Sarajevo, A Survivors' Guide

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The Independent Culture
AFTER nearly two years of war, the people of Sarajevo have adapted heroically to the demechanisation of their city's life. Some are making a killing, exploiting the city's needs, running guns and selling food aid on the black market. Others have turned to improvisation, or have rolled up their sleeves and gone back to the land.

Despite the tentative ceasefire, fierce fighting over the last few months has badly hampered relief work, and the UN relief agency fears starvation will hit the city, which is already weakened by months of battle. These pictures were taken over the summer among the people of Sarajevo, who have had to learn how to survive under fire. Food stocks and body fat have been consumed; the little the UN brings in has been much reduced in recent months and falls woefully short of families' needs.

The Sarajevo cityscape is changing. Every spare piece of land is turned over to growing food. Urban workers have emerged from their apartment blocks to form farming collectives and dig up flower beds and parks.

The water shortage is acute - as there is no diesel to power the pumps - and supplies have dropped to as little as two litres per person per day. Diesel is also desperately needed for heating as winter approaches: most of Sarajevo's trees were cut down to burn last winter. The city has been without electricity since the beginning of the war and there is no fuel for generators. But the war has turned bureaucrats into artisans: one man has built his own hydro-electric dam, another has adapted his stereo system to be wound with a handle.

Everything from food parcels to car wrecks is resold and recycled. The Red Cross brought in 500 solar-powered lamps, but this makes little impression on a population of 300,000; candles, the only source of light, are burnt down to a stub, then remoulded and used again. Cars are no use without petrol, but car batteries can be recharged and used as a domestic power source. Material resources in Sarajevo may be exhausted, but human resources are in strong supply.

(Photographs omitted)

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