After a flight situation that had me missing my connection in Vienna to Sarajevo, I had to stay the night in Vienna before arriving to Sarajevo a day late. Everything was fine- Austrian Air put us in a great hotel, paid for our dinner and breakfast, and gave us an overnight bag that included pajamas – but it meant I arrived in Sarajevo about 5:00 pm on the 13th, a day later than I had planned.
When I got here I went to my AirBnB, where my host and my apartment mate (from Brazil) sat down and ate dinner, drank wine, and talked about everything – our countries, our elections, education, healthcare, books…it was wonderful to be welcomed with open arms and food, and I knew I’d love the place before I even had a chance to wash. That night I went into town to price laptops, eat ice cream, and reacquaint myself with the city that impacted me so heavily three years ago.
My first full day I explored the graveyard that I mentioned on my Facebook a few days ago. I made the informed assumption that most of the Muslim graves were from 1992-1995 in this graveyard, but I was wrong! This is why research is so important 🙂 It turns out that the graveyard is absolutely massive, but is segmented into sections based on religion. Though I did see a handful of graves from 92-95, it was not the overwhelming majority, which was surprising to me. After I’d posted on Facebook, I’d emailed the Library of Congress for any information available. As soon as I translate those documents (my Bosnian is not fluent), I’ll update you all on what I find!
Here is a depiction of the layout. “K” is Catholic, “M” is Muslim, “J” is Jewish, “A” is Atheist, “D” is Adventist, “E” is Evangelical, “P” is Orthodox, and “S” is “old Catholic” – but don’t quote me on those last two.
I walked through the cemetery, which climbs incredibly high into the mountains. I hope the pictures do it justice, but I’m not sure- height always seems to get lost in the pictures I take…
So there’s actually a really interesting history about the development of Islamic gravestones and Balkan graves in general. I left my book on the subject at home (not ideal reading material for flights), but in ancient times a type of memorial called stecci was usual, and the only place in the entire world that one can find stecci is in the Balkans -I saw some after the pictures for this post were taken, and you’ll see them later! As the Ottomans came through, the gravestones were twisted spires – which I’ll show you at some point. Eventually, it developed into these white stones, which are clearly identifiable. So identifiable, in fact, that you can tell the different sections of the graveyard apart from Google Maps’ satellite view. See below:
Here, I’m not sure what the star means, but you can also see names written in Serbian Cyrillic script instead of Latin script. Interestingly enough, Serbian Cyrillic is different than Russian Cyrillic- they have a few different letters. It derives from Glagolitic Script, which is a derivation of Greek. Now for a quick deep dive: in 863, Byzantine Emperor Michael III sent the monks, who were brothers, to spread Christianity (Orthodox) to the West Slavs in Greater Moravia. Because the words of the liturgical texts in Old Slavic could not be translated using Greek or Latin alphabets, Cyril and Methodius created the Glagolitic alphabet. After Cyril and Methodius died, their disciples developed what we know as Russian Cyrillic, named after Cyril and Methodius but a combination of Glagolitic and Greek. After Peter the Great went to the West and came back with reforms, he heavily reformed the Russian Cyrillic alphabet to represent a more Latin influence. This is the one we know today. The oldest use of the original Glagolitic script, however, is by the Croatian Clergy in the 19th century to record Church Slavonic.
Even though this graveyard specifically was not primarily from the conflict (which was reassuring to me, to be honest), there was this written on the top of the Muslim chamber of worship at the center of the graveyard. It reads Ciklus Prekinut Agresijom 1992-1996, which translates roughly to “Cycle interrupted by aggression 1992-1996”. If you take the cycle of life as the “cycle”, here, it’s a pretty profound statement that speaks to Sarajevo’s history.
In the middle, they have six identical chambers, one representing each religion, in which to lay caskets before they are lowered into the ground in the burial ceremony.
After this visit, I had a few hours to kill before I was scheduled to pick up my new laptop, so I went to my favorite tea shop in Sarajevo. I’m a creature of habit, and once I find a place I love where I can sit for hours to read, write, think, and drink a hot beverage, I’ll frequent it daily until I leave said location. This was one of my places last time I was here, and I’ve already been back twice this time.
It’s owned by the sweetest husband and wife pair, the husband a character in his own right. Named Hussein, he speaks at least eight languages, is an expert in tea, greets every customer personally and bids them adieu personally, and is one of the people in this world that has such an absolutely genuine smile.
After which I traipsed through Sarajevo to buy a laptop I didn’t know I’d need.
After purchasing a laptop, I went to one of the graveyards near Ciglane, just to see the occupants of those. This time, almost every single inhabitant was from 1992-1995. When you walk in, you see a monument dedicated to all of those who died in the siege of Sarajevo.
In the background here, you can see the old Olympic flame.
I know this is a lot of pictures, and perhaps depressing, but I think the story needs to be told. And I won’t stop telling it.