News 06 Apr 15

Iconic ‘Child of Sarajevo’ Marks Siege Anniversary

Twenty-three years after the siege of Sarajevo began, Adi Arapovic, whose photograph helped to symbolise the war's impact on the city's children, says he can never forget growing up under fire.

Denis Dzidic, Dzana Brkanic

Eight-year-old Adi Arapovic (left) in the 1992 photo by Christian Maréchal. Source: Wikicommons.

“I have bad memories about that photograph. I never want that to happen again,” Adi Arapovic, who was eight years old when the siege of Sarajevo started on April 6, 1992, told BIRN on the 23rd anniversary on Monday.

During the first winter of the siege, Arapovic and his friend were pictured by photojournalist Christian Maréchal standing by the National Theatre in central Sarajevo, where he still lives to this day.

“The destroyed car and sandbags in front of the basement hideout say a thousand words. We waited for the shelling to stop to run into the park and play. We were hungry for games, said Arapovic, who is now an unemployed law graduate.

Maréchal's series of photographs of the city's children highlighted their plight as they grew up amid the shelling and sniper fire.

Arapovic vividly remembers the wartime games he played with his friends, running along behind military vehicles, and seeing the post office burn and his city destroyed aroud him.

“We played for hours with the dog from the picture. Unfortunately she died during the shelling,” he said.

Painful memories of the siege of Sarajevo also still haunt Fikret Grabovica, whose young daughter Irma was killed by sniper on Kosevo Hill.

“I recall those first days of April [1992]. We, the parents, we only worried about saving the children,” Grabovica said.

“I could not believe the siege would last so long. Now we know that the siege lasted so long, that was urbicide, some people wanted to destroy everything alive in the city. Unfortunately, so much of our youth was killed,” he added.

During the siege of Sarajevo, around 1,600 children died.

As president of the Association of Parents of Killed Children in Sarajevo, Grabovica has been named the winner of the April 6 award, an annual honour bestowed on people who have made a major contribution to the city.

He said however that the honour leaves him with mixed feelings.

“Those emotions tange from endless sorrow to pride. I am proud of the success of our association. We have done much to find the truth and show the depth of the crime, against the most sensitive type of people in our city – children,” he said.

Another winner of the April 6 award this year is former Bosnian Army general Jovan Divjak.

Divjak said he wasproud to remember the “heroism of the city which maintained its tolerance”, during more than 40 months of the siege.

“I lived with citizens and I saw life without life, without water, electricity or blood,” said Divjak.

“I tried to make sure that the few guns we had would stop those from the hills entering the city, to give the citizens support, those in the hospitals and the media, because resistance, spiritual resistance, as well as military, was what saved Sarajevo,” he said.

The anniversary of the start of the siege was marked on Monday with a ceremony near the memorial to the children who were killed from 1992-95. Several hundred poeple attended and released white balloons with children's names attached to them.

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