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01 May 1994 The Observer Page 26 Ed Vulliamy.pdf


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some vernacular version of the prisoners' emergence from their
dungeons in Fidelio. Disbelieving, young couples held hands and picked
their way along the pavements again, stopping to greet friends and
initiate the old casual chatter from what seemed like another world
and another time. Now people like Dzenan the fireman had nine month's
worth of stories to tell. 'Firemen without water! That's what we were
sometimes, throwing buckets of river water at blazing buildings. They
always used to shoot at us whenever we tried to put them out, and I
lost some of my best friends that way. Now, we are waiting, waiting to
see what happens next.'
The elderly were slower to come out, sceptical and wary. For a while,
old men and women watched the cautious parade from their smashed
windows or shattered doorways, or from the entrances to their wretched
caverns. But eventually they too ventured out. 'It doesn't seem real,'
said a man accompanying his little granddaughter, 'I'm expecting
another shell to come any minute.' On that particular evening, though,
no shell did fall. And on a scrap of wasteland beneath one ravaged
block of flats, a football match was played with a punctured ball the first, said the players, since the siege began.
There had been a pincer movement on the besieging Croats. On the one
hand, the Nato ultimatum to the Serbs above Sarajevo had an immediate
effect. There was word that Mostar would be next, and the HVO, wary of
the apparent veracity of the threat this time, declared a 'unilateral
ceasefire', although it manifestly failed to hold. Meanwhile, the
United States envoy to Bosnia, Charles Redman, moved frantically
between Sarajevo and Zagreb, trying to forge an accord between the
warring governments.
The day of the Bosnian-Croat summit meeting in Zagreb, at which a
ceasefire was declared, was eventful enough on the ground. Since my
last visit, a new field hospital had arrived, its equipment stacked up
in a group of hangars out in the perilous suburbs. The previous night,
there had been a bad fire at the warehouse and the firefighters had
been shot at with anti-aircraft incendiary rounds as they tried to
douse the flames. It was still burning when the UNHCR team went to
inspect the damage next morning - heavy and costly: an ambulance and
tonnes of medicines destroyed. The Croat gunners' response was
straighforward enough: a burst of anti-aircraft fire ricocheting
around the walls, spinning off our vehicles and sending us scurrying
into the smoky warehouse for cover.
Although the artillery barrage relented a little, the snipers were
ferociously busy. The shooting went on all day, firing along the
alleyways. Even the hardest of men scurried fast alongside the new
protective metal barricades made of office shelving and riddled with
bullet holes. While the Zagreb summit opened, 10-year-old Hidaj Sikalo
was fighting for his life at the underground hospital. While playing
near his home in the gutted suburb of Salik, a sniper's carefully
aimed bullet from a high-velocity rifle struck his head and came out
the other side. 'We don't think he'll survive,' said the hospital
secretary, Edina Slipicevic. The ambulance bringing him in had been
fired at with 12mm bullets, and the hospital still took three shells a