SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnians recalled the trauma of their own war as they protested on Friday against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, urging the world to learn the lessons from their experience.
While there have been protests against the conflict in cities across the world – including in Moscow – for activists in Sarajevo, the memories of the 1990s are still raw.
“I cannot be indifferent to this,” said Ferida Durakovic, a writer and peace activist who spent the whole war in Sarajevo, which was besieged by Serb forces for 43 months, with 11,000 of its citizens killed in shelling and by sniper fire.
“I’ve been hit by the PTSD, I see the images of what I’ve been through … I need to say – stop, talk, negotiate for years if needed, just don’t make war.”
She was among dozens protesters who gathered at the monument to the 1,600 children killed in the city, carrying placards reading “Anti-war position is the only Position”, “Sarajevo Understands” and “Learn from Sarajevo, Save Kyiv”.
The Bosnian war among Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, in which 100,000 people died and about 2 million were forced from their homes, has left the country split along ethnic lines and made it dysfunctional and unstable.
Ajna Jusic, who was born of rape during the war, carried a placard reading “Stop the War, Don’t Abandon Ukraine as You Abandoned Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
“When I saw the invasion on Ukraine, my blood froze because I know what my mother had been through, what other people had been through, and I still feel the pain and suffering caused by that war,” Jusic said.
Jasminko Halilovic, the founder of the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, which has a branch in Kyiv documenting memories of children during the years of fighting in eastern Ukraine, said that his staff were trying to leave Ukraine “as we speak”.
“I feel terrible – I don’t sleep, I am disgusted that something like this is happening in Europe again,” Halilovic said, wrapped in the Ukrainian yellow-blue flag.
“I am disappointed in the European Union and its indecisiveness. I think that Ukrainians are not fighting just for themselves, they are fighting for the whole of Europe.”
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Alison Williams)