Children of the war (part 1)

"No other generation of surgeons in the painful wartime history remembers performing surgery in theatres, the walls of which are shaking from bombings during four long, cold and dark years." 
Dr Ismet Gavrankapetanovic, head of Orthopaedics and Trauma at the Clinical Centre of the University of Sarajevo and a Medical faculty professor

"The situation during the Sarajevo siege was very unusual. In warzones, the civilians usually run away, and that is their right. While the fighters stay alone, and we, as reporters, go after them. Here, everybody was stuck together - the fighters, the civilians and us reporters who'd decided to stay. It was a very special situation. In a way, it was our war together." 
Remy Ourdan - of French newspaper Le Monde - who was 22 when he began reporting on the siege of Sarajevo, a city he stayed in for four years and where he returns frequently

While the three bases for our tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina were Sarajevo, Mostar and Trebinje, there were many sites outside these cities that we would like to go to. When I planned how best to travel to these sites, I ruled out taking public transport. Not only is the service from, say, Sarajevo to those sites outside the city not frequent but also one would have to make a trip back to Sarajevo after visiting Site A to take another bus to Site B because there is simply no bus connecting Site A and Site B. Given the infrequent bus service, it is almost always impossible to make two such visits in one day. Renting a car could have been another option, but I was put off by the inadequacy of road signs, many of which are in Cyrillic only. So we went for taking day trips and hiring licensed local guides who also provided transport. This option was not inexpensive, but it allowed us to go to a few places on the same day, and spared us of the worry of landmines, which was a danger when travelling to the remote or unknown countryside.

As it turned out, the guides were invariably young, well-spoken, knowledgeable and helpful. We treated them as friends rather than providers of service, especially the two young men who were with us in Sarajevo and Mostar respectively.  Both of them grew up as children during the war in 1992-1995, so they had remarkable stories to tell about their childhood.

The one who grew up in Sarajevo told us about how even the constant threat of gunfire and grenades could not deter the children from going out during the four-year siege of the city. The civilians had known, with time, where the snipers were positioned, and as long as they stayed clear of the straight line of their gunfire, they would greatly reduce the chance of being shot. But grenades were a totally different matter, and they could land anywhere. Despite the danger, parents were resigned to the fact that their children had to have some activities.

One activity for the children was to run outside after an explosion and race to be the first to grab the tail of the grenade. The greater the tail, the greater the satisfaction. This guide said he had collected some such ‘trophies’ and still keeps them at home.

Another activity during those four years without electricity, water and gas was to collect water for the family. The guide’s family lived on the hill, and about once a week, they had to ride a bicycle to collect water from a nearby collection point – a brewery which had a supply of spring water. The journey to the brewery took about 25 minutes, and the journey back, during which they had to go up the hill with buckets loaded with water, was much tough. Also, the water collection points throughout the city was often shelled, making the trip not only difficult but also dangerous.

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