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.
I learned Italian.
HAIR THE MUSICALWe rehearsed with music from a tape recorder attached to a small accumulator. The premiere was an iconic event, a great emotional valve, a sedative for the citizens of this city.
TIPSPick your lunch, catch your dinner!
WATEROnce the water pump was set up, if there was a sniper threat we’d stay on watch during the day to make sure that only two persons at a time approached the pump, while the others waited behind a building or any other object that offered protection from snipers and shells.
FEARIf someone was afraid, they said they were afraid. If someone loved someone, they immediately said it, they showed it clearly. If we wanted to give each other a hand, that’s what we did.
SPORTIt was the 800 meter race. Children were warming up in the channel on the north side of the stadium, which was protected from shots from the outside. After the warm up, we gathered the children in a place different from where races usually start, because the actual 800 meter starting point was on the other side, the one that was not safe. The children started off right at the moment when no one knew whether it was day or night, with just enough light for the young athletes to see where to run, but staying in a sort of shadow so that they couldn’t be seen by snipers. We asked them to wear maroon jerseys – maroon being the color of the race track.
RECIPESI used to make rice popcorn. You put oil in the pan and wait for it to heat up. Then you put the rice in and wait for it to swell and become golden. This is good both as a meal and as a snack, for entertainment.
NAIDAIn times of stress and crisis it is important to create a peaceful environment for the children.
SURVIVAL GARDENSAfter the Soros Foundation donated 16,000 bags of garden seeds, Sarajevo became one large garden of survival. Every patch of soil was used for gardening, be it on a window sill or balcony or behind a house. We produced seedlings in every available dish. We can guarantee the survival of any household with 100 square meters to sow potatoes - and maybe a goat to boot!
NEEDLEPOINTThat was a way of bartering. I stitched needlepoint pieces and bartered them for packed lunches from humanitarian aid.
CLOTHESLINEI used to boil the linen by putting it in black bags and hanging it on the clothesline in the sun.
TIPSI isolated myself from the media and the news in order to maintain high motivation.
HOSPITALWhen we came on duty, we used to bring some water, or a log - everyone brought whatever they could. That was the only way; we would put those logs in the oven to dry a little bit, but also to warm them up so that we could hold them to warm our hands; we didn’t want to touch patients with such cold hands, especially the young children.
The most significant event was the birth of my son.
TRAMWhat happened was, as everyone knows, that they were shooting, shelling or sniper targeting passengers in trams. The trams could not drive along so-called ‘sniper alley’, but we insisted on carrying on with all the regular activities of life as much as possible, to make people feel that they were alive despite it all, and not locked up in a cage.
I repaired TV sets in people’s houses. That was often needed as TV sets often broke down because of the unstable electric current and frequent electricity cuts.
PETSDespite the shelling, exhibitors brought their dogs; some poodles even had bows, like in the best of times. People were amazed when I told them to feed their dogs brewer’s yeast as a supplement. They thought the yeast would make the dogs swell. A dog is not bread, the yeast cannot make it swell.
SNIPERI stand between the buildings and watch the clock. After the first shot, I count the seconds to the next. Approximately 15 to 20 seconds. When I feel I’m ready, I wait for the next shot and start running across the avenue: had to cross it in 15 seconds. Fear is fantastic: you stop feeling your legs, your muscles stop working, there is no air in your lungs.
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.
FAMILY ECONOMIC CHAINThe team that guaranteed survival was made up of my father, my brother and me. There was a ‘family economic chain’ in which people clustered together, each of them participating in the collective effort for survival. The ‘chain’ functioned flawlessly under new rules to which each individual agreed. The only way to survive was within a family, through a mechanism that was partly cash-based and partly barter-based and partly smuggling.
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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