ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION/ONE LIGHT BULB AND ONE TV SET PER HOUSEHOLD // 10. 1995.
IRFAN DURMIC // DIRECTOR OF THE ELECTRIC COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

October 1995

Irfan Durmic
Director of the Electric Company
ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION/ONE LIGHT BULB AND ONE TV SET PER HOUSEHOLD

‘By then the situation with the supply of power had somewhat normalized so that we could organize reduction which were more acceptable and which made living more normal. Then we had enough power to supply it for a period of time every day, trying to distribute it in the best and the fairest way possible. However because of the stealing of power we didn’t have full control over the amount of power at our disposal.’

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OCTOBER 1995


• Izetbegovic: The conditions for a ceasefire open the way to Gorazde.


• Holbrooke: “The U.S. thinks the time has come for the fighting to stop.”


• Holbrooke again in Sarajevo.
• BiH delegation in Russia. Russia is ready to unblock the delivery of gas, but the debt problem remains.
• Borisav Jovic, former president of the new Yugoslavia gives an interview to the Austrian television network SRS: “We asked for support from Russia at the start of the war and a guarantee that they would protect us if the West intervened against us. When they refused support, the Serb aggression began. Symbolically in Slovenia, in Croatia on a wider scale and genocidally destructively in BiH.


• Russia will deliver gas and recognize Bosnia and Herzegovina.
• Mostar: after three years the traffic lights function.
• Sarajevo: head of the UNPROFOR repair team: “There will be electricity by the end of the week, while the matter of its distribution is a political decision."


• The Serb Civic Council of Sarajevo receives the “Just life” award from Sweden for achievements in ethnic acceptance and democracy.


• The bombing of Serb anti-aircraft positions serves as a preventive measure to eliminate a threat to alliance planes.
• Holbrooke in Sarajevo.


• The U.S. requests renewed attacks in case of attacks on the safe areas in BiH. The U.S. will also consider any interruptions in the supply of electricity, water and gas to Sarajevo a breach of the agreement.
• Ceasefire agreed upon on Tuesday, October 10.
• The American negotiating team travels to Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb within 24 hours.


• ARBiH nears Doboj.
• Nicolas Burns: “The U.S. will not send its troops into battle. We will not send them into a peace that cannot be preserved, but we will send them to insure the preservation of peace when it is achieved.”
• Assassination attempt against Kiro Gligorov, president of Macedonia.


• The Pope performs mass in Central Park in New York.
• The making and breaking up of Bosnia. For some, defining institutions “through an exhaustive constitution” will strengthen a federal, unified BiH; for others, facilitate its break up.


• Massacre with cluster bombs in Zivinice in a Muslim refugee camp: nine dead, 50 wounded.
• NATO planes fly over the site of the attack, but do not act.
• Negotiations between Russia and the U.S. over Moscow’s participation in multinational forces.
• Izetbegovic: “The conditions have not been met for a truce. There is no gas, no electricity.”
• NATO planes operate in the vicinity of Tuzla.
• After four and a half months, electricity arrives in Sarajevo via Vogosca.
• Yeltsin signs a decree on the restoration of gas delivery which is Russia’s contribution to the lifting of the siege in Sarajevo and fulfills conditions for a ceasefire. An unnamed Russian diplomat: “It takes at least 6-8 hours for the tubes to fill with gas and have adequate pressure.”
• Breaking news: the Russian government informs the Clinton administration that they have allowed the flow of natural gas to Bosnia. It is released at the Hungarian border and takes 4-6 hours to reach Sarajevo.


• The Federal Army liberates Mrkonjic Grad.
• No agreement reached on the length of the ceasefire.
• Yasushi Akashi, at his own request, leaves his position at the UN. He will be replaced by Kofi Annan.


• Commentary of the international community: Akashi is not the right person for relations with NATO at this time.


• Liberation of Sanski Most. The ARBiH and HV on their way to Prijedor and Banja Luka.
• The ceasefire is effective on October 12, at 12:01am.
• Haris Silajdzic: “If you re-establish the supply of electricity to its full capacity we will have a ceasefire.”


• State Department: “The current ceasefire will be more stable than those which failed over the last 42 months of this Balkan conflict, because it is invested with the credibility of the U.S.”
• New distribution of force: The Federation of BiH holds 52 %, and the RS 48 % of the territory.
• “Hit” Square in Mostar becomes the “Spanish” Square. On the 12th a celebration is held on its renaming, because it marks the day Spanish mariners discovered the New World.


• UNPROFOR report: Water from the Bacevo source can be used after purification through an RS valve to the BiH valve.


• John Fawcett, a member of the civil administration of the UN in Sarajevo: “Sarajevo didn’t receive water from Bacevo for political reasons. Everything was ready, the pump worked. But water was not a condition for the ceasefire.”


• The gas travels 3,500 km - a long way from the western Siberian gas fields through the Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and the RS to Sarajevo. The Russians have made a political, not a commercial decision. This year Moscow has halted supplying gas to Sarajevo at the request of the Government of BiH because the Bosnian Serbs had been diverting it for their own use.


• Dispute between Washington and Moscow: Washington does not accept the dual key for commanding international forces.
• The Pope is desperate to visit Sarajevo.
• UN civil administrator for Sarajevo, William Eagleton: “We failed with one oversight - WATER. We thought that the flow of water into the city would logically follow the arrival of electricity.” In short, the arrival of supply of water to Sarajevo was not specified in the conditions for the ceasefire.


• Discovery of mass graves.
• UNPROFOR Commander General Rupert Smith and Thorvald Stoltenberg are relieved of duty.


• Willy Claes leaves his position as Secretary General of NATO over charges of corruption.


• Market reopened at “Markale”.


• Meeting between Clinton and Yeltsin. The two presidents leave it to military strategists to agree on the command of Russian troops in Bosnia.


• Yeltsin suggests the Balkan leaders first meet in Moscow and then continue to Dayton for peace negotiations.
• Bob Dole, a Republican, calls for Milosevic to be refused entry into the U.S.
• Clinton: “I do not think that anyone in the U.S. should do anything that will undermine an opportunity to end this terrible war."
• Beginning of the removal of a destroyed bridge near Orasje on the Sava.


• The Federation at the negotiations in Dayton appears as a unified front.


• Negotiation meetings in Moscow cancelled. The Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been hospitalized for a month.


• Russia is no longer a world power. But the U.S. preserves this false image, understanding that the truth about Russia’s power would cause internal chaos in the country.


• Holbrooke: “The U.S. wanted to launch attacks earlier. When the Dutch battalion was in danger on their base in Potocari, we couldn’t get them, communication was impossible. The entire chain of command was obstructed and paralyzed on both sides of the dual key, because of the Dutch presence in Potocari. It was horrible, horrible…”
• Pavel Grachev, Russian defense minister: “Russian troops will be under the command of American generals, but not under the NATO banner.”

Sarajevo by Night

SARAJEVO BY NIGHT means that life follows the line or the sun. Without civilization based on inventions of two Americans - Tesla, who was born in the neighborhood and who we are proud of, and Edison, who they are proud of - you have to learn to go to sleep early and to wake up early. So many evenings are spent in envy of those who have electricity. But Sarajevans have mastered the art of making kandilo, which is the light, usually hanging before an icon. To the Greeks have given the name - kandelos.
Recipe: Fill a glass jar, or a glass, half with water and a quarter with oil. Ten cut five to seven millimeters of a cork, and drag through it cotton string, or a carpet fringe, or any piece of burning material. In order for the wick to stay above the oil and burn, a tin strip of some two centimeters is used and placed above the jar. Through that strip runs the wick soaked in oil. Candles have burned long ago, even decorative ones. People who have saved petroleum lamps are very rare, and for them a liter of petroleum costs 30 DM. Batteries ran out at the beginning of the war. Still, they are being revived by cooking in salt water, five to ten minutes. They can come to life if connected to an automobile battery, if that one can be fed with electricity. All these tricks make batteries live five or six lives.
Of 1800 transformer stations in Sarajevo, more than half are out of use. To steal fuses is a regular thing. Three such fuses will cost you about 700 DM on the black market. Their real value is no more than 15 DM. Foreign currency is needed if you want to bring electricity from the station to the lobby of your house. To plug into a system, in all kinds of weird ways, is very fashionable. Another way is to run cables. You can steal the electricity from the houses which have it - on the right side of the street, and bring in to the houses which don’t on the left side. That has its price too, sometimes a deadly one. Some steal oil from the transformer stations to replace car fuel. To have a car battery in the apartment, that is a real treat. A radio can be plugged into it - and turned on ever hour, for the news. This battery is the source of light, too. Those less capable attach to it stronger bulbs and soon understand that the battery is drained too quickly. As time goes by, we all learned, and here is the advice - take the smallest bulb, like the one from the inside of a car. And carefully watch your lighter. You’ll need it, it, if not for lighting a cigarette, then surely to climb the staircases.

THE “ELEKTROPRIVREDA” BUILDING

Electricity was a rare guest in the city. The citizens made do with car batteries, candles given by humanitarian organizations, home- made oil lamps which required small amounts of edible oil and bits of shoestring, and with a variety of more or less successful inventions. Some people used battery and the so called “SOROS” lamps which required solar energy. Although there was plenty of solar energy the lamps had little capacity and quickly broke down. In the hilly parts of the city people built mini power-generating plants. The “Elektroprivreda” building was on the front line, next to the bridge which borders with the occupied Grbavica district and it was frequently shelled.

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