On April 6, 1992, Sarajevo fell under siege. Troops from the Yugoslav People’s Army (which was controlled by Serbia) and Republika Srpska (which was essentially an area of Bosnia that had declared itself an autonomous region) surrounded the city’s hills and pelted it with mortar shells, sniper fire, and multiple other weapons. Over the course of the next 44 months, more than 11,000 people were killed, and many others were wounded. By some accounts, over 300 grenades fell on the city each day.
During the siege, communication, along with water lines and electricity, was often blocked. People lived in constant fear of death, and many people and children were killed as they went about daily activities, like waiting in line for bread or playing in a park.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been learning about the ever-present fear people felt throughout these months. I have also heard many stories of resilience, such as stories about plays that were put on to keep morale high or schools that were created in stairways so children could continue learning.
On this 21st anniversary, I was able to participate in an act of commemoration with a group of young human rights activists. The Youth Initiative for Human Rights has, for the last few years, been painting Sarajevo Roses to commemorate the victims killed during the siege.
When a mortar shell hit the sidewalk, it essentially left a scar in the concrete. These holes were later filled in with red resin, making them almost look like flowers--Sarajevo Roses. These small memorials have been fading, however, so on Saturday we traveled to some of the areas where mortar shells killed civilians and repainted the roses. The youth also laid fresh roses on top of the concrete scars, something I will never forget.