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Education And Debate

Letter from Bosnia-Hercegovina: Signs of hope

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 16 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:698
  1. Lynne Jones, senior registrara
  1. a Institute of Family Psychiatry, Ipswich IP1 3TF
  • Accepted 6 February 1996

“Welcome to Sarajevo,” Semir said. “You see that everything is exactly the same—no gas, no water, no electricity, shelling, and sniping.” Three hours earlier I had arrived back in Bosnia to work with children with special needs and was startled to find myself in a city with brightly lit shops, including a Benetton in the main street, and full cafes. One hour later the city's fragile power supply had given in to the heaviest December snowfall in 10 years, and Sarajevo was plunged into foggy gloom. So now I sat huddled under blankets in the flat of Dr Narcisa Pojskic and her husband, Dr Semir Beslija, two physicians who had stayed in Sarajevo throughout the war. Dr Beslija had divided his time between clinical duties in the city and the front line. Dr Pojskic had helped to set up and run the mental health project of one of the larger nongovernmental organisations. Both viewed the peace plan with a mixture of cautious optimism and ambivalence.

They were all too aware of the flaws. They could not, for example, imagine how the unprecedented creation of a supposedly unified state with three separate armies was supposed to work. Nor did they believe that Bosnians expelled from cities remaining under Serb control would exercise their right to return. “So the Serbs will have their ethnically pure state, at least in the immediate future,” said Semir. And the reality of an undivided Sarajevo had yet to be brought about. On the day the Dayton agreement was signed in Paris there had been some 300 sniping incidents and four shells lobbed into the city. The following day demonstrating Serbs had blocked convoys through the Karazic controlled suburbs of Iliza. “We do not feel it is peace yet,” Narcisa explained. “We can smell it, but until …

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