Especially for Anais

Only today I have managed to take 15 minutes to watch Allan Little’s report for Newsnight “Karadzic broken Bosnia endures”.

Meanwhile I have been in Bosnia myself, and, although it was a brief visit, it was long enough for me to recognize the kind of environment that the report brilliantly captures.

I usually travel alone, but on this trip I had the company of my lovely niece Anais. In fact, she was the reason I decided to travel to Bosnia. My intention was to go to Kosova instead, but I wanted to show her Sarajevo, because knowing her and knowing the city, I had the feeling that the two would match.

We had a great time there. The weather was very pleasant, which allowed us to take nice photos, and we were very lucky to find a place to sleep in a private home, where the owner treated us like princesses and made us the most delicious coffee we had ever drunk. I introduced her to burek (I love burek) and we also had the best pizza I have eaten in years.

Here’s Anais, looking at a group of Japanese tourists…

I am very glad we went there. She loved Sarajevo and its people, but, thanks to the persons we met, whose conversation with me she attentivelly followed, she got the chance to have a glimpse on the current political and social problems Bosnia is facing (or refusing to face). I absolutely wanted to avoid passing her an essentialized image of Sarajevo and Bosnia.

Anais was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the city and the warmth of its people,  but, in the same measure, shocked with the extent of destruction caused by the siege. When you arrive in Sarajevo by bus from Belgrade, you get the chance to have a good notion on the size of the city, and the fact that the bus stop is in the suburbs means that the postcard-like image of the centre of Sarajevo will not be the only one you will take with you after you leave. Everywhere she looked, the bullet holes could be seen. She had never seen anything like that. At a certain moment we passed through a souvenir shop and she saw a mug with the mascot of the 1984 Olimpic Games. It was then that she realized what the siege had meant. She looked at me and she said, “really, this is as if Lyon (her home city) had been besieged”. I though that was a good comparison.

Then, lots of questions, starting by the classical one, why didn’t the serbs manage to destroy Sarajevo…

Reality is sometimes so absurd that it hard to explain…

I tried to answer her questions and I briefly explained her in what my research consists of, but I tried to refrain myself because I think it’s best for her to have her own perspective than to simply absorb mine.

After we returned to Belgrade, I tried to give her some materials for her to have some information, but I didn’t want to overburden her.

So, when I watched this report, I immediately realized that it had what I was looking for. The environment portrayed in the report is clearly recognizable to anyone who has already crossed ‘Republika Srpska’.

I am sure she will watch it and I hope some other readers will too.


Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, War

13 responses to “Especially for Anais

  1. Owen

    Anais, you should try and watch some of the film for “Sarajevo: A Street Under Siege” which is in several parts at YouTube – 1st part at

    Watching otday you can’t hope to understand the shock and disbelief we experienced watching the three? five? minute clips that were broadcast every evening, knowing that the people we saw struggling to survive were living through that nightmare in one European city while I and millions of other people watched on our televisions in similar cities all across Europe.

    The films will give you an insight but nothing can recreate that experience of knowing that even as we watched what they were enduring and sympathised with them, in the last resort we were as powerless as they were.

    To borrow the term that was coined with reference to Mostar, the siege of Sarajevo was a crime of urbicide, perpetrated by people who were unable to tolerate the concept of a space where people of different affinities could nevertheless live side by side with one another without tearing each other and their world apart.

    I’ve just come back from seeing Daron D’Souza’s wonderful photos in his Missing Survivors exhibit in Marylebone Old Library. It was poignant on a pleasant autumn Saturday in London to see those drawn faces of fellow human beings still coming to terms with the aftermath of the horrific transgression of normality that we watched fifteen years ago (the photos are of survivors from Sarajevo, Prijedor, Srebrenica, all of them still not knowing what happened to members of their intimate family).

  2. Sarah Franco

    Owen, thanks so much for the comment and the suggestion.

    Anais being herself half-french half-portuguese and almost american by adoption, I am sure she will get your point.

    She is now 21, she is too young to have her own memories but old enough to seek to understand.
    I was 16 in 1991, so I remember that feeling of powerlessness. My hope that the fall of the Berlin wall would bring us a better world vanishing…

  3. Owen

    Correction, the clips were two minutes long. It was an unforgettable experience watching them.

  4. Quote: “why didn’t the serbs manage to destroy Sarajevo…”

    They did. They burned it to the ground, but they never managed to conquer it. It’s been 13 years since the war ended. Bosniaks built new Sarajevo, with new skyscrapper, and modern shopping malls, new mosques, and everything in between. It’s peace now, but Sarajevo will never be “trully” safe as long as Serb terrorists hold positions above Sarajevo on Jahorina/Romania mountains.

    Two Serb generals who were in charge of Sarajevo’s destruction were convicted on terrorist charges by the ICTY. They are Serb terrorists. Read here:

    Serbian terrorists received lengthy prison sentences, but nothing can return 1,600 children they slaughtered in Sarajevo including 10,000 – 15,000 civilians.

  5. Sarah Franco

    You are right, Daniel. There is a difference between destroying and conquering.

    Thanks for the comment and for the link. I am sure Anais will find your blog a very useful resource.

  6. Owen

    Anais, vous trouverez de tres interessantes histoires chez Courrier des Balkans – sur la page de la Bosnie, a droite vous verrez “Retour au Siege de Sarajevo” – cliquez sur les liens en bas:

  7. By the way, If somebody finds my comments offensive, please realize that I get very angry whenever child killings are involved.

    1,600 of Sarajevo were children of all ethnicities. But who cares about ethnicities? We are talking about children, and they are precious, because they are innocent (what harm have they done to anybody?).

    I oppose killings of civilians and I also oppose killings of captured soldiers. Yes, I don’t think enemy soldiers should be killed if captured. It’s one thing to die in the battle, but it’s totally another case to die as a Prisoner of War. You get what I am saying? I don’t think that POWs should be killed.

    I hope I am not bothering you too much with my opinions. They can get annoying sometimes. 🙂 Cheers!

  8. Je ne comprends pas tout ce que vous dit. Est-ce que quelqu’un Owen traduire le commentaire en anglais? Merci.

  9. Sarah Franco

    Owen told Anais that she could find interesting stories about the Balkans in the website Courrier des Balkans, and advised her to visit the page dedicated to the siege of Sarajevo, that he links.

    Daniel, your opinions are very important to me and you are welcome to write whatever you feel like in this blog.

  10. Sarah Franco

    You are right about the child killings. I’ve seen your post on the massacre of those children who were playing football in Srebrenica in 1993. It’s indeed particularly disturbing and what would be wrong would be not to feel anger and outrage.

  11. Sarah, may I ask where did you take a photo of that cat featured on top of your blog? 🙂 It seems it was on Bascarsija?

  12. Sarah Franco

    yes, it’s bascarsija!

    it was last year in October at luch time. there were people all around and the cat was there tottally indiferent, enjoying the sun.

    in this post in portuguese you can find the whole picture:

  13. Owen

    Thanks for the translation, Sarah!