'But tomorrow I may be shot': Sarajevans tell Steve Crawshaw that helping a few children only scratches the surface of the catastrophe; outside help is needed

WHEN Ina Arnataulic got up yesterday morning, her first question was: 'What will I do if you are killed, mummy?'

It was a practical question, but one to which her mother, Prema, could find no reply. Two hours later, as Prema stood by the bus that was to take her 10-year-old daughter out of Sarajevo and abroad, she angrily wiped the tears off her cheeks as she told the story. Ina waved from the bus, gave the thumbs-up and gestured insistently that her mother should not cry.

Ina was one of about 100 children who left Sarajevo for the West in French buses yesterday morning. Some - including about 50 orphans - have been guaranteed places to stay by the Italian government. Others hope to find places with families. They were pasty-faced, from weeks without sunlight or vitamins.

Jadranka Kravljaca, mother of 10-year-old Andrei, said he had not been outside their apartment block since 2 May, because of the danger from Serbian shells. 'We have nothing left at home except flour. Yesterday, we had some cheese, from humanitarian aid. It was the first time in three months. I don't need to eat. But my son must be able to eat.'

There is little doubt of the courage and dedication of those people like Sonja Richtman, the organiser of the 'children's embassy' in Sarajevo, who oversaw yesterday's evacuation of the children. However, Ms Richtman is the first to acknowledge that their efforts are merely a drop in the ocean. When she first announced plans for such a children's convoy, she received thousands of calls, 'from early in the morning until late at night'.

The plight of the children of Sarajevo has plucked at the political heartstrings. John Major told the House of Commons last week the Government stood ready to evacuate children if needed or to send medical teams to aid them.

Last week, Britain - with a mini-fanfare of publicity - sent out a team of doctors to gather information about the medical needs of children in Sarajevo. Depending on the doctors' verdict, the UK may now open its doors to a few children, or send out some medical supplies to Sarajevo.

When a government helps a few children, it can be confident of a sympathetic response. But that does not begin to scratch at the surface of the catastrophe that has overtaken Sarajevo - which is still causing children and adults to be maimed and killed.

As Ms Richtman says: 'If we stop the war, we don't need to evacuate the children. I'm not sure the West acknowledges the seriousness of the situation. If somebody comes to Sarajevo for one day, maybe that's not enough.' Many Sarajevans thinks tougher Western action is needed against Radovan Karadzic, self- proclaimed leader of Bosnian Serbs, whose forces continue to besiege Sarajevo.

Jadranka Kravljaca - a typically Bosnian mixture of Serb, Croat and Muslim - said the West must 'destroy the tanks, the howitzers in the hills'. Mr Karadzic's offers in London of a ceasefire last week were described as 'lies, all lies'.

As I write these words, at 11.02am on Saturday, there have just been two more loud explosions, as Serbian grenades or mortars land in the town. Maybe one or two people - Bosnian Serbs, Croats, or Muslims - have been killed. Or perhaps Mr Karadzic has only destroyed their apartment and life's possessions. There are no more explosions for the moment. But I can again hear the crack of sniper's bullets.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, partially acknowledged the problem when he said during his brief, nervous-looking visit to Sarajevo on Friday (a notable contrast to President Francois Mitterrand's earlier sang-froid): 'Humanitarian efforts don't cure the problem - a problem of fighting. Efforts to stop the fighting have to be persevered with.'

And yet, Britain has until now been unwilling to put the war at the top of the agenda. Serbs, Muslims and Croats in Sarajevo are all being killed by the Serbian forces in the surrounding hills. Somehow, that has to stop. In this context, all other humanitarian issues are forced into second place.

In the words of Nora, a psychology student who stood calmly chatting with friends in the centre of Sarajevo one evening last week, as gunfire reverberated around the town: 'I can eat all day long. But that does not change the fact that tomorrow I may be shot.'

Asked where she thought the way out of Sarajevo's agony lay, she said simply: 'The United States.' Like many others in Sarajevo, she insisted the Serbian gunners in the hills should be bombed - by American planes.

Certainly, few expect much from the ceasefire theoretically offered by Mr Karadzic. One Sarajevan, asked if he believed the ceasefire would be real, threw up his arms with a weary smile.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map