SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — IT could still get much worse, but so far Sarajevo's second winter at war and under siege has not fulfilled the predictions of impending disaster made last fall.
For one thing, the weather has been, so far, considerably milder than usual.
For another, natural gas piped in from Hungary has been, for much of the time, getting through to many - but by no means all - of the embattled city's homes.
``Gas is our salvation,'' says Misa Perisic, an unemployed woman living in one of the capital's battered suburbs.
Many people have installed improvised gas stoves in their apartments, which burn natural gas.
But it can be a dangerous blessing. Several people have been killed and others injured when irregular installations have exploded.
Water supplies arrive sporadically at some apartment buildings, but many people still have to stand in line out in the cold to fill containers at one of a handful of water-points in the city.
City power is also sporadic, with some areas completely cut off for weeks on end.
A few are lucky enough to be on a priority line and sometimes enjoy lengthy bursts of electricity, subject to disruption without warning.
In order to survive, most people are dependent on scanty food rations handed out by the lead United Nations relief agency, the High Commissioner for Refugees.
``I'm living just from UNHCR aid,'' says Miroslav, a janitor.
``I get about a pound of dried beans and a pint of cooking oil, which has to last two weeks. So I'm living like an animal.
``But food isn't the real problem,'' he adds. ``We just want the war to stop, that's the real problem.''
ORE luxurious food items can be purchased on the black market - but prices are way beyond reach of all but war profiteers or the few with substantial prewar, hard-currency savings who can afford to patronize the handful of cafes and restaurants still operating.
``I've just had the best steak I've ever eaten anywhere,'' says one international visitor. ``But it cost about $100, 50 times the monthly wage for a state employee.''