Monday, May 25, 2009

School in the war-zone

I attended electrical engineering college that was downtown. The classes were held unless it was a "really bad shooting" day; a term that was so relative. The professors didn't take the attendance, but since we didn't have the real books, their lectures were the only material we had. Plus, there was nothing else to do at home, no entertainment, unless we were creative to make up something. So, I studied and went to school whenever possible.

The college was in exile as our old building was now on the Serb territory. We held classes in what used to be partly kindergarten partly economics college building. The rooms didn't have any glass on the windows, which took the entire wall on one side. There were only heavy clear plastic sheets on the openings, many of which had holes too. At least we had enough sun light, because we usually didn't have electricity. Winters were rough, with our entire gear on, including the gloves. The only way to warm up was to run hot water down our fingers during breaks, which was heated on natural gas. There were times when it was so cold in the classrooms that our calculators would not work.

Somehow, I can't remember walking all the way to school more than just a few times. Even when I first came back to Sarajevo, the tram was operating part of the day. It was about 45 minutes walk to the closest tram station, which was the beginning of the line so there was no problem getting in. The carts would get full very quickly and it was sometimes hard to board after the first few stations. The trams would stop operating when it was too dangerous, and I usually didn't go to school on those days. I also hitchhiked a lot, which was common in my neighborhood, and rode in all kinds of trucks, large and small.

Sometimes it would happen that the fighting was really bad in one part of the city, and all quiet in the other, but we didn't have a way of knowing because there was no electricity to hear the news. On one occasion I made my way downtown only to find out that only I and my professor, who also lived in my part of the city, made it to class. All other students from downtown, who were aware of the magnitude of artillery in the area that day, did not show up. So, as not to waste the day, the professor lectured just me there for 5 hours straight. He figured we don't need to take breaks since there were no other students to talk to.
With only plastic on the windows, we were able to hear shooting outside loud and clear. The professor would stop for a second to acknowledge that a particular grenade was probably coming from a certain area, and then moments later to offer his guess where it has landed. The end to that class day could not come any sooner.
When we stepped outside the building, I realized it was too dangerous to try to make my way all the way home to the other side of the city. I decided to try to make it to my godmother's house, an hour walk away on the hill on the opposite side of the river. I remember running and praying like never before up that steep hill, keenly aware of how exposed my back was to the snipers on the hill on the other side of the river. This time, again, I made it safe.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, talk about what an education means to you! I can't see myself now handling a five hour lecture by myself with no breaks. However, it is possible when there is nothing else to do!