Hope in Sarajevo Fades As Serb Army Advances
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — IT was just a month ago that the Bosnian Army began an offensive that brought hope to the people of Sarajevo for the first time in three years of war. Even as they quivered in their homes as the city was shelled, residents celebrated the victories of their army against the Bosnian Serbs and believed the siege of the capital would soon be lifted.
Much of that enthusiasm may have been dampened as the Bosnian Serb army overran the UN-declared safe zone of Srebrenica July 11 and stood poised to do the same to Zepa. But people of Bosnia now are certain their own army is their only hope. ''There is no resolve anywhere to save these enclaves,'' says one official in Sarajevo.
Mesud Hafisovic, a former resident of Srebrenica who has lived in Sarajevo for many years, says, ''We are naive. We couldn't believe [the United Nations] would sit and watch these scenes in Europe. This was supposed to be ancient history.''
On July 18, nearly a week after the Bosnian Serbs overran Srebrenica, sending thousands fleeing for their lives, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic sent a plea to Serb forces to negotiate for the evacuation of the sick, wounded, and elderly from Zepa. He wanted to prevent a repeat of Srebrenica where many wounded and elderly perished because they were incapable of fleeing.
The plea, underlining the desperation the government is facing, paralleled the growing desperation among Sarajevans.
''We are lost,'' says Mirko Kurilici, who was born in Sarajevo. ''The only people left in this town are the missed people - the ones who missed their chance to die because the shells missed them.''
Mr. Kurilici is a Bosnian Serb. His wife, a Bosnian Muslim, and their daughter left Sarajevo three years ago to live in Belgrade with relatives. He stayed behind to protect his city - something he used to believe in. ''Sarajevo is dead, and we were idiots to stay,'' he says, pointing to his friend, Emir Muftic.
FROM a battery-operated speaker in the corner of the cafe they were sitting in, the words ''It's gonna be a long, lonely summer'' emanated from a song on the radio. When the song ended, Mr. Muftic's voice resonated across the airwaves in a prerecorded program of Muftic talking about the Sarajevo he grew up in. ''My family and I used to go on picnics in a meadow. Now it's the front line,'' his voice said over the radio.
Muftic is a Bosnian Muslim, married to a Bosnian Serb. As soon has he can, Muftic says he will leave Bosnia. ''Maybe we will recreate Sarajevo in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Africa. But not here. Our city has died,'' he says, staring straight ahead at the candle lighting up his small cafe, ''It was stupid to stay and think the UN would help us.''
When asked about Zepa, Kurilici and Muftic shrug their shoulders. ''Zepa is exactly where it was at the beginning of the war,'' Muftic says. ''Doomed.''