Mittwoch, 18. April 2018

In Sarajevo, a Monument to Childhood Disrupted by War / Dan Sheehan in: Lit Hub April 18, 2018

April 2017 marked 25 years since the first shells fell on the city of Sarajevo in what was to become the longest siege of a capital in the history of modern warfare. Each passing month since then has presented another macabre silver anniversary. May 19th, 1992: Admira Ismić and Boško Brkić, a mixed Bosnian-Serbian couple are shot by snipers while trying to flee the city together. August 25th, 1992: Vijećnica, the beautiful pseudo-Moorish library on the banks of the Miljacka river, is razed to the ground, the ashes of its 1.5 million irreplaceable volumes falling upon the surrounding streets like snowflakes. June 1st, 1993: 13 people are killed and 133 wounded in a mortar attack on a youth football game in the Dobrinja suburb on the first day of a Muslim holiday. February 5th, 1994: the first Markale massacre in which the targeted shelling of a civilian market in the heart of the old town kills 68 and wounds 144.
These are just a handful of atrocities among many thousands in a relentless campaign of urbicide that didn’t let up for almost four years. When the last of the guns in the hills above the city were finally silenced at the beginning of 1996, there wasn’t a building in Sarajevo left unscarred. Whole districts of homes were returned to their surviving owners as little more than uninhabitable husks. Sports pitches and parks whose trees had been cleared for coffin wood now housed makeshift graveyards. Winter Olympics facilities, once gleaming emblems of the ’84 Games, the first to be held in a socialist country, were left abandoned in a state of almost haunted decrepitude.
By the time the Dayton Peace Accords were signed in December of 1995, over 11,500 Sarajevans had lost their lives. At least 521 of these were children. UNICEF estimated that of the approximately 70,000 children living in the city during the period, 40 percent had been shot at, 39 percent had seen one or more family members killed, and 89 percent had been moved back and forth from underground shelters to escape the shelling. The damage done to the collective psyche of a people who were forced in their formative years to spend 1425 days under such a dark and terrible cloud remains, and will perhaps forever remain, unquantifiable.
Jasminko Halilović and Amina Krvavac, respectively the Founder and Executive Director of Sarajevo’s War Childhood museum, were themselves just children when the war in Bosnia broke out. Like tens of thousands of others mired in that brutal and protracted assault, their childhoods were marked by fear, displacement, and the constant specter of sudden, violent death. “In those days of madness,” Halilović recalled in his 2013 book, War Childhood: Sarajevo 1992-1995, “apartment after apartment in our building would empty. Some were fleeing to other parts of the city, some fled abroad, some to the other side. For years afterwards I would wonder how anyone could persuade people who had lived on the same street all of their lives that from tomorrow they were ‘on different sides.’ Even today, I have no answer.” ... [mehr]

Photo via flickr/Jennifer Boyer

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