplies energy for the two-hour shooting of a TV broadcast about the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is exchanged for 12 cans which supply energy for your private survival.
In handwritten ads on Tito’s street, one finds supply and demand ranging from gas stoves, jackets, shoes to messages such is this: “I am looking for a woman to help me survive the winter.”

MARKETS

All through the siege the city markets were operating. There one could buy all sorts of edible and less edible plants and homegrown teas. Also the humanitarian aid was sold and traded there, like “Truman eggs” (the powdered eggs which had been stored since WW II), cigarettes, etc. The markets were the aggressors’ favorite target and a great number of Sarajevo citizens got killed or maimed there. There has not been a single market in Sarajevo which was not the sight of a massacre. The markets were the only places where Sarajevans could buy some food. Late in the summer of 1995 some protected street-corners were promoted into markets.

TOPIC RELATED VIDEO
POLLS
POLL
MAPA SIEGE OF SARAJEVO