Building Resilience

Ahead of Fear


Extreme Conditions and
Human Resilience

Evidence-based case-study:
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!

The Art of Survival

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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.    

Suada Kapić
April, 2020



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.

The Art Of Survival

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 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.



The Art Of Survival

AN EVENING IN FRONT OF THE TVWith the help of a small accumulator, our family could sometimes watch TV when it got dark, so that you wouldn’t think about ‘what’s outside’. We waited for a good movie on the TV in order to drift from reality. Even the horror movies were Tom and Jerry compared to our reality.

The Art Of Survival

PLAYING CARDSIn my free time I was reading, playing chess with my neighbor, or playing cards with my friends. An accumulator gave us electricity, and we had cards – we entertained ourselves by completely surrendering to the game.

I walked my dog.

The Art Of Survival

SNAKESKIN SHOESOne snakeskin shoe made enough heat to cook beans: the value system and the general purpose of things changed, but, most importantly, a new mindset was needed. Snakeskin shoes had previously been a sign of social prestige but they were not comfortable for running under sniper fire. They still served a useful purpose by providing a fire for a family lunch in a city without any kind of fuel. In an effort to warm our home we built fires out of sneakers-plastic bottles-rugsfurniture- tires-books-paper-parquet-doors-quiltsskis- children’s toys...

WATERI used to bring water in jerry cans and barrels; the spring was about a 10-15 minute walk away from home. Food was mostly from humanitarian aid and what little could be found on the market and in our own garden. There weren’t enough cigarettes. We had no electricity so it was either candlelight or darkness.

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.

Relax, be cool and do everything with a bit of humor.

HEALTHPeople were desperate, there was shooting all over the place, but I was the happiest person in the world because I was pregnant!

CIGARETTESI smoked chamomile wrapped in newspaper, and from time to time I smoked lime leaves.

The most important feat is that I stayed in one piece, and I graduated from university.

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 spare time I was writing my MA thesis and studying English and German.

COFFEEI used to make grain coffee; usually from barley, but once I used lentils. I also tried rice and acorns.

The Art Of Survival

I used to read by the light of an oil lamp. I know that young people buying from the street vendor usually asked for Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. I don’t know why, but the older folks sought Adler’s Understanding Human Nature; probably everyone wanted to read difficult things to forget about the war and their own difficulties. Plato and Hegel were bestsellers.

GOLFGolf auto could run on cooking oil, and if we could spare some cooking oil we’d add it to diesel, a Golf would run on anything! It never broke down. It jumped up, drove downhill, uphill. I think that the Golf saved Sarajevo.

The Art Of Survival

THE DAILY PAPERWhat did it mean to work in the basement of Oslobodjenje? It meant sitting in the semi darkness with an oil lamp, 10 or so of us gathered around a cold heater waiting for the night to come, for the generator to be turned on – as fuel was saved for printing the newspaper, even if only a two-sheet edition; we knew that in the morning citizens would be waiting for it in the streets: one could grow as hungry for news as for food.

The Art Of Survival

AN AGGREGATEWe made an aggregate out of a car engine that ran on gas, and an electric water pump engine. The car engine was from my neighbor’s Golf, the electric motor was off the black market, the bolts that modified the current came from washing machines (mine and my colleague’s) which were almost new, but at that point unusable. All in all, thanks to that invention, we had electricity almost every day, the 4 KW generator powered TVs and light bulbs in 12 apartments.

The Art Of Survival

A SCULPTORMy day would begin with a coffee at college, then I’d work with students if there was no shelling. In the afternoon I’d be making sculptures if there was electricity, I made what I knew how to do – installations with things I found in the ruins. And then a long night of listening to explosions in the dark.

RECIPESI used to bake rice bread. Boil the rice well and mash it. Then add a little bit of grain flour and mix it together. This bread won’t get hard even after three or four days.

The Art Of Survival

MISS SARAJEVO ‘93People realized that this town needed something. Something beautiful, something that would prove that there was life here. And that something was the Miss Sarajevo ‘93 contest.




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.

The Art of Survival

Feel free to share the guidebook with your friends, family and colleagues!

Copyright 2016-2020 R2.1 / FAMA Methodology

Editor-in-chief: Miran Norderland     Author and Editor: Suada Kapic    Art Direction: Davor Vidovic    Illustrator: Jelena Simic    Graphic Design: VIDEOR o.d. videor.ba    Editor/Translator: Mirjana Evtov    Editor/Proofreader: Gina Landor    Contributor: Jasmina Murga    Sources: FAMA COLLECTION famacollection.org, FAMA METHODOLOGY famamethodology.net    Photo credits: FAMA Collection (1992-1996), Zeljko Puljic, Milomir Kovacevic and Personal Archives    Publisher for Bosnia and Herzegovina: VIDEOR o.d.

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Extreme Conditions and Human Resilience
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