Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter in Sarajevo

Today’s weather in Portland was pretty much typical for winter here – 43 and light rain most of the day. But yesterday was glorious! 58 and sunny all day. It really felt like spring.

Even with our typical temperatures, though, Portland is showing signs of spring. My tulips and daffodils are up about 1 – 2 inches already. The buds on some of my shrubs and trees are starting to swell. Portland’s spring starts early and lasts a long time, often from February to June.

In Sarajevo, though, it is mid-winter. According to my guidebook, February is the coldest month. I’m packing an extra set of long underwear.

We’ve been monitoring the weather in Sarajevo for the last few months and up until the last week, it has been pretty mild. In fact, not that different from temperatures here in Portland; daily highs have been mostly in the 40’s. About a week ago there was a change in the weather. The highs are now in the mid to lower 30’s and there have been several days of snow or snow flurries. Nighttime temperatures have recently been in the 20’s or the teens.

Sarajevo gets more snow than Portland. Not much of a surprise, since Sarajevo was the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics. The city is located in a sort of bowl surrounded by mountains. The figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and opening ceremony venues were in Sarajevo. Other events were held on mountains surrounding the city.

One of the saddest stories attached to the Olympic venues concerns Olympic Hall Zetra. It was the venue for figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey. It also held the closing ceremonies. It was an ultramodern, angular building with a copper roof. The arena suffered substantial damage and was almost completely destroyed by shelling, bombing and fire on May 25, 1992 during the Bosnian War. The remaining areas of the structure, such as the basements, were put into service as a morgue and as storage space for medication and supplies. The wooden seats from the venue were used for material for coffins for civilians killed in the war. Although heavily damaged, the foundations were sound and the facility was rebuilt with the help of UN funding in 1999 and is in use today for sporting events.

We’re packing boots, mittens, hats and scarves and hoping for the best as we head into the worst of the Sarajevo winter. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A very short history of Bosnia

There is evidence of civilization in this land dating to the Neolithic period, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. History buffs will have to conduct their own research of Bosnia’s earliest history. I will just outline Bosnia’s most recent history in the past twenty years.
Bosnia was part of the former Yugoslavia before it broke up into six separate nations. The official name of the country is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, abbreviated as BiH.
In the 1990 parliamentary elections in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from the communist Yugoslavia and left the government. Other ethnic factions developed and a series of wars in the former Yugoslavia broke out.

In Bosnia, a split soon developed among three ethnic groups. The ethnic Serbs in Bosnia favored remaining with the Yugoslav government while the Bozniaks and Croats favored independence. A declaration of Bosnian sovereignty in October 1991 was followed by a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia in February and March 1992 boycotted by the great majority of the Serbs. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence shortly afterwards. Following a tense period of escalating tensions and sporadic military incidents, open warfare began in Sarajevo on April 6, 1992.The city of Sarajevo, site of the 1984 Winter Olympics, was under siege from 1992 through 1996.

Battles took place in many areas of BiH, but the siege of Sarajevo was the most intense. There was shelling and sniper fire daily in Sarajevo. The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia estimates that 102,000 civilians were killed in BiH during the war. The Bosnian government, however, maintains that 200,000 may have been killed. 8,000 mostly men and boys were massacred at Srebinica alone. Charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide have been brought against many involved in the Bosnian conflict.

UN troops ware sent to Bosnia in 1996. The UN troops are still in place today, but are reduced considerably in numbers and keep a very low profile. There have been no hostilities for more than 12 years and Bosnia is currently at peace; however, the governing body is often at odds and is considered fragile. 
(with thanks to Wikipedia)