Letter: Conditions in Belgrade parallel those in Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was interested to read Emma Daly's article today ('City under siege feels betrayed by Europe', 24 February). The thrust of the article was to express the disillusionment of Sarajevan youth and their general desire to leave at the first opportunity. Having spent five weeks in Serbia over Christmas, I found the parallel with Belgrade

remarkable.

There, too, salaries and pensions are meaningless; a young doctor I met earned three Deutschmarks per month and his most urgent questioning concerned the possibility of finding work as a medic in England. There, too, coffees and Cokes in cafes are quite beyond the reach of ordinary people, though still at perhaps half the Sarajevo prices. The pensioners and young mothers in the queue for food handouts will tell one what a bright, lively city Belgrade used to be, full of cinemas, restaurants and bright lights; now it is grey and drab. In Serbia, too, taxi drivers have degrees - I was driven from Budapest by a naval architect and back by an engineer.

The overriding desire of young people in Belgrade is to get out as soon as possible. I carried a parcel to a friend's nephews and among the soap, toothpaste, aspirin and chocolate, denied them by the UN sanctions, were application forms for emigration to New Zealand.

Of course, the comparison is not unlimited; no bombs have fallen on Belgrade. There are no water shortages and no prospects of imminent death, though most residents have a son, brother, friend or cousin at the front line. However, if Sarajevo is a destroyed city, Belgrade is a crumbling one. If Muslims do not trust Russian UN troops, no more do Serbs trust French ones.

Yours sincerely,

G. D. MOGGRIDGE

Fellow

King's College

Cambridge

23 February

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