ESTABLISHING A UNIQUE TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM // 01. 1995.
IBRAHIM KOLUDER // PTT ENGINEER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

January 1995

Ibrahim Koluder
PTT engineer
ESTABLISHING A UNIQUE TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM

‘Our concept and the concept of the Ministry and the State Postal and Telecommunication Service was that BH is a single entity and that it is our homeland and that the telecommunication system must be turned towards the future and that we should create preconditions for creating such a system. This system was realized only partially because it was able to connect by land those territories which were controlled by BH. But fortunately we established multiple satellite links with Switzerland, and later with Germany, Sweden and America, so that there was no way in which the communication of BH with the world could be blocked.’

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JANUARY 1995


• President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, and the Commander of the ARBiH, Rasim Delic, sign a four month long truce: an end to hostilities, a complete ceasefire; withdrawal to the international borders of BiH and Croatia by the troops of Croatian Serbs and Muslim paramilitaries of the former member of the Presidency, Fikret Abdic; the opening of “blue routes”; complete freedom of movement for UNPROFOR and UNHCR; the release of all prisoners of war and the release of missing persons.
• Anthony Lake, the U.S. national security advisor: “It is too early to say that BiH has been written off, and Congress should work toward resolving the crisis.”


• Kresimir Zubak, President of the BH Federation, signs a truce on behalf of the Croats.


• In Split an Olm is discovered at a depth of 200 meters during the siphoning of a lake.


• ARBiH must withdraw from the demilitarized zone on Igman – as part of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities.
• Violations of the ceasefire in Bihac.


• Richard Holbrooke in Sarajevo: “There are no changes to the peace plan.”


• Smilja Gavric, head of the BH chess association, takes the chess team representing BiH to the championship in Paris. Younger players get two-day tickets to visit Disneyland.


• Ramp set on the “blue route”, near the airport. The military authorities in Pale do not accept the agreement.


• UN and NATO confirm that UNPROFOR Commander Michael Rose, with the aim of cooperating with the Serbs, gives them the flight schedule for NATO planes above BiH. A NATO officer had made the schedule available to him. After this conflict, NATO stops disclosing military flight schedules, which was part of a regular report to the UN on the daily activity of NATO planes over BiH.


• Japan: An earthquake in Kobe claims 1,800 victims.
• Sarajevo: Every fourth sample of water taken in the last two years has been bacteriologically substandard.


• The Soros Foundation pays for vaccinations for dogs against rabies.


• Very successful undertaking by Elektrodistribucija with the equitable distribution of 100 KW per household.
• Preparation for the launching of the “city train”, from Alipašino polje to the central city station.
• At a banquet Miss Roma is chosen, Lindita Tatri.
• The international center for Vedic studies organizes the “Hare Krisna Rock-session”.
• General Michael Rose makes a farewell visit to the Presidency of BiH.


• UN appoints British General Rupert Smith to replace Michael Rose.
• Appeal by “Krug 99”: “Stop the crimes against the Chechens!”


• Contact group in Sarajevo: Member of the Presidency of BiH, Ejup Ganic, and President of the Federation of BiH, Kresimir Zubak, announce that the peace process can continue if the Serbs accept the peace plan.


• General Rupert Smith assumes duty as UNPROFOR Commander for BiH.


• The Contact Group meets with the Presidency of BiH, which has a new make up: Ivo Komsic, Tatjana Ljujic, Nijaz Durakovic, Mirko Pejanovic, Alija Izetbegovic.


• Evacuation of patients carried out, maybe the last, as donor countries are no longer providing funds for evacuating the wounded and their accommodation.
• Russian President Boris Yeltsin, .during the incident with the Norwegian sounding rocket carries a BLACK SUITCASE with the infamous nuclear keys which he always keeps within easy reach.


• The Bosnian Serbs refuse to accept the peace plan. The Contact Group for BiH temporarily abandon their mission because of their failure to persuade them.
• Due to poor weather the Sarajevo airport is closed.
• Celebration of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.


• UN halts operations at the “Dubrave” airport in Tuzla because they have no security guarantee from the Bosnian Serbs.


• 1,000th day of the siege.

Telephone lines

Telephone lines are going through satellites since August of 1992. Those expensive phones - each about $ 50,000 - are with foreign correspondents in the Holiday Inn, in the Office of Defense, in the Police Ministry, and in two industrial strongholds. Since December, citizens could try to get on a waiting list at the Post Office. Waiting is about a week long, and payment is in US dollars, 15-20 per minute, three minutes maximum. Some foreign journalists were known for charging ‘their’ communication favors i.e. use of satellite telephone, for double the price. That only shows you how expensive it is to go out into the world. However, it has been observed that lines with that world are working when the Postal tower on the occupied mountain of Trebevic sends a red light. Pay attention in case you have a working telephone and a view of the tower! Telephones are also working while the news from Belgrade is on, and while reporters from Pale, from the TV channel called Serbia in Bosnia, are linking into the Big System. Lines are open during their reports. What you need, again, are a working telephone and quick reflexes.

City communication is reduced to yelling under and in front of large blocks. Where there is no electricity, there can be no bells! Messages are delivered through messengers who carry them from one part of the town to another. Post offices are not selling Bosnian stamps yet. They haven’t been printed. To tell the truth, they aren’t necessary. There are no letters that can be mailed. It is only those scarce taxi-drivers who can establish links between sealed parts of the town. It happens this way: a cab-driver in one zone calls by the car radio his colleague in Grbavica. Then the colleague goes to the address of the person who is being looked for. He tells her to come in the car. While they are driving conversation goes on. The only disadvantage is that everyone in any cab can eavesdrop.

THE POST OFFICE

The Austro-Hungarian building of the Post Office, located on the riverside, was destroyed during the night of May 2, 1992. Terrorists placed the dynamite inside the building and after it blew up it was shelled by inflammable shells until it burnt down. The bags containing the last Sarajevo mail to places outside Sarajevo burnt down. The phone-boxes were destroyed by the shelling. The outcome of the destruction of the central Post Office and the lack of electricity was, according to the Sarajevo Municipal Assembly data from April 1993, that out of more than 150,000 phone lines only 2,000 were operational. Telephone lines between Sarajevo and the rest of the world were not operational during the whole time of the siege. During the siege the communication with the outside world was maintained by amateur radio operators and a few satellite phones. Links with relatives, friends and business partners were established through foreigners who brought in and out the messages, which often grew to book size. In February 1996, an exhibition of sculptures was placed inside the burnt out Post Office building.

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