The Bosnia Crisis: Death departs, the agony lingers on: With the Nato deadline only hours away, war-weary Sarajevans expect little relief from the day-to-day misery: Life under siege

ON THE EVE of the Nato deadline yesterday, an old man shuffled past the spot, by a bridge across the Miljacka river, where Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Ferdinand and started the First World War. The old man was carrying a drawer full of cinders from his stove. Snow was falling heavily.

'Nobody knows whether peace is coming,' he said. 'It's in God's hands. We hope things will get better, but it's still very hard. We can walk freely now (since the truce) but nothing more.' He was wearing a threadbare coat, a thin scarf and a cap; he is 79 and survives on humanitarian aid. He has no family here; he lives alone. And he is afraid that if Nato does call in air strikes, the Serbs will punish Sarajevo with a renewed bout of shelling.

His fears were echoed by a couple of young Bosnian soldiers on R & R. 'If Nato did bomb, (the Serbs) would shell even more,' said Almir Smajkan, who is 20. 'But then it was just a gesture anyway. Even if the Serbs don't withdraw their weapons, Nato will not attack.'

His comrade, Nedim Feto, is only 17 but already battle-hardened. He says he joined the Green Berets, a Muslim paramilitary force, in September 1991, before the Bosnian war began, when he was only 14. 'I don't think peace will ever come,' he said. 'The problem is too big. Nato's threat will never end the war. They should lift the arms embargo - in that case the war would be over in two months. But they won't do that, because everybody is on the Serbs' side.'

People went about their business as usual: a woman doing her washing at a water pump, a girl loading plastic water containers on to a sledge, a man using a wheelbarrow for a similar task. It is Ramadan, but you would be hard-pressed to find evidence of it in this supposedly Muslim city.

There is little optimism on display either. Asked what they think will happen tonight and beyond, most reply, 'I don't know,' and pause to reflect. They say they hope for peace, but without much conviction.

Jasmina Dulic is in her mid-

fifties, smartly dressed in a mink coat, fur hat, wearing pink lipstick and using an umbrella to shield herself from the snow. 'I hope it means peace, but to me the deadline means nothing,' she said. 'I won't be watching the clock until then. I'll be going to bed early, because I have no electricity. Life is better now because there is no shelling, but nothing else has changed.'

That is another common theme: the truce has ended fears of a quick death, but people say that unless the siege is actually lifted, all they have to look forward to is a slow death.

'It's not enough just to stop shelling, they must lift the blockade,' said Muhamed Ajdinovic, a cheerful man selling books on the pavement in the city centre. He is a retired shoe salesman who makes ends meet by selling the books of friends and neighbours for a small commission. He will sell you Anna Karenina or Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (in Serbo-Croat) for two German marks apiece, but business is not thriving. 'People want to read, but many just can't afford it,' he said.

For those eager to read in English, a stall down the road is selling a copy of Cosmopolitan for January 1987, price 90p, for one mark. The stall offers Bosnian newspapers and women's turbans in green, blue or red. The stallholder doesn't want to talk about the war or Nato.

Neither does a young man at the Jewish centre, who, reluctant to give his real name, settles for Jovan (John). 'I don't want to think about politics or the military. I'm 20 and it's all just so stupid,' he said. 'I want to get out of here, anywhere, I don't care.'

The synagogue, a short walk from Princip Bridge (renamed Austria Bridge), is an imposing pink building that has survived the shelling pretty well. But it has been closed throughout the war because, Jovan said, 'the old people, who are the most religious, are frightened to come out'. There is no rabbi, but he says there never has been; that job is done by a prominent local Jew.

Jovan is now in charge of the Jewish post office - the community is extremely well organised, receiving letters, money and aid packages fairly regularly - but is hoping to return to his studies and become an engineer. His parents made him stop going to classes because they were afraid he would be wounded or killed.

He has few hopes for Sarajevo and is cynical about all sides. 'Nobody can help us because we are stupid - that's the problem. Our people want war. When we decide to stop the war, it will stop - but that has not happened yet.'

Should that time come, it is likely to produce a exodus from the city. In the past few weeks, flyposters have gone up around the city: Interlingua is offering intensive courses in English, French, German and Italian, in preparation, it seems for the day they open the road out.

Vojislav, the director of personnel at a factory that made railway tracks and other steel products before the war, and now makes stoves and military equipment, is among those who plans to leave. He and his son have Serbian names; his wife has a Muslim name. That was all right before, but now he worries.

'The hatred is so deep,' he says. 'They (the West) call us Balkan savages, and some of us are. Things have happened so terrible that I can't see any future here.' In Serbian areas his wife will be a second-class citizen, he says, and in Muslim areas he will be. 'I think mixed marriages can now survive only in another country.'

Throughout this war, the besieging forces of Sarajevo have sought to do more than maim and kill - they have tried to destroy an entire city, a civilised society, a spirit. And from what Vojislav says, they have done a good job. 'When the first victim died it was a disaster for us. With the second and third, we started getting used to it. And now, when the shells come we are just happy, because it has not hurt us. It's very dangerous, because we are losing our sense of humanity.'

And that will not return for many years, whatever Nato or the United Nations does now.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: Geography Teacher neede...

***Sports Graduate***

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: This role has arisen due to inc...

Business StudiesTeacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Bu...

***Are you a Support Worker? or a Youth Worker? ***

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The RoleDue to demand we are cu...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past