On two occasions back in the early 2000’s I visited Bosnia & Herzegovina – once for work, to Sarajevo, and then the other for a weeks ski holiday over New Year to Jahorina, one of the two major ski mountain resorts over Sarajevo.
People still to this day turn their nose up when I tell them, just like they used to turn their nose up in 1999 when I said I was going to Croatia.
The Bosnian war is now over a quarter of a century ago.
There is so much I remember about Sarajevo – a city that is both uplifting but with the echos of war never far. There are so many stories of those desperate times yet somehow Sarajevo gets under your skin as a place of profound beauty and one that grabs you and gives you hope that even in the darkest of times, there is light.
On my business trip I purposely stayed in the Holiday Inn on what was known as sniper alley. This was the hotel where the journalists reporting on the siege of the city stayed and I recall sitting in the window of my basic hotel room looking out and imagining the horror of those days when civilians, in the sights of snipers some just 200 yards away, took their lives in their own hands running from point to point to get food or to pass on messages to loved ones.
The story, above all others, that resonates with me to this day, is the one about the shelling of the National Library on August the 25th and 26th 1992. In that moment over 3 million books and countless rare artefacts were destroyed. Without doubt a huge part of the countries cultural identity was lost in those moments. Thankfully today that beautiful building has been restored but of course so much was lost and with it just memories remain.
Today we are facing our own “invisible” war with so many of us having sleepless nights as we battle the effects of Covid in our lives.
The other night I woke in the early hours and watched a powerful documentary on BBC I Player about a concert that took place in Sarajevo at the height of the Bosnian war back in 1994. It was titled “Scream For Me Sarajevo”.
Its a remarkable story of members of the rock band Skunkworks led by Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden fame). It charts the story of how the initial idea was hatched, their journey from Split in Croatia to Sarajevo under cover of darkness in the back of a truck and relives stories from the people that organised it and from a number of individuals who attended.
It also follows the bands return 20 years later where they met some of those people whom, for a brief period during this bloody war, were offered hope and enabled them to see that glimmer of light in the darkness.
If you have an hour spare, click on the link below and have a watch.
The music is amazing and but don’t think that you need to be a heavy rock fan to appreciate it. The story is staggering, powerful, extremely sad, emotional and yet uplifting at the same time….I guess that kind of sums up Sarajevo for me.