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The BBC's Michael Voss
"While fighting has ended, the ethnic divisions remain"
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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 10:53 GMT
Sarajevo revisited
The red roofs of Sarajevo
Sarajevo finds a longed-for normality
On the fifth anniversary of the Dayton peace accords which are holding an uneasy peace, Red Cross delegate Jessica Barry reflects on how life has changed in Sarajevo.

It was a beautiful, autumn dawn. In the brightening light, the terracotta-coloured roofs glowed in Sarajevo's ancient Bascaricija district.

The city lay asleep and amidst such quietness it was hard to imagine that her citizens had been under siege for three-and-a-half years in a war which cost 200,000 lives.

The marketplace at peace

As the morning progressed, the streets became lively with people going about their daily chores.

I wondered how many of the plump, muffled-up, market women had been there when the shells screamed into their midst

In 1994 and 1995, 140 people died in the open-air Markele market in two bouts of shelling.

Now, shoppers jostled each other among stalls laden with dried figs, honey, aromatic herbs, root vegetables and fresh winter greens.

Strolling among them, I wondered how many of the plump, muffled-up, market women with their ruddy complexions and rooughened hands had been there when the shells screamed into their midst.

Despite the risk from further shelling a Red Cross-run soup kitchen opened the day after the attack. During the long years of the siege tens of thousands of people on both sides of the front line depended on soup kitchens for their survival.

This morning, I noticed a stooping, grey-clad figure, a knitted cap pulled tightly down over his ears, selling apples by the roadside. For this grizzled old man the produce from his fruit trees would have been a lifeline during the war, as it was even now.

During the siege, families in Sarajevo turned their balconies into gardens, using seed donated by the aid agencies. Not only did this enable them to supplement their meagre diet of beans and bread, it also, in many ways, nourished a little hope.

Searching for the missing

Hope is still in short supply for the families of people who went missing during the war. The International Committee of the Red Cross still has more than 17,500 tracing requests on its files, submitted by citizens looking for their loved ones.

Sarajevans relied on the Red cross during the war
During the siege Red cross soup kitchens helped thousands on both sides
Finding them is a long, slow, task. As well as using its traditional research methods, such as Red Cross messages, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a Book of Belongings. This contains more than 1,000 photographs of the clothes, shoes and other personal possessions of 354 victims from Srebrenica.

More than 7,000 people, mostly men and boys, disappeared from there in July 1995, in the single worst atrocity of the war

This is only one step in a lengthy process. It may lead to the positive identifications of some of the 4,500 bodies that have so far been exhumed from mass graves and collected from the woods around Srebrenica.

A sense of normality

In the afternoon shadows I walked up through Sarajevo's steep streets. The houses here used to huddle beneath the front lines.

People can stroll the pavements without having to run for their lives, dodging snipers

Often, on autumnal days like these, a soft mist skims the lower slopes of the mountains that encircle the city.

Sarajevo has regained a sense of normality. Winter is approaching, and central heating is going on in many homes - bringing comfort to people who endured the war years without electricity, heat or running water.

Cars throng the streets, traffic lights work, and people can stroll the pavements without having to run for their lives, dodging snipers. At night, the city is lit by a myriad yellow, winking eyes.

Hope for the future

Looking out towards the mountains as dusk fell, I thought of Jelena, a 16-year-old high school pupil from Belgrade.

I met her at a Red Cross youth camp, which aimed to bring together teenagers from all over former Yugoslavia, to discuss humanitarian values.

"I was a bit anxious, wondering how people would react, knowing I am from Yugoslavia," admitted Jelena as we talked, "but everyone has been fantastic. And Sarajevo is beautiful, completely different from all the propaganda I used to watch on television."

Though the teenagers were shy at first, when it was time to go home they were exchanging e-mail addresses and telephone numbers, and promising to keep in touch with each other.

If only those youngsters' feelings of fraternity and friendship were the norm throughout Bosnia then the Dayton Peace Accords would have succeeded beyond their creators' wildest dreams.

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See also:

21 Nov 00 | Europe
Dayton five years on
15 Nov 00 | Europe
Bosnia: The legacy of war
16 Nov 00 | Europe
Bosnia looks ahead
05 Sep 00 | Americas
Opinion: The peacekeeper's view
01 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Bosnia's curious currency
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