A Neighborhood of Sarajevo Where Serbs Are on the Run
GRBAVICA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — IN this small section of Sarajevo, walls of bricks line the streets and intersections to protect pedestrians from incoming sniper rounds. Bullet holes riddle every building. The 15,000 residents of this neighborhood are sometimes shelled while lining up for their daily rations of water and food.
But in some ways Grbavica is different from the rest of Sarajevo. Its besieged residents are mostly Serbs - encircled by the Muslim-led Bosnian Army. Resting just on the front lines running through the center of the city, the neighborhood has not been reduced to bombed-out rubble as some Muslim-dominated quarters of Sarajevo have. Even so, its residents are just as frightened, living in constant fear of Muslim snipers.
"Last winter we could not get out of our own house because of the snipers," says Minja, a Serb selling a ring of garlic cloves that she grew in her urban window garden. "The world doesn't see the suffering of the Serbs; they only see the suffering of the Muslims."
Grbavica, now encircled by Bosnian Army troops, has become a symbol of the destruction of Sarajevo's multiethnic ideal.
"How can any Muslim be my friend when they cut the neck of my uncle?" asks Minja, who claimed three other family members were massacred by Bosnian Army troops. "I think the city will remain divided because we have fought and argued for so long."
Minority Muslim and Croat residents in Grbavica say they have been regularly robbed, harassed, and sometimes forced to fight on the front lines.
Under the latest peace plan proposed for Bosnia-Herzegovina, international mediators are touting the settlement for Sarajevo as an exception among divisions.
The rest of the republic would be carved into three ethnic ministates, but Sarajevo would remain the one city where Serbs, Muslims, and Croats would live together under the temporary administration of the United Nations.
But ideals in Geneva are not realities in Sarajevo. According to Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Grbavica and other Serb-controlled neighborhoods will have their own police forces and Serb administrators.
"Serbs will not give up their interests in the city. Sarajevo could get a fate like Berlin or Jerusalem," Mr. Karadzic says.
The idea is troubling for Antonija, a Croat woman. "I don't want a Berlin wall. I always felt like a Yugoslav. All of our families were mixed, and we had a feeling of brotherhood. O God, let us live together again."
With winter around the corner, however, many Grbavica residents are anxious for a settlement at any cost. Fadila Japarak, a jovial Muslim woman who danced in the Sarajevo ballet during her youth, stands in line at the Red Cross kitchen, waiting for her daily ration of soup and bread.
"I come here and wait as I have every day for the past year," she says. "I want to live in Grbavica. I don't care if it is in the Serbian republic, a Muslim republic, or a Croat republic. I just want peace."