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.



I played football.

The Art Of Survival

ŠEMSAAlways smiling, looking great, dressed to the nines. Never showing fear, never running but moving around normally, despite those who, at every intersection, peered through the sniper scopes: “I think I didn’t go out of my mind only because I worked so much, physically.”

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.

RECIPESWe were very careful with bread, making sure that everyone got at least the minimum needed to deceive hunger; but if we didn’t eat all the bread we had during the day, we’d use the leftovers to prepare a specialty: cevapcici made of bread crumbs. All Bosnians love cevapcici.

The Art Of Survival

BABY BOOTIESMy mother used to knit baby booties. We did not know any babies, but we kept bringing her every piece of wool thread we could find. She’d immerse herself so totally into making the finest and softest baby booties that she wouldn’t think about the shells falling on our balcony.

PETSOne day there was no way I could make my dog leave the building, which made me angry and annoyed. But there was a good reason for his behavior, which became obvious when the shelling started a few seconds afterwards. From then on, none of my neighbors went out without previously checking if my dog was willing to go.

The Art Of Survival

A WATER BOTTLE TROLLEYWe used a sled and roller skates to make a trolley for water transportation.

SCHOOLWhen I couldn’t go to school (we had classes only when there was no shelling), I had oral tests over the phone; teachers would call from their house, I would answer their questions on the phone.

The Art Of Survival

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.

COMMUNICATIONSWe communicated with the outside world via satellite phones, humanitarian organizations, radio amateurs, foreign journalists, the UN, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Caritas.

The Art Of Survival

GLOVESBarter was my way to survive. I used to knit gloves from colorful wool vests and barter them for food or cigarettes. Once a neighbor told me that an elderly lady bartered a pint of brandy for his ‘Nostradamus Prophecies’. He was thrilled with the exchange, he thought he had done very well out of it. He couldn’t wait to get home and relax with the help of that brandy – one needed it given all the problems and everything we lived through. However, passing through the market-place, and knowing that there was no flour at home, he asked a dealer: ‘Would you barter flour for cognac?’ The dealer gave him six kilos of flour for the cognac. He said he suffered a lot that night, but survival came first.

I did my best to look good.

The Art Of Survival

FAIRY TALESI used to tell fairytales to my grandchildren to keep them from thinking about and listening to what was happening outside.

The Art Of Survival

A FLYING MANIn the performance, this ladder raised a flying man, put fire and water together, and air: the three strange worlds. But we actually stayed in this world.

The Art Of Survival

CENTAURS FIGHTINGThe easiest way to deal with that destroyed tram was to turn it into a sculpture. To start off with, we used the rotary welding machines and cranes that UNPROFOR had on trucks to lift the tram.

We use to make puppet shows on our staircase.

MOVING AROUNDI moved around the city in order to find food and water. There was no place where you could be safe from shelling and sniper fire.

The Art Of Survival

AEROBICSA PTSD Counseling Center was opened in Sarajevo. There was a computer science course, English language course, sewing and cosmetic courses, but I picked aerobics. I could go there to have coffee, to talk to people, and when there was electricity and we could even watch TV. We needed to jump, to socialize, to exchange recipes, to energize ourselves with aerobic exercise.

The Art Of Survival

JEWELRYI was making jewelry, even though nobody had ordered it. But it was something to do. I worked very hard, I carefully followed patterns, crafting every piece with care – to make them beautiful.

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




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
Evidence-based case-study: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996.'

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