SHELLING OF THE PRESIDENCY BUILDING// 12. 1994. • NIJAZ DURAKOVIC// PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
President of the Social Democratic Party
SHELLING OF THE PRESIDENCY BUILDING
‘But the worst was going to and from the Presidency. That was the most frightening place. About 130 people were killed around the Presidency building. And several people, inside the building. The Presidency was constantly under fire. It would start approximately around 9, then at 10. Later on they changed the rhythm, so we had no idea about their schedule. We would often throw ourselves on the floor. We changed windowpanes in my office several times. Once I was in Mirko Pejanovic’s office when, all of a sudden, we found ourselves showered with shell fragments. We stayed alive to our great surprise. It was some sort of roulette, ‘Sarajevo Roulette’. You never knew, coming to work or going home, whether you would or would not get hurt. However, we could have changed the location or simply not go there. But we did go and stay from some sort of spite. We would have felt as if we had capitulated. I hope it will never happen again.’
• The Serbs set up anti-aircraft defenses near Sarajevo.
• Willy Claes, NATO Secretary General: "The important thing is unity within the organization - Bosnia has created conflict between us.
• Sarajevo: The Bosnian Serbs close the valves on the gas lines.
• Bihac Krajina: The Fifth Corps manages to repel attacks; the aggressor is losing power.
• Radovan Karadzic threatens to order fire on NATO planes if they continue to monitor the airspace of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
• Missile attack on the Presidency building.
• A child killed by a bullet from a sniper.
• "Oil War": In 10 days diesel fuel for the UN will be gone, and in three days there will be no gasoline. The UN will stop all activities: no repairs, no escort for humanitarian aid, no anti-sniper teams.
• In the city on the post office building graffiti appears: "THIS IS SERBIA!" A reply written next to it: "THIS IS A POST OFFICE, YOU IDIOT." At another building: “TITO, COME BACK TO US!" The written reply:" I'M NOT INSANE." - with Tito's signature.
• The city takes action collecting signatures for a declaration on an undivided Sarajevo. Moscow: at the organization of the European Cultural Club, 120 public and cultural workers sign the declaration on an undivided Sarajevo.
• The Pope receives a visit from the Sarajevo choir "Trebevic."
• Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Rabin, Arafat and Peres.
• Danish convoy with fuel hijacked near the airport. They were surrounded by Bosnian Serbs with rifles pointed, who then jumped into the trucks. Ilidza is now popularly called the Bermuda Triangle, because it’s where equipment and fuel disappear.
• Gas pressure increases, the price of firewood is dropping: sacks of firewood - 15 DM.
• Chess Olympiad in Moscow. BiH – Ukraine; 3 -1 in favor of BiH.
• Moscow does not want UN troops to leave BiH, since it would mean that the arms embargo would be lifted for the Government of BiH.
• In Belgrade, Podgorica, Zagreb, France and Spain people give their signatures to the declaration for an indivisible Sarajevo.
• A new round of humanitarian aid in the city: 1 kilogram of rice, 200 grams of beans, 150 grams of oil, a can with 340 grams of processed meat, 2 kilograms of flour.
• The anti-sniper team returns fire 19 times.
• Discussion at NATO: Is the UN pulling out from Bosnia or not?
• Employees of the UN learn over the television news that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter comes to Bosnia with the latest peace initiative, at the invitation of the Bosnian Serbs. Karadzic calls CNN in Atlanta and presents this initiative to the public. On the occasion, Jimmy Carter says: "I come as a private citizen and as a representative of the Carter Center."
• Boutros Boutros-Ghali: "The UN has no money. Bangladesh could not furnish their UN team and this is why the situation is so dire in Bihac. "
• The U.S. government supports Carter's mission.
• For each released "blue helmet" UNPROFOR gives 1 ton of fuel to the Bosnian Serbs.
• 179,653 signatures collected from 35 countries for "Sarajevo, an undivided city."
• Carter meets in Zagreb with Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, and Prime Minister of the Federation of BiH, Haris Silajdzic.
• Vatican: After talks with Carter, the Pope says: "It's time that peace reign."
• Prime Minister of France, François Léotard: "We decided to deliver humanitarian aid, regardless of the consequences, to deploy a new peacekeeping force and open corridors, because otherwise the Americans will lift the arms embargo, and with that we will be forced to leave."
• A representative of the White House, regarding Carter's peace initiative: "Carter argues that the Bosnian Serbs want peace and that the American people do not understand them. The Serbs were the aggressors in this war. Americans can see what is going on there. Carter says that this is just one side of the story. The motives of this mission raise suspicion, but if it is successful, we will agree to it. "
• Carter: "The Bosnian Serbs agreed to a four-month ceasefire and during that time to begin negotiating a peace plan." Radovan Karadzic, on this occasion: "It’s remarkable, but he brought me back to the negotiating table."
• The Russian army attacks Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
• At the chess Olympiad in Moscow, the BiH team wins a silver medal. A Christmas concert is held at the National Theatre, organized by the "King Tvrtko" brigade for morale.
• The Ministerial Council of the European Union: "We agree to the mediation of Jimmy Carter, provided he agrees to achieve a peace plan according to a 51:49 division."
• Santa Claus arrives from Cannes.
• Ceasefire agreement for 4 months and 7 days
• Command of the United Nations for Bosnia receives permission from Karadzic's Serbs for 11 convoys of the requested 12.
• Christmas Mass held in the Cathedral. Nine popular Christmas carols are sung by the choir "Trebevic".
• The aggressor does not respect the cease-fire in Bihac.
• At the border of Bosnia with Serbia and Montenegro: shooting at night, so observers hide in nearby houses, while passage for smuggling of "anything" is free. Because of the observers, the helicopters are flying with a false label of the Red Cross. They carry smuggled goods.
• The Mayor of Venice arrives in Sarajevo.
• The Bosnian Serbs give consent for candles, blankets and tarps to enter Sarajevo. Negotiations are ongoing over the delivery of firewood.
• For New Year’s every Sarajevan can turn on one lamp and a TV. The utility company Elektrodistribucija hopes citizens will respect it.
• Among their humanitarian aid residents receive 50 year-old biscuits.
THE PRESIDENCY BUILDING
The building was located in the city center. It was built in 1885 in the Neo-renaissance style and it was modeled on 15th century Florence palaces. It was the favorite target. A great number of people was killed or wounded in the streets near the building. The Presidency remained in the building throughout the war and foreign politicians or delegations were always welcomed because their visits meant a temporary respite from shelling.
The city was shelled y mortar shells of 82, 120, 150 and 250 millimeters. The 82mm and 120mm shells were used in the Market and the Vase Miskina street massacres. The larger caliber shells, often incendiary, were used to destroy important buildings. Guided missiles of the Maljutka type as well as plated shells which could penetrate several walls before exploding were used for the some purpose. Anti- aircraft guns and machine-guns were used for random shooting. The biggest destruction was achieved by the modified bombs, the so called “sows”, which were fired from specially built launchers. The shells, unless they are plated, explode at first contact. When it rained a wet spot on the ceiling usually meant that there was an unexploded shell (“an Alien”) in the attic. When the shells explode they produce shrapnel. There is almost no building in Sarajevo without shrapnel. The mark made by a shell explosion was called “a rose”. At the time when the 120mm shells were used the most extensively the city bulletin ran the headline “120mm Is Not Much” signed - Cicciolina.