Introducing a profound and deeply moving narrative as told by a survivor of the horrific Bosnian genocide that marked Sarajevo’s history. From innovative survival strategies to the power of community, this account serves as a testament to resilience, resourcefulness, and an enduring will to survive. This is not just a story of survival, but also a lesson on the strength of the human spirit when faced with unimaginable adversity.
Sarajevo was under siege for 4 years. They cut us off from water, food, electricity, everything but we managed to survive. We built a tunnel to get the injured out, we bartered, we made food & honey out of dandelions, we held concerts underground, prayer in basements. We managed to survive because when you have nothing you have to be resourceful and resilient.
You have to survive. We found ways to do it. Many of us weren’t able to survive but a lot of us did. We fought tooth and nail to persevere. Humans are resilient. We had a bag of coffee and bartered it for medicine.
Even the children we would go to the water aid trucks and fill up bottles & gallons on the rare occasions we got them. All while the snipers would be shooting. The tanks would be shelling. People are strong. The aid that was sent to Sarajevo was so horrific it was often expired, or it was pork (which a Muslim-majority place didn’t really work for us). It was so bad that the dogs wouldn’t even eat it. It was so bad that we raised a monument to it.
The canned beef memorial was dedicated to the International Community for their “help” in providing us with such horrific aid. It was a gesture meant to ridicule them b/c of how horrific the aid actually was. It was disgusting. They sent expired food from the Vietnam war times.
But people still survive. You ate what you could. You made the best of it. Sometimes it was only cheaply made bread but you made it count. You survived because you had to be savvy, resilient, and you had to persevere. People do not understand that. They don’t understand the strength.
I remember eating just these packs of jelly for months on end and lentils. Lots and lots of lentils. It was cheap and accessible. I think when people are raised to have everything, raised in privilege they lose that innate human resourcefulness.
We survived because we had nothing. Even now I never truly worry. I always knows I will manage to survive. Even if I lose a job. Even if the bills go up. Even if war should show up at my doorstep. I would survive because I was taught to survive. I was raised with nothing and that makes a person very resourceful.
And community? Community matters the most. At some points there would be up to 20 people confined to our 2 bedroom apartment. We took care of each other because you had to. All the residents in the basement, hiding from shelling, sharing what they could, taking care of the kids. You have to have trust in others during times of strife. Look at the Palestinians, look at how they support each other, how they share food with each other, console one another. That sort of communal love helps people survive.Credits to Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura.