Andrej Nikolaidis writes: Jorge Luis Borges once said that a true gentleman is interested in lost causes only. If you’re looking for a decent contemporary lost cause, you will surely find it in Ukraine, since if it comes to war, no matter who wins, most of the ordinary people will be losers.
We, the citizens of Bosnia, can tell you a thing or two about being losers. It was April 1992, during the start of Sarajevo’s siege. I was a long-haired teenager, dressed in blue jeans and a shirt with the famous black and white “Unknown Pleasures” print. From the window of my suburban flat, I was watching the Yugoslav People Army’s cannons, located in the Lukavica army camp, firing projectiles on Sarajevo. That army was controlled by Slobodan Milošević, the president of Serbia.
The National Radio was broadcasting Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović‘s discussion with Yugoslav army general Milutin Kukanjac. Izetbegovic asked the army to stop the bombing. Kukanjac claimed that not a single shot was fired from his army positions. I remember like it was yesterday that my glass of milk was jumping on the table to the rhythm of cannonballs “not fired” on Sarajevo.
When common people find themselves in the middle of a geopolitical storm – as the citizens of Ukraine do now, or my family back then in Bosnia – the dilemma “is this glass half empty or half full?” is irrelevant: soon, it will be broken.
The people in Bosnia were so full of optimism during the first days, even months, of war. Neighbours were saying that the west would never allow it to happen because “we are Europe”. My aunt went to Belgrade, but refused to take her money from a Sarajevo bank. It will be over in a week; we’ll be back soon, she said. President Izetbegovic, in his TV address to the people, said: “Sleep peacefully: there will be no war.”
Well, we woke up after a four-year nightmare.
Now, the events in Ukraine seem to us Bosnians like a terrifying deja vu. The parallels between Ukraine now and Bosnia in 1992 are obvious. The Russian army acted aggressively towards Ukraine, as Milošević’s army did in Bosnia. Putin had strong support in parts of Ukraine, as Milošević had in large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now Kiev has the support of the EU and the US, as Sarajevo did. We even had Bono and Pavarotti singing about Miss Sarajevo. Yet all the musical telegrams of support from the free world didn’t stop the ethnic cleansing in eastern Bosnia, close to the Serbian border. [Continue reading…]