Voices From Across Bosnia’s Boundary Line

During the Yugoslav era, train conductors Sakib Buzo and Izet Golubić drove all the way from Sarajevo to Belgrade. Now, Buzo and Golubić end their route at Doboj, a city that lies on the border between the Federation and the Republika Srpska.
During the Yugoslav era, train conductors Sakib Buzo and Izet Golubić drove all the way from Sarajevo to Belgrade. Now, Buzo and Golubić end their route at Doboj, a city that lies on the border between the Federation and the Republika Srpska. (Photo by Amanda Rivkin)

Supported by a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, I’ve been exploring Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital that was besieged during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. It took nearly four years to end the violence, a feat that was achieved through a power sharing agreement between Bosnia’s ethnic groups called the Dayton Peace Accord. As we approach the 20th anniversary of Dayton, I’m learning how ethnic divides have affected the reconstruction of the city, as residents try to shape a new multicultural Bosnia. (Read all posts in this series.)

The Dayton Accord brought relief to a battered nation. But the effect was also to physically sort out what remained of the population. Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats streamed into their new sub-state, the Federation, while the Serb population settled in its own, the Republika Srpska. While most of Sarajevo is in Bosnia’s Muslim and Croat territory, a suburb known as East Sarajevo falls just across the boundary in the Serb region.

The groups thrive in their own strongholds, but returning to a mixed coexistence has proved more challenging.

Before Friday prayer at the landmark Gazi Husrev-Bev mosque in Sarajevo’s old town, the interior fills to capacity and officials begin to hurl prayer mats across the courtyard, in a mad dash to accommodate the crowds before the clock strikes one. Dzemal Hrga, 65, a retired painter, watched from the corner on a stoop shaded by an ancient tree. With a crinkled expression and a few missing teeth, he told me that his family has been in Sarajevo for 700 years, —> Read More

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