By MEP Doris Gisela Pack (DE/EPP)
What was it like to grow up in a Sarajevo under siege? Now that we are some years on from the terrible events of the early nineties, I thought it was time for some reflection. In cooperation with Mr Dino Elezović of the Sarajevo Canton – Regional Representation in Brussels, I invited author Jasminko Halilović and other contributors, to read from “War Childhood: Sarajevo 1992–1995” (“Djetinjstvo u ratu) at the Library of the European Parliament on 28 May.
We can probably all remember the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted 1,452 days (the longest siege in modern history), where more than 11,500 civilians lost their lives. Daily life continued under very difficult conditions, and tens of thousands of children grew up deprived of their freedom. When I first saw this book, I was struck by how very positive it is – it could so easily have concentrated on the death and destruction visited on a whole generation, but the story which emerges is actually a moving co-creation of many, many stories.
Over 1,000 people contributed to the book who actually lived through the siege.
This book is a unique concept: Halilović aims to explore the experiences and memories of those people, now adults, who were children under the siege. His idea was to set up a website for people to post their own recollections (in under 160 characters). Now living in 35 countries, these “war children” responded to his call and took an active part in the project, providing photos, diary entries, letters and drawings. This mosaic of memories comes together in a fascinating, kaleidoscopic way, to tell the story of the besieged generation.
As Chairman of the European Culture Committee, I applaud Mr Halilović’s efforts to ensure that we do not forget this period of recent European history.