Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bruce on Our Spectacular Good Luck

I have often said that if I win the lottery, my prize will be two weeks  in Alexandria--like, Egypt--in  1912--like, a patchwork of ethnic sounds and smells.  Or Smyrna/Izmir.  Or Thessaloniki.  Or Sarajevo.  Right, Sarajevo, the last of the great cosmopolitan cities   Or so it was until the Serbians so murderously invaded--and the United Nations so cravenly responded--back in the 90s.

My friend Bruce (sic) is just back from Sarajevo.   He reports:
.. I was overwhelmed by the residue of war.  Still lots of buildings bullet-ridden, although many obviously repaired.  I attach a few pictures.  The first is a panoramic of Sarajevo -- beautiful city, and you can see snow on the mountains in the background.

The next is a cemetery.  Most of the headstones in the cemetery bear a death date during the war -- there are 10 such cemeteries through Sarajevo, all overfull. Each has a 24-hour military guard who stands still with his hand over his heart, unless you hold your hands as though you were reading a book -- the Muslim gesture for prayer -- and then the guard gives a Bosnian salute -- he takes his hand from his heart and displays his open palm on the right side of his body. 

The last picture is of the downtown open market, not a quarter mile from where we worked. It was the site of two massacres during the war. The first massacre happened on 5 February 1994; 68 people were killed and 144 more were wounded when the Serbs launched mortar shells into the city from their positions near the place where I took the panoramic view. The second occurred on 28 August 1995 when five more mortar shells killed 43 people and wounded another 75. This latter attack was the stated reason for NATO air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces. The Serbian military generals who ordered the shelling were tried as war criminals, convicted, and are now serving life sentences. To the end, they contended that the Bosnian forces shelled their own people to foment international sympathy for them. The red glass wall at the back of the market has the names of those killed inscribed in gold.

 Bruce concludes:
I don't know why I'm writing this to you, except the blog posts on the Boston suspect made me think that we are spectacularly lucky here that we do not have more of the type of sorrow Sarajevo has experienced.
Right.  And so say all of us.

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