Thursday, April 9, 2009

Introduction to the war

The war in Sarajevo officially started on April 6, 1992. We had few tribulations before that in the city, with demonstrations and barricades with armed people on the streets, but we refused to believe the war can happen in the city.

A little background:

Former Yugoslavia consisted of 6 republics, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia (from north-west to south-east). Because of the political reasons and the predominantly Serbian majority in the government, Slovenia decided in the early 1991 to separate from Yugoslavia. They met with some resistance from the federal government, who sent national troops (again majority Serbian) to the Slovenian borders. However, since Slovenia had very few citizens who identified themselves as Serbs, there was little opposition from the inside to their government decision, and the federal government soon withdrew the troops. There ware virtually no lives lost over this separation.

Croatia was next who declared Independence, and this is where the war officially started. Larger regions of Croatia had Serbian population, and these people didn't want to all of a sudden live in a different country than where Serbia is. So, they joined the national troops and the federal government sent the extra troops that used to be in Slovenia to prevent the separation. Once the political games started and the local governments started enticing the people to fight their neighbours because now they are their enemies, the war from the borders all of a sudden became very personal and civilians lost their lives.

That turmoil started spilling into Bosnia in early 1992, which was next wanting the Independence. We saw increased number of uniformed people on the streets in Sarajevo. There were two days in March when peaceful demonstrations were scheduled, but in some areas barricades were put up to prevent people from going downtown. There was one evening where a curfew was ordered in some neighbourhoods, including ours, and we saw uniformed people with guns running and doing some sort of search in few buildings. All of this still didn't make us believe the war is coming to Sarajevo.

On the evening of April 2nd, I got home from school and my mom had an urgent decision for me to make. One of her co-workers has been diagnosed with a rapid leukemia, and their company has arranged for his blood samples to be sent to a specialized clinic in Paris. They paid a ticket for someone to take the package that evening to Belgrade, from where there was an early morning flight to Paris. Since I have an uncle in Belgrade who worked at the airport, the company gave the ticket to my mom, and she was asking me if I wanted to go instead since I haven't seen my family there in a while. I was going to stay only 2-3 days over the weekend. I was convinced, and even though I had a comprehensive exam to study for next week, I packed a bag for 3 nights and left.

The war in Sarajevo started on April 5th, the day I was supposed to return (I actually originally had the ticket for the 4th, but my aunts convinced me to stay one extra day). All roads and airport in Sarajevo were closed from that day on, and instead of 2-3 days, I stayed in Belgrade for 2.5 years. A lot has happened during that time, which I may cover in another post. When I came back in 1994, it was during a few-months long peace agreement, and in the middle of the war. The war officially ended in February of 1996, after the NATO bombing of Serbian troops around Sarajevo.

So, my introduction to the war was not gradual. I came from a peaceful life in Belgrade into a war-torn Sarajevo, where my family were refuges since our old home was destroyed, there was no water, no electricity, no schools, no shops. The "peace" didn't last long, and grenades and snipers started killing people again. I had to learn how to adapt quickly.

More on the Siege of Sarajevo

No comments:

Post a Comment