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New Europe

Day Fourteen: Mostar to Sarajevo

Michael Palin - New EuropeIn a comfortable, elegantly appointed restaurant off a dusty street I meet a group of Sarajevans who all work in films, television or journalism: Ademir, a film director and producer, Glava, a bearded heavily built Serb who's just written a comedy screenplay, and Srdjan (imagine 'Sir John' in an American accent), also a writer and director. They're full of plans for future projects, but, as a newcomer in town, I can't help asking about the past.

Srdjan sighs. Sarajevans today don't want to talk about the war. But once they start they can't stop. Ademir, tall, thin, with a strong, ascetic face, is the oldest of the men and Bosnia's most respected film maker. He was one of the few who managed to get in and out of the city during the siege.

'The only way was on a plane. They were operated by Germans, Americans and French. We called them Maybe Airlines. Maybe the plane would take off, maybe not.'

Boarding call was a shout or a gesture followed by a sprint out to the aircraft, carrying all your own bags and wearing an improvised UN flak jacket.

The next thing he knew he was in Cannes or San Francisco. 'It was hard to get out, but so much harder to come back. To come from the world like that to a city without electricity, telephone, running water.' He shakes his head as though he still can't comprehend it.

He's bitter about the siege, but reserves his anger equally for Serbia's President Milosevic and the system that allowed him to do what he did and the countries of the West that ignored the plight of Sarajevo for so long.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Fourteen: Mostar to Sarajevo
  • Country/sea: Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Place: Sarajevo
  • Book page no: 38

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