Ahead of Fear
THE ART OF SURVIVAL
Extreme Conditions and
The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996
We are not necessarily living in a Risky World, as much as we are facing the World at Risk!
A LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Now, in April 2020, (while the global attack of coronavirus is happening), I am sitting at Grbavica, in Sarajevo, at the same location as I used to sit then - in 1992 (when the siege of Sarajevo started). Since I have survived the four-year-long siege, my friends think that I am a veteran and that now, at the time of coronavirus attack, I have solutions for survival, as we were inventing, from 1992 to 1996, the solutions for long-lasting permanent dangers (snipers, granates, lack of electricity, water, heating, telephones, post offices, food, schools, clothes, shoes, institutions, playing a life lottery every time you move: having serious chance to win the bingo and be hit by a sniper or a grenade). My friends think that I have a method for overcoming the fear, a method that could help us also now in accepting rules of new normality.
However, this disaster now has different elements. It is true that already then (1993) we named the Sarajevo enemy the Invisible (the city was the frontline, and those who were shooting it were in the hills around it: invisible), while now the whole world is using that name for the coronavirus. Today, everything could bring death to you - either you touch it, breath in, walk by, exchange or purchase… In other words, it was A DEATH THREAT OF INVISIBLE ENEMY then, as it is A DEATH THREAT OF INVISIBLE ENEMY now. Only, now we have shops open and possibility of highly developed communication technology with the whole world.
In the same way like then, everything turned around in 24 hours now, right there in front of us. But we, the citizens of Sarajevo, have developed a new way of living then, as a special form of resistance. Now I see millions of witty and creative video clips how people all over the world are saving themselves and their families in isolation, by various inventions, works and online visits to museums, courses, workouts, festivals, galleries, libraries. Back then we could not do all of that from home, but had to run along the deadly streets to get to the film festival and to theatre shows under torches; back then we built the Bosnian house in real-life proportions, watched the wire sculptures exhibited across the river, planted the gardens in order to survive, managed to find the water and produce electricity in the city with neither water nor electricity… With only one click the whole virtual world is opening now, and you are not alone. Meanwhile, a great deal of time and effort was required for everything we did then.
But we won then! And today, in 2020, I finally call the citizens of Sarajevo, the 9296 GENERATION (which includes citizens of all ages, who were under the siege), the Generation of Winners. Individually and collectively, we had overcome fear, survived, and developed the need for culture (in all its forms) as essential. Today, that essential need is expressed globally by artists, creatives, authors, as well as common people, students, and the others - showing extraordinary talents by expressing their need for life to go on and for culture, as a guarantee of mental endurance.
Today, I am saying that our guideboook The Art of Survival, from then, will be posted on the Internet soon, hoping that it will will be inspiring and that the people will read it as a LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT (as my friend Ivana Dimic calls the Guide) and proof that the CITIZENS can manage the extreme situations. Basically, it is primarily individual and then also the collective Philosophy of adapting to a new normality. And it includes concentration, focus, and respect of the rules indispensable for the winning of the Invisible enemy. In these rules, you will find for sure unsuspected possibilities of living, which encourage and ensure the victory in this situation also, in 2020. The 9296 GENERATION is a living proof that an extreme and until that time unknown situation can be overcome, while protecting mental health and staying human.
Today we thank the medical doctors and all the medical personnel, drivers, salespersons, bakers, warehouse workers, all other workers and volunteers, all those extremely brave and hardworking people, who have been helping us to physically survive this attack.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR?
Today, we all share one common denominator: THE INVISIBLE ENEMY and one common goal: TO SURVIVE! But we have to remember that living in a NEW NORMAL doesn't mean that one simply waits for the crisis to end so he can get back to business as usual. On the one hand, we all have to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances in a creative, innovative and meaningful way that can help us survive. On the other hand, the crisis is also an opportunity to pause and reassess our socio-economic and cultural priorities if we are to evolve into a more responsive and compassionate society.
Not surrendering to FEAR is the antidote to the 21st-century RISK SOCIETY.
As our contribution to the RESILIENCE MATRIX, we present you with an evidence-based case study documenting THE ART OF SURVIVAL phenomenon. We believe that the lessons from the citizens who survived THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO 1992-96 can offer hope, inspiration and guidance to a humanity that is facing unprecedented threats from the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.
When faced with the unknown, the uncertainty and the unthinkable, one must strengthen its MENTAL RESILIENCE by adapting to the new environment, rules and norms in a manner that can cultivate SOLIDARITY and CO-CREATE A SHARED VALUE for their family, community and society. To do so, we should learn from past experiences.
Although the context may be different, the two events encapsulate a human response to extreme and prolonged conditions. When faced with an existential threat, the scope and scale of human resilience can recalibrate how we navigate our 'new' living environment and how we 'adapt' our mindset to the new normal – how we defy FEAR.
As such, we feel that THE ART OF SURVIVAL guidebook can help you reflect on real-life lessons, advice and tips as you prepare your body, mind and spirit for the rapidly changing events caused by the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.
THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO
The city of Sarajevo has mastered THE ART OF SURVIVAL during the four-year siege, and it can offer answers to many challenges facing our civilisation in the 21st-century risk society. Most importantly, it can teach us how to survive prolonged extreme conditions and how to overcome fear from the INVISIBLE ENEMY.
In this guidebook, we are not presenting a theory, but real-life evidence of an OPEN MIND potential to win in the face of the unknown, the uncertain and the unthinkable. We believe that the collective knowledge from the siege of Sarajevo experience can offer, both hope and practical guidance for humanity at times of great need and uncertainty.
Work was the law of mental and physical survival. Working towards resilience kept people’s minds occupied – work eliminated thoughts that could challenge their motivation.
It was necessary to establish a balance in the extreme urban conditions of life. This was done by creating peaceful, simple, normal situations, according to one's personal needs.
During the siege, the continuation of normal life in the city, the continuation of creativity, was as important as bread or medicine or water for all citizens of Sarajevo.
SKIINGWe skied through the streets of Sarajevo while shells were falling all around. People running for shelter saw two guys carrying skis and thought we were from another world. But I wanted to make a video letter for my girlfriend, who was in Sweden at the time, I wanted her to see how we lived, what we did. I filmed the skiing because it was something that was impossible then. Absolutely impossible. I projected my dreams, as I dreamed of going to the mountains to ski. But I couldn’t, of course, for snipers were there. The video letter was silent, so I put some music in the background, it looked like a spot or a video postcard, for tourists.
THE ‘SURVIVAL’ NEWSLETTERFAMA made a guide to surviving a disaster. If you were new to the siege, you had to learn the rules of urban survival. This issue of our newsletter was about life, and not about death – as most international media reported. The experience of survival in Sarajevo meant hope for humanity, showing that a man can survive a constant and long-term disaster and still be a man for whom culture is a basic need.
CHILDRENEvery time I passed a test at school, the paper from which I had studied was passed on to my mom for lighting a fire, and while the fire was on I’d sit by it to read and learn the next lesson, while there was still light.
In my spare time I read things that would calm me down.
TUNNELThe Sarajevo Tunnel was an underground tunnel constructed between March and June of 1993 during the Siege of Sarajevo. The tunnel linked the Sarajevo neighbourhoods of Dobrinja and Butmir, allowing food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and allowing people to get out. I was more afraid to go through the tunnel then through Sarajevo, despite the shelling. A strange fear gripped me in that tunnel. So I’m sitting on this cart, on top of my suitcases, a man is pushing the cart, and I start singing, “la la la la, O sole mio, la la la“... I hear those behind me saying “Oh, Gertruda, please don’t.” But I continue, for I was encouraging myself that way, killing my fear, and then someone behind me says, “Gertruda, for goodness’ sake, stop it now, the whole tunnel will collapse because of your voice.” Then we all burst out laughing, and we laughed so much we didn’t notice that we’d gone through the whole 100 meters and reached the end of the tunnel – but there was shooting outside.
A WEIGHTLIFTERI had weight plates from before the war. I’d pull them out whenever I was in the house. If I wasn’t on the move outside, I would do weight training at home: the rhythm of weightlifting versus the dynamic force of destruction.
QUASIMODO: A GAME FOR KIDSI made a game with nine geometric elements and called it Quasimodo because it was not-so-goodlooking. I cut pieces of paper, imitating origami techniques. The nine elements could be arranged in different ways to form all the letters and numbers, as well as puppies, kittens, and various geometric forms. The children spent their free time playing with it. We all played with these cards, we had fun and they quickly learned the letters.
CULTUREIt was easy to figure out the meaning of life and death. Alcestis is a play about exactly that. Alcestis is a woman willing to sacrifice herself and die instead of her husband. We’ve all been in similar situations: shall I go to get some water and let my husband stay at home this time, or my children, or whoever. In a way we were all willing to sacrifice ourselves.
In my free time I was repairing watches.
I would style my neighbors’ hair to make them more beautiful.
A SPINNING WHEELMy granny pedaled the spinning wheel, generating electricity for my mom to read, and for my dad and brother to watch TV.
HOSPITALCan you imagine that we assisted births by candlelight? There was only one candle in the entire maternity ward. One candle for two deliveries at the same time, one candle for three babies born at the same time.
SCHOOLIt was extremely cold. Students would bring bags of firewood, one log at a time, and we’d collect enough for two or three fires – enough to take the edge off the cold air in the classroom, as otherwise it wasn’t possible to work in there. Students would come to school between shelling.
FAMA ‘THE MOBILE UNIVERSITY’We invited professors from the whole world to give lectures in Sarajevo, in a beautiful garden full of roses; lectures on history, language, art and architecture. It was a mobile university in the open air. Citizens of Sarajevo attended the lectures, the lecturers gave their best; they all shared a tacit right to the intellectual resistance to the terrible barbarity of killing a city. Every opportunity was used not to assume the status of a victim but that of a victor.
DJ ADIEvery morning I had to run across intersections. On Sundays, when I was doing the morning program, my greeting was: ‘Good morning people, listeners old and young, it’s great, I’m still alive; if you are too, let’s start.’
GOING TO COLLEGEWhen going to college to take my exams, all dolled up (as much as possible), I would walk along the rear of whatever was there to protect us from sniper fire, although it was more for mental than actual protection. I could never be sure if I’d come back alive. At times I would take off my shoes and run across intersections.
A CLASSWe never ran away from classes, even though we had a lot of excuses for ‘copping-out’, to put it in the vernacular. For example, we could have said a million times that there was a shelling, or that we couldn’t come because of sniper fire, and so on. But we never did, we wanted to learn as much as possible.
INVENTIONSI made a small cooking stove. I took a big tin can, and in it I placed a smaller one filled with water. I lit some paper in the larger can and the flame heated the water and food in the smaller can.
FOODI planted Japanese tomato seeds in a flowerpot on my balcony. I was eating sweet Japanese tomatoes the whole summer long.
A TINY SCULPTUREI was able to distinguish different shapes in objects I used to find in the street. So I exhibited some bits of rubble I collected, with almost no intervention; their forms were so clear.
THE ART OF RESILIENCE in the 21st-century is reflected in our ability to apply the new knowledge, attitude and practice when confronting a crisis that is crossing geographical, jumping functional and transcending traditional boundaries. For when interconnected risks become the new normal, what can happen to ‘THEM’ can easily happen to ‘US’. Subsequently, it becomes clear how little difference it will make if you are situated north, or south of the equator, or if you are governed left, or right of the political centre. The only distinction that will matter will be between those who are resilient to incoming changes and those who are not.
Having a ‘mandate’ to intervene will not necessarily deliver timely, effective and sustainable solutions. So, what do we do if our institutions are destroyed in a blink of a moment, or if they need rescuing themselves? Do we continue to operate within this sense of false comfort, whereby somebody will do something before it’s too late; or do we embrace the idea of individual resilience as the stepping stone to collective action?
Each of us can decide how we position ourselves in the face of a crisis, terror and fear. It is easy to allow apathy and sense of helplessness to prevail, and paralyse one’s own body, soul and mind; but we have to reconnect with our SURVIVAL DNA as we seek to adapt to changes.
A transboundary crisis like the CORONOVIRUS PANDEMIC operates in one and every space simultaneously – as a result, we realise the need for greater SOLIDARITY across our societies and that our reality has become a SHARED REALITY.
Since 1992, we have diligently worked on preserving, documenting, analysing and presenting facts and evidence relating to the individual, urban and cultural resilience. Today, FAMA Collection archives and FAMA Methodology projects are a testament of our internationally acknowledged work on the Sarajevo Siege 1992-96 phenomenon, the Art of Survival, the Fall of Yugoslavia 1991-99, the Dayton Peace Accords negotiations and the School of Knowledge educational modules. From the very beginning, we were aware that the positive transfer of knowledge would play a vital role in the fate of current and future generations.
Since 2014, the team members have also launched the Dialogue BiH2.0 and Time is Up! initiatives to provide independent, credible, relevant information and policy analysis designed to catalyze leaders and institutions at all levels to be more responsive to the public they serve. In the process, we were able to promote alternative viewpoints, provide a counternarrative to post-factuality, mainstream policy and communicate complexity in multimedia formats.
Today, we are in a unique position to bridge the gap between the need to address the causes and consequences of the 21st century Risk-Society and the ability to document, content-curate, map-out and communicate solutions in the form of real-time knowledge transfer.
Feel free to share the guidebook with your friends, family and colleagues!
Copyright 2016-2020 R2.1 / FAMA Methodology
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Extreme Conditions and Human Resilience
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