Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Four bombs recovered from the Sana River.

The four explosives discovered at the bottom of the
Sana River in Prijedor, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
(Source: Klix.ba)
Divers have recovered four bombs from the bottom of the Sana River in the Republika Srpska city of Prijedor.

In conjunction with the National Civil Protection (NCP) agency, the divers pulled the bombs from the bottom of the 3-and-a-half-metre deep river a number of days ago.

Although the Sana River is extremely popular with swimmers, the explosives, which were discovered within a square metre of each other, were not said to pose a threat to the public due to their depth.

Nonetheless, authorities in Prijedor, as well as other parts of Bosnia, have requested the public to report any sightings of explosives and weapons.

Drasko Denadija, the associate for civil protection in the Prijedor region, made reference to the discovery at the bottom of the Sana River to state how important is public compliance to ensure safety for citizens.

"These are risky actions, but because of the importance and safety of swimmers we decide on them as a last resort," Denadija said. "Rejection of unexploded ordnances in nature, especially in streams, is unacceptable because it represents a constant threat, and when such items are found in such places - it is very difficult to remove."

According to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Centre, there remains an estimated 650,000 unexploded mines and 670,000 unexploded munitions in the country.

Ramadan: Day 4 & 5.

This will be a short entry today as, to be perfectly honest, there isn't much to say!

Yesterday I restarted my fasting commitments - and, all things considered, I did pretty well!

As I sit and write this on day 5, it is currently half-past-three in the afternoon, meaning I have about five hours remaining before I can begin eating and drinking again.

It's tough to think about that, especially when my stomach is grumbling and I am feeling so thirsty, but all you can do is try and put your mind to other things and not continually watch the clock ticking (or, as I sometimes believe, not ticking!).

At least (erm, I guess) there have been a few follow-up earthquakes in the area following the big 4.7 shake in Zenica on Saturday morning.

Check out this video from a camera in Visoko, located halfway between Zenica and the capital of Sarajevo.
You can see the difference between how the quake is felt inside a building compared to outside on the street:

Back to the topic at hand though, as I have previously written - and I just have to reiterate it - the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the fasting day is really quite something.

There's always a point throughout each day where I tell myself, "No, no way I can do this again tomorrow," but, once I have a bit of a feed during the night, I compose myself and prepare to do it all over again the next day.

Again, my spirits are high and, as a person, I'm feeling more refreshed as each day passes.

Man, though, I can't wait to chow down some food in a few hours, though! Cevapi, anyone?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ramadan: Update!

The Ramadan crescent.
(Source: ChezChiara.com)
G'day people,

As you're probably aware, I haven't been keeping you all up to date with my Ramadan fasting progress, so here you are:

Sadly, since my 'day three' entry, I have been unable (or, at times, unwilling) to fast. This can be put down to a number of reasons, with the main barrier being the fact I was in Sarajevo, and showing a few of my Melburnian friends around the place, that I just didn't seem to have the time, nor the ability.

Whether those are really good-enough reasons, I'm not entirely convinced.

However, there was one positive outcome from my week in Sarajevo - I managed to avoid alcohol completely! (As I told you previously, consuming alcohol anytime during Ramadan is completely prohibited in Islam; it doesn't matter if it's between the sunset and sunrise - it's simply not allowed.)

To be truthful, I expected to cop a bit of stick from the Aussie boys when I gave them my reasons for not sharing a beer with them, but, to my surprise, they were very understanding and respectful. Cheers, lads.

Anyway, because I've now gone six or seven days without fasting, I must admit I've been feeling a bit unmotivated because of my recent inaction.

So, today, in just over one hour - I'm planning on getting back in the thick of things and progressing to my fourth day of fasting! In some weird, strange way, I am rather excited about it.

Although my reasons for fasting this Ramadan month somewhat deviates from the Muslims who are participating in it -- I am doing it for education and understanding more-so than to re-focus my commitment on God or for purifying my soul -- I must say that I have been experiencing emotions I did not expect.

For example, I feel a greater sense of self-worth, as well as, how can I say it, a bit 'cleaner', thanks to the abstinence from such things as alcohol. In other words, my spirit is higher and my body feels better!

So, right there, I am noticing not just physical advantages, but psychological advantages, also.

Well, my eyes are becoming weary as I type this, which is usually a sign it might be time to quickly brush the teeth and nod off to sleep. Speak to you guys in 24 hours.

PS. Here's an interesting Ramadan fact:

As I explained to you guys in an entry a week or so back, Muslims believe that all 'good' things a person does during the month of Ramadan is enormously multiplied than during other months of the year (the same goes for 'bad' things a person may do .. which is why the rule of no alcohol is pretty strict this time of year). One 'positive' action that is particularly viewed upon favourably is when a Muslim prepares a meal, or drink, for another Muslim whom is fasting. Moreover, it is said that they who prepare and provide that meal, will receive the same reward(s) from God, as if it was they themselves who were fasting that day.

Although this caused some initial confusion for me -- I thought that, in theory, one might simply say, "Really don't think I can be bothered today. Gonna drink some coffee and eat pizza this afternoon, then I'll prepare a meal for the family tonight. Too easy!" -- I soon discovered that this only applies to the Muslim who has a legitimate excuse for not fasting that day; for example, a girl going through menstruation; or any person who is feeling unwell.

Simply put, it encourages positive social behaviour and interaction with those around you.

Nice one, I think!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Photo of the Day: Mostar!

One of the 49 competitors involved in this year's 446th annual Mostar
Bridge Jump takes a leap from the Stari Most (a.k.a the 'Old Bridge').
(Source: Klix.ba)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Earthquake shakes Zenica.

Fallen debris in Zenica's main strip.
(Source: ZenicaBlog / Jasmin Hadzic)
Early this morning in Zenica, around 1.15am local time, I finally experienced my first earthquake on this earth in twenty years.

Boy, did it scare the crap out of me.

As I said to others this morning, you can only imagine the stupid thoughts running through your head when your Bosnian apartment block begins rumbling and shaking. In the end, I was somewhat thankful it was 'just' an earthquake.

Official reports state that the tremor measured 4.7 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre seven kilometres east of Zenica, striking 2 kilometres underneath the earth's surface. It is believed to be the strongest of its kind in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the last 38 years.

The quake lasted all of ten seconds, and was followed by three aftershocks in the hours afterwards. It was said to be felt as far west as Banja Luka, as well as in the east in Serbia.

Locals stand on the street after evacuating
their buildings. (Source: ZenicaBlog / Jasmin Hadzic)
There were reports of only minor damage to infrastructure, with the main occurrence seeming to be several bricks collapsing from the roof and walls of a small building in Zenica's main street.

Thousands of people across the city evacuated their buildings as a precautionary measure.

That included me, who, I believe, was the first one to make it outside of our 12-story apartment block. (Gee, all I wanted was a quick bite before bed when, all of a sudden, the earth begins to shake!)

In all truth, I wasn't going to take my chances!

Some people did not reveal themselves from the building for dozens of minutes, while others didn't budge from their apartment at all! Crazy Bosnians...

Very surreal stuff, but I'm alive, as is everyone here.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Don't expect to hear from me for a few days!

Hey guys,

I am currently in Sarajevo this week and, most likely, won't be able to write anything over the next few days.

However, expect me to come back with a 'bang' (pfft) by Friday or Saturday.

Take care! :)

Monday, 23 July 2012

True story...

Maghrib = the fourth prayer of the day. During Ramadan, this is when we can start eating!

Ramadan: Day Three

Thousands turned out on Zenica's main square for the
Iftar evening. PS: Can you spot me?
 (Source: Zenica Foto)
Today marked day three of my Ramadan fasting experience.

My last two Ramadan entries went into detail about my personal progression each day with the abstinence of all food and drink - but today I will avoid that altogether.

Yes, I managed to successfully fast another day (or, so I believe), but I prefer to discuss another Ramadan-related event that occurred in my current city of Zenica this evening.

Earlier today, my partner and I came across a news article detailing how some people from a Turkish municipality were planning a big Iftar event in central Zenica tonight.

As you should know by now, Iftar is the name of the feast following the fourth prayer of the day. Citizens from Bayrampasa - a suburban district of Istanbul - came to the city today, spending hours setting up dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tables and chairs, and putting free meals on offer for those wishing to join in on the Iftar 'festivities'.
The set-up from above. (Source: Zenica Foto)

Although, undoubtedly, there was a bit of a 'Hell yeah, free meal!' attitude in my head, I was mostly keen to head down to the event to experience some cultural traditions in action.

Expecting to see 100 people present, at best, I was shocked when I arrived to see almost twenty times that amount. Bosnian news portal Klix.ba reported that 2000 Zenica locals turned out for the event (they forgot about the one Australian!).

It was an enjoyable evening, not only because the food was surprisingly decent, but also because it gave me an opportunity to witness the close ties that remain between the citizens of Bosnia and Turkey.

It also provided a refreshing illustration of how religion can bring people from across the world together, and for good purposes.

Some people left as quickly as they had come!
Zenica's Mayor, Husejin Smajlovic, was extremely grateful to the Turkish volunteers for their efforts.

"Peace to everyone and I wish to thank every one of you for coming to this Iftar," Smajlovic said on the evening. "To my colleagues and all Turkish people who are organising this tradition for years, I want to express my large appreciation. They presented to us another type of Iftar where it also provides a social context. I hope that we will see each other again."

The event in Zenica tonight formed part of the "Ramadan in the Balkans" project, which was organised by the Bayrampasa people.

There will be a similar special Iftar dinner in Konjic tomorrow night, followed by another in Srebrenica on Tuesday.

Aussie takes home short film gong in Bosnia.

The awards ceremony in Banja Luka. (Source: Klix.ba)
Australian director Andrew Kavanagh has won the prize for best film at the sixth annual International "Kratkofil Plus" Film Festival held in the Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Banja Luka.

Kavanagh, a Melburnian, took home the award for his work on the short-feature movie 'At the Formal'.

The three jury members - comprising of a Croatian media-activist/producer, as well as an Estonian film critic and a Spaniard screenwriter/director - were unequivocal in their support for the film, stating: "This fiction film lingers for a long time in our mind, and its story is so powerful."

Kavanagh competed with dozens of competitors from all around the globe before taking home the prize.

You can check out the trailer for the film here:

Well done, Andrew!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Ramadan: Day Two.

Day two of my Ramadan 'fasting experience' has finally come to a conclusion.

(But I will try to keep this entry brief, guys.)

What can I say? Today proved a much larger challenge than yesterday!

Maybe it was fate that wished to challenge me after my display of a little bit of cockiness - or over-confidence - on the first day.

The day wasn't off to a great start when I only managed seven hours asleep - waking up in sweaty conditions around 10.30am. At that time, with a casual ten hours remaining until the end of the day's fast, I was already dehydrated and hungry!

I wasn't going to fall down easily, however, and I managed to stick it out once again, though somewhat more painfully than the previous day. Some stomach pains and tiredness were persistent but, lets be honest, these Ramadan-related blog entries aren't entirely about me.

So, to shift the conversation;

I just want to say that I was - and still am(!) - amazed by the amount of people I witnessed attending prayers at the local mosque this evening.

Although, of course, I was unable to gather anywhere near an exact figure, I estimate that there must have been up to 500 people - more or less - who were in attendance.

More spectacular was the fact that almost, literally, all age groups were represented, with son-mother-and-grandparent combinations a common sight.

I was impressed, and it further re-installed - to me - the importance of religion in this city and nation, as well as providing a clue that this will be the case for many generations to come.

Quite different to Australia - whether good, bad or neither - I must say!
Anyway, speak to you tomorrow, time for some much-needed sleep!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Senad Hadzic takes giant leap in his 'Path of Light' trek.

Finally!: Senad with the Bosnia-Herzegovina flag in
Saudi Arabia. (Source: Klix.ba)
Several days ago I brought you the story of Senad Hadzic, a man making the 6000-kilometre journey from his town in northern Bosnia all the way to Mecca - by foot!

In the last few days, there has been a promising development for Hadzic's cause, with the 47-year-old finally managing to get his hands on a Saudi Arabian visa.

Although the man from Banovici has faced a number of difficulties on the road so far including trekking through war zones, extreme heat, as well as experiencing health problems and money disappearing - gaining the visa for the large Islamic state proved one of the most challenging.

A number of days ago, Hadzic finally - after seven months and ten days of walking - crossed the border from Jordan into Saudi Arabia. Although, he acknowledges there remains some way to go before he reaches his target.

"There is still 1,300-kilometres to Mecca," Hadzic said. "This will be the toughest section of the 'Path of Light' - in which I will walk on the hot, desert sand and through high temperatures."

The Bosnian took off on his journey on December 10 last year, and intends to reach Mecca in time for the Hajj pilgrimage due to occur at the end of October.

Ramadan: Day One.

Well, day one of my fasting experience has come to a conclusion, and I am thankful to say: I am alive!

My first thoughts?

To be perfectly honest, my first day without food, drink + other things (like not being able to physically touch my girlfriend in, almost, any way) was not as difficult as I had anticipated it to be.

Pretty happy with the fact it's finally time to tuck into
some food!
True, there were some close moments where I nearly 'broke' the fast, but, in the end, I was able to withstand the 17 hours.

[On that note, I'm quite thankful I'm not in Scandinavia at the moment, where the fasts are said to last 21 hours per day at the moment!]

The day began and, with first prayer (the signal of the beginning of the fasting day) occurring just after 3am, I made sure to get a good feed in at around 2 in the morning. Actually, I went so hard chowing down a burek my girlfriend had made, that I chipped a good chunk out of one my tooths!

So, it wasn't a great start for myself, but a sleep-in 'til around midday fixed things up a bit.

For the remaining 7-8 hours, it was tough - but I found the biggest struggle to be dehydration, certainly not from hunger. My stomach did get a bit rowdy come the 15th or 16th hour, but nothing to become overly-concerned about.

The feeling when 'iftar' - which is the name of the meal following the conclusion of the fasting day - arrives is a good feeling, though. If the feeling of accomplishment to me was as big as it was, then I can only imagine the feeling Muslims have when they are doing it for their God and their religion.

I must admit I was a bit like a child on Christmas morning in those final 5-10 minutes before Iftar ... staring out the window for the green Mosque lights to come on!

Currently, it's 12:40am local Zenica time, and there's quite a number of people alive and awake outside - but not quite as many as I had expected. I intend to travel to the city centre at least once during the evening this Ramadan, where, perhaps, it is more busy.

As for myself, my body and health is pretty good. I probably went a bit too hard on the food and drink, and all a bit too quickly, but each minute it is settling more and more, and I am already preparing myself for day two, which is due to begin in just over two hours.

Again, wish me and all fasters (particularly those in Scandinavia, I think!) some luck.

Maybe it will tougher from here!

By the way, check out how they signalled Iftar in Sarajevo this evening. Just a casual shooting-of-a-cannonball into the sky!
Quite magnificent, as is the sight of the lights of the mosques afterwards. 

A truly amazing city, check out the vid [if you're impatient, skip to 1:50 for the 'action']:

Friday, 20 July 2012

Cevapi Restaurant in New York!

The Cevabdzinica Sarajevo in Queens, NY.
(Source: Jackie Klempay / Klix.ba)
If you've been to New York in the past and thought that you could smell Sarajevo - even for just one second - you would not have been far off!

Well, maybe a little.

Situated in Queens, New York, is the 'Cevabdzinica Sarajevo' restaurant, run by former Sarajevans Ifeta and Ismet Huskovic.

The pair had owned their own cevapi diner in the Sarajevo district several decades ago before war forced them to flee to the United States in 1994.

Five years after settling, and after finally saving the money - with help from a US bank loan in the tens of thousands - the Huskovic's opened the Queens-based restaurant.

Specialising in the popular Balkan dish of, unsurprisingly, cevapi, the Cevabdzinica Sarajevo also offers a variety of pies and other traditional Bosnian meals.
That'll be me when I first arrive in New York on
any future visit!
(Source: Jackie Klempay / Klix.ba)

It is said to be popular not only with Bosnian expats, but also culinary adventurers, while Valentin Inzko - an Austrian diplomat serving as the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina - has even been reported as an occasional visitor to the restaurant.

Despite the financial troubles engrossing North America in recent years, the Huskovic's have plans to open another cevabdzinica on Coney Island, which will be given to their son Sead.

If you're ever in New York and you have the itch for cevapi, the Cevabdzinica Sarajevo is located in the suburb of Astoria, on the intersection of 34th Avenue and 38th Street.

Although there already exists one in St Albans, and, perhaps, others, it would be great to have a Cevapi restaurant closer to Melbourne. I get the feeling I will have that 'itch' more than once when I return!

And, yes, of course I had to write something about food on this day... my first day of fasting. An update on that later!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ramadan officially begins!

That green light on the mosque means only one thing..... Ramadan 2012 has officially begun!
Now, please, wish me luck in my fasting experience!
Thank you / Hvala !

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ramadan 2012 - Month of Fasting!

This Thursday evening (or tomorrow, if you like!) begins Ramadan, the special month in the Muslim calendar which involves fasting for 29 or 30 days - in this year's case, it will be 30, ending on Saturday August 18.

In Layman's terms, Ramadan - or 'Ramazan' as it's called here in Bosnia - means that every Muslim past puberty should be doing their best to completely refrain from all food and drink during the hours of sunlight, or until the time of the fourth prayer - 'Maghrib' - which occurs at sunset.

In Islam, it is believed that the rewards (or 'sawab') for fasting during the month of Ramadan are multiplied by many compared to other periods of the year, and that most of the purpose of this month is 'for the sake of demonstrating submission to God' (thanks, Wikipedia!).

An amusing short-movie detailing a Bosnian man enjoying 
'Iftar' - the first meal after sunset during Ramadan.

Again, in simple terms, every good thing you do during this month means a whole lot more than if you do it during another period of the year, and if you do something, well, uh, 'bad', then it looks much worse than if you do it some other time! So, generally, the 'rules', if you will, of what you 'can' and 'can't' do are pretty tight.

For example, I've just discovered that drinking alcohol is an absolute no-no, regardless of what time of day you drink it.

Anyway, why am I telling you all of this?

It's not just so I can inform you about this interesting way of people 'proving' (for want of a better term) their faith, and the lengths they go to.
I am telling you this because, crazily enough, I am planning on attempting to fast, also!

Eh? What!? Yes, that's right.


Even though I may not be Muslim, I still want to get a feel of the experience and try to understand how - and what - millions of people around the world put themselves through for their religion.

I'm not expecting to be able to do it everyday - hey, I may not even last one day - but it's all part of my learning.

Funny this, considering how foreign and crazy I thought the whole concept of 'fasting' was when I first discovered it several years ago!

I will keep you updated of my progress - or lack thereof - in the coming days!
Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Nice photo! :)

I'm not the overly-religious type....but it would be nice if more people between religions were like this, huh?
Or am I dreaming? :)
Is it just a photoshop?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Senad Hadzic closes in on Saudi Arabia.

Senad Hadzic is making this incredible journey - all by
(Source: Meccastars.com)
A man making the 5,800-kilometre journey from his town in northern Bosnia to a historic Saudi Arabian city - all by foot - has finally neared the nation's border.

Senad Hadzic, 47, is making the journey as part of the 'Hajj', a set of days in the Islamic calendar in which millions of Muslims from around the world make the pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca.

Hadzic set off from his hometown of Banovici in December of 2011. In the seven months since then, he has journeyed thousands of kilometres - at a rate of about 20 to 30-kilometres per day - and experienced severe weather along the way, with temperatures at times soaring above 50°C.

However, when speaking a few days ago, Hadzic revealed that he has received a lot of friendly support from the citizens of the countries he has been crossing through.

The hand-drawn map Hadzic is
using to navigate himself to Mecca.
(Source: Meccastars.com)
"Thanks to Allah there is good people," Hadzic said. "I really have to mention the hospitality of the people of Jordan. People here are really hospitable, when I arrived in the city of Aqaba they welcomed me with open arms and settled me into a hotel."

The 47-year-old also spoke of local authorities who had come to his assistance.

"During my walk through the desert and with temperatures from 46°C a police patrol gave me two litres of water. Of course, every drop of water is welcome."

Hadzic is still without a visa to enter Saudi Arabia, but he remains optimistic he "will get it soon".

The Hajj pilgrimage - a religious duty of every able-bodied Muslim to complete, money-permitting, at least once in their lifetime - occurs between 24-29 October this year.

People can be updated on the Bosnian's progress by following this Facebook group.

Senad Hadzic. (Source: Klix.ba)
Regardless of whether you are a Muslim or not, there is little doubting the commitment of Senad and this amazing journey.
I wish him the best of luck.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The beauty of football and its fans.

Supporters of Croatian outfit Hajduk Split.
(Source: Vjesnik.com)
As I wrote last week, I was lucky enough to attend a football match of FK Sarajevo and to experience the amazing atmosphere that their fans create.

In one-week-and-a-half, in the space of 48 hours, FK Sarajevo and its city rival, FK Zeljeznicar, will play their own respective European qualifying matches - FK Sarajevo up against Levski Sofia of Bulgaria in the second round of Europa League qualifying; Zeljeznicar in the second qualifying round for the UEFA Champions League against Slovenia's Maribor.

These two match-ups feature four Balkan football clubs each with rich histories, and each with amazing sets of supporters.

I should be in Sarajevo over those dates (24-26 July, for what it's worth), and, so, I am praying that I will manage to snare some tickets for each of these matches before they sell-out.

I can't even begin to describe to the average Joe what sort of atmosphere will be present at these matches. Something we could only dream about experiencing in Australia (regardless of sporting code), believe me.

Here are some videos of each of these clubs' supporters at their finest!

FK Zeljeznicar (Bosnia-Herzegovina)
(As a side note, I was, in fact, present at this "match" -- it was abandoned before kick-off due to crowd unrest -- where this video was taken; Grbavica Stadion, Sarajevo, October 2011.)

NK Maribor (Slovenia)

FK Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

PFC Levski Sofia (Bulgaria)

As the great Bill Shankly famously once said:

'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.'

Perhaps only some will truly understand that, but, if you're not one of them, don't be left out completely. Open your eyes and open yourself to at least experience (even if it's only via the Internet!) this amazing world of football and, more particularly, its passionate supporters.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mladic returns to custody after stint in hospital.

Ratko Mladic. (Source: Archives / AFP)
Former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic has returned to detention at The Hague after hospital examinations declared that he required no further treatment.

Mladic, 70, facing a series of charges related to the mid-1990's war in Bosnia, including genocide over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, was rushed to hospital on Thursday morning after falling ill in court.

Spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Nerma Jelacic, announced in a statement that Mladic's health scare was not as serious as first thought.

"Ratko Mladic has returned to the detention unit after medical examinations confirmed there were no abnormalities in his health status and that no treatment is required," Jelacic's statement read. "The previous determination that Mladic is fit to stand trial therefore remains unchanged."

It is not the first time Mladic has had issues with his health since his arrest last year. A hernia operation, as well as treatment for other ailments including a kidney stone and pneumonia, are among a number of medical-related problems that have halted the former war-time leader's trial considerably.

Mladic's health issues draw a similar resemblance to the case of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in a Dutch prison cell in 2006 while also on trial at the ICTY.

Milosevic's case dragged on for four years - mostly due to his own ill health reportedly holding up proceedings - before the trial had to be aborted because of his death.

Prosecutors and relatives of victims fear Mladic may also die before facing justice.

The leader of a group that represents the family members of some of the 8,000 Bosnian Muslims killed in the Srebrenica massacre said she hoped Mladic would survive.

"We wish him a good recovery. We pray to God that he gets well because if he dies, justice will die with him and the victims will be betrayed again," said Munira Subasic, the head of the Mothers of Srebrenica group. "We need him to be convicted. We need it for our own history. We do not want the Milosevic situation to be repeated."

Mladic's trial is expected to resume on Monday.

Photo of the day (SFF)

The streets of downtown Sarajevo are packed on Friday evening as the Sarajevo Film Festival nears to an end.
(Source: Klix.ba)

The event has attracted many Hollywood "A-Listers" (depending on who you ask...) to town including Angelina Jolie and Jeremy Irons.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Photo of the day.

Something a bit light-hearted after the strong posts of the last few days...

Something I saw last week while in the change-rooms of a clothing store in central Sarajevo!

Translates into something like this in English:

"Perfect! I must have it!"                                                         "Maybe I will have it"

"I don't feel comfortable"                                                        "Wrong size, I need a new one"

Click on photo to zoom in!

Good to see a bit of sense of humour around sometimes :)

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Different take on Srebrenica

An interesting opinion/food-for-thought about Srebrenica, and the ways in which people 'help'.
This post by Izet Sabic was published on Zenicablog.com on Monday.
Again, here is the version in English.
What do you think?

(Source: Zenicablog)
We are closer to the 11th of July. The day when the general public of our beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina remembers Srebrenica. The day when many express their support for the Srebrenica people. I would say everyone, but then I would by lieing. Although in this country that would not be something awful. We are accustomed to being lied to, for years. But, back to Srebrenica. Do you feel sorry for those people in Srebrenica? I do. I am sorry about the institutions, politicians, media, and unfortunately, in the end, the people, who are showing mighty hypocrisy to the people of Srebrenica and the inhabitants of that city, whether they are dead or alive. All of them remember the 11th of July just a few days before. All express their support. They are organising peace marches, broadcasting Srebrenica on TV, politicians tell you nice and convenient words and people change their pictures on social networks. They even appeal not to play music on these networks on July 11, to demonstrate support for these people. These days, everyone has something to say about Srebrenica, some photo to share, some status to write, and perhaps to support some opinion.

Of course, we also have another side. We have people who deny the genocide, who are doing everything possible to make life even more bitter to these people. We are not expecting anything else from them. I am wondering to myself what we have done for Srebrenica? What have we done to these people to make their life less bitter? About the sweetness of life, we shouldn't even mention, for them it is long forgotten. Do you think that people who can barely make ends meet really care whether you publish a song on your profile or not? Do you think that the people who live in houses full of moisture, who bathe themselves in troughs, care about who comes up with some sort of jokes? We invite you to not forget the suffering of Srebrenica and the Srebrenica people on the 11th of July, only to forget their suffering during the other 364 days, and in the meantime. Many will arrive in Srebrenica on that date to show their support for these people.

Everyone will then go away. Politicians, media, military, religious officials, and the people themselves. Even young people who are healthy, capable and able, went to seek their fortune in some other places. The older people will not. Their heart is pulling them to their homeland, to their fireplace. For them, life is only in this place, no matter how difficult it is. And it's difficult. Very difficult. Imagine how life is when you are crying in front of the cameras, because you don't have anything to live off, because your own son is attacking and yelling at you because his nerves were destroyed from the war, when you are living in a house with that much moisture you almost can't breathe, that you have to take a whole bag of medicines.. Many of us couldn't drink the amount of water that is necessary to drink those medicines, even in the summer heat, let alone to live that way. I don't want someone to misunderstand me, I don't have anything against the peace march, nor any other expression of support for Srebrenica mentioned in the text, and it's good to have people who care about it, I just think that it is not enough to remember Srebrenica that day or that week.

I ask all citizens who do not want to forget Srebrenica, to not forget it. To remember Srebrenica for the entire 365 days, and not just that week. To come back in three months, in six months and in nine. To come with an aid package and donations for these people who live far away from the public eye. Don't allow Srebrenica to be a political tool to us, and make the 11th of July a day where we wash our conscience and say that we are with Srebrenica and its victims, and that we will never forget them. They need far more, far more than the actual help of a few good people, they need help from all of us. Now lets prove that we have not forgotten Srebrenica, lets prove that we are good people, lets prove that their loved ones are not gone in vain, and help these people!

~ Izet Sabic.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Srebrenica poem.

Some beautiful, strong words I discovered on the Internet a few days ago to accompany this heart-breaking image.
Original text in Bosnian, now translated to English (with a lot of help from my partner).

(Source: Pasaluk.blogger.ba)

Why is there no you here........

Salam Alaikum, my sons
Here is your mum next to your graves
I sat between you two, so I can reach you with my hands, and so not one of you is mad, because I am carressing one, while the other is watching
I put my hands on the ground that is covering you, and I am cuddling the grass that has grown over it
Exactly like I was cuddling your hair while you were alive
I'm looking at your tombstones, and the writing of your names and the years when you left this world
My young (flower) buds, mother wasn't gifted what she was waiting for, to sing together with you, and to look forward to my daughter-in-law's
Last night I lay down but I couldn't fall asleep, the damned devil couldn't calm down, so he was always interrupting me while I was awake dreaming
And I was dreaming the most beautiful dream
I was dreaming, my son, how I'm waiting for your wedding party, how I'm kissing the bride, how in my hands I'm holding the Kuran and pogaca, and how you are carrying your wives into your home
I was dreaming, with my eyes open, how I have granddaughters
Five of them
Ah, don't be surprised because I didn't dream about even one male child
Mother can't imagine anymore to raise a male next to her heart
Mother can't stand, my son, to again see how the enemy positions the men into columns
If it happens again, and please God don't let it, at least I have hope that their mothers won't tear the arms from their shoulders holding onto their son, as he is stolen away.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Countdown to the 17th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide continues.

The countdown continues to Wednesday which marks 17 years since the beginning of the Srebrenica massacre.
Participants of the "Peace March" from Nezuk
to Potocari, near Srebrenica.
(Source: Fotoservis)

As this is the first, and perhaps only, time I will experience an 11th of July in Bosnia, it has been interesting and, somewhat, eye-opening to experience first-hand how this country commemorates this terrible event.

In the past few days, the news has reported several actions, including peace marches and marathons, across several parts of Europe, including Croatia and Turkey.

One, in particular, is a "Marsa Mira", or "Peace March", involving 130 people making the 110-kilometre trek from Nezuk all the way to Potacari, the memorial centre dedicated to the 8000-plus victims of the massacre in Srebrenica.

Participants in the march include people from Sarajevo, Mostar, Zepa, as well as some from Turkey, while one participant is a 70-year-old. Once the marchers arrive in Potocari, they will join more than 30,000 others - including survivors and families of the deceased - watching on as 520 newly-identified bodies are buried.

The bodies will lay in the ground next to 5,137 other victims of the Srebrenica killings - who have been buried at Potocari over the previous 11 collective funerals.

Today, several trucks carrying the remains of the 520 bodies drove through the capital, Sarajevo, causing emotional scenes.

Here are some photos of the "Marsa Mira", as well as from today in Sarajevo:

(Sources: Beta)

(Sources: Klix.ba)


Sunday, 8 July 2012

The passion of football fans in the Balkans.

On Thursday evening, I was fortunate enough to take a Melburnian friend of mine (together with his two mates) along with me to see FK Sarajevo play a Europa League qualifying match against FC Hibernians, a relatively-unknown Maltese side.

There were only a few thousand at the game but, as I expected (and as I always expect on a Balkan match!), the atmosphere made it seem like there were tens of thousands there.

Here's more than ten minutes of the sort of atmosphere the home supporters, 'Horde Zla' - meaning 'Hordes of Evil' - created on the evening.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

A provocation from Republika Srpska in Srebrenica?

Bosnian daily newspaper Dnevni Avaz is today reporting that a festival - featuring activities such as football tournaments and concerts - is set to take place in Srebrenica over the same date that the town commemorates the murder of more than 8000 Bosnian Muslims seventeen years ago.

"Petrov's Days", a six-day event marking a celebration in the Orthodox calendar, is due to occur in the regions of Srebrenica and Bratunac from today until Thursday July 12, leaving the Organizing Committee for the 17th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre - taking place this Wednesday - outraged.

The cemetary at Potacari, near the town of
Srebrenica. (Source: DnevniAvaz.ba)
The committee has labelled it as a clear provocation from Republika Srpska - the self-governing Serbian political entity which holds legal authority over the district of Srebrenica - and has expressed concerns over public safety.

A statement released by the committee appeals to the organisers of the "Petrov's Days" festival to shift the event to a different time, "when the security situation will be much more favourable for the realisation of these activities."

Some, however, believe the Organising Committee is over-reacting. 

A comment from 'Amir' on Serbian news portal Blic stated, 'I am Muslim but a lot of time has passed, life goes on, let everyone live how they want!', while another commented that 'this is too much politicisation'. 

More than 30,000 people, including survivors and family members of the deceased, are expected in Srebrenica on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the massacre. 

A total of 520 newly-identified victims, including six minors and three women, are due to be buried on the day.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Photo of the Day

Relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia are strained at the best of times, but that tension wasn't evident a few days ago amongst Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbian), Edin Dzeko (Bosnian) and Ivan Klasnic (Croatian).
This photo taken in Dubrovnik shows the three English Premier League stars putting aside any differences and enjoying some quality time together during the off-season. 

Bolton's Ivan Klasnic joins Manchester City's Edin Dzeko and
Aleksandar Kolarov in leaping into the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik,
Croatia. (Source: Klix.ba)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Another car bomb attack rocks Belgrade

A relative of a protected witness involved in proceedings against a Serbian crime boss has died after a bomb exploded under his car on the outskirts of Belgrade on Tuesday.

The blast occurred at 2.00pm in the southwestern neighbourhood of Bele Vode, killing Radovan Joksovic, a cousin of Nebojsa Joksovic, a key witness in a case against convicted drug smuggler Darko Saric. A 35-year-old passenger in the car was also injured in the attack.

Police and emergency service crews inspect the damage following a car
bomb attack in downtown Belgrade which left a man dead on June 22.
(Source: Blic.rs)
Serbian online news portal Blic reports that explosives were attached to the bottom of Joksovic's Audi A6 before they were remotely detonated. 

It is the second car bomb attack to occur in Belgrade in as many weeks.

On June 22, Basko Raicevic - also a cousin of a man with links to the Serbian mafia - was murdered when an unidentified assailant tossed a bomb into his moving car. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Kosovo to gain full sovereignty

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci smiles during a
press conference in Vienna on July 2. (Source: AFP)
Kosovo will gain full rights of national sovereignty from September following a decision by the International Steering Group.

Speaking in Vienna on Monday, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger announced that international supervision of Kosovo had come to an end.

"This is a clear sign of the confidence that is being placed in Kosovo," Spindelleger said. "It is now mature enough to stand on its own feet and to take over full responsibility for the future of all its citizens."

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci welcomed the move, stating it as "historic".

"This day shows how long the journey we have passed as the nation striving towards freedom and independence," Thaci said.

The International Steering Group - consisting of 23 European nations, Turkey and the United States - make the decision almost four-and-a-half years after Kosovo first declared independence from Serbia.

However, the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force, along with police and legal experts from the European Union, are expected to remain in the region to assist in ensuring safety and security.

Police detain a man wearing a shirt reading "Greater
Serbia" during a celebration of the anniversary of the
1389 Battle of Kosovo Polje at Gazimestan on June 28.
(Source: Reuters)
Tensions remain high between Serbs and the ethnic Albanian majority, with unrest between the two groups common.

The latest incident occurred last Thursday, when more than 50 people were injured following clashes on the border between Kosovo police and a group of visiting Serbs.

The local Serbs - who account for around 5 per cent of the population, mostly in the north of the country - reject Kosovo's independence, and openly oppose the Pristina government.

'Once Brothers' - Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic.

Here's a fantastic documentary from ESPN's 30 For 30 program, titled 'Once Brothers'.

This episode focuses on the story of two star NBA basketballers, Serbian Vlade Divac and Croatian Drazen Petrovic.
It is set around the early-1990's and showcases how their once-close friendship becomes tattered following the outbreak of the Yugoslav war in 1992. It also covers Petrovic's shock and sudden death in July of '93.

Seventy minutes long, but an absolute must-watch.

'Batko' Cehajic

Last Tuesday, I brought to you the story about Alen Maslo, a sick Sarajevo teenager who was desperately in need of medical treatment.
In the story, I made reference to Almir 'Batko' Cehajic, a television host who assisted in placing Alen's struggle in the public spotlight.

Maslo's life is not the only one which Cehajic has helped save, however.

Batko's own story is a special one - which Associated Press made a small feature on in 2011.

Check it out below.