Janine di Giovanni: Zbogom svemu tome Janine di Giovanni
Janine di Giovanni: Zbogom svemu tome
09. april 2012. u 11:38
0

Scroll down for English version:

Piše: Janine di Giovanni za Radiosarajevo.ba

Janine di Giovanni je jedna od najiskusnijih evropskih novinarki s ogromnim iskustvom u izvještavanju ratnih sukoba. Rođena je u SAD-u, a izvještavala je iz skoro svih ratnih područja s kraja 20. i početka 21. stoljeća. Bosna, Balkan, Čečenija, Afrika, Bliski Istok, Sjeverna Afrika, Azija, Afganistan, Irak... Autorica je nekoliko knjiga: Duhovi danju: Memoari rata i ljubavi (Bloomsbury/Knopf 2011); Mjesto na kraju svijeta: Eseji s ruba (Bloomsbury 2006); Protiv Stranca (Viking/Penguin 1993) o utjecajima okupacije na Palestince i Izraelce za vrijeme prve intifade; Brzi i mrtvi o opsadi Sarajeva, i uvoda u bestseller Zlatin dnevnik o djetinjstvu u Sarajevu. Njena djela su uvrštena u brojne antologije, uključujući i u The Best American Magazine Writing, 2000. godine. Dobitnica je četiri velike nagrade; uključujući i National Magazine Award - jednu od najprestižnijih amerikih nagrada za novinarstvo. Dobitnica je i dvije nagrade Amnesty Internationala za njen rad u Sierra Leone i Bosni, kao i nagradu televizije Britanske Grenade za stranog korespondenta godine za njen rad u Čečeniji.
Janine živi i radi u Parizu. Ima 8-godišnjeg sina Lucu s francuskim novinarom Brunom Girodonom, kojeg je upoznala u Sarajevu 1993. godine. 

Sarajevo i vrijeme koje sam provela tamo su vjerovatno najvažniji period u mom životu. Na mnoge načine, to je predstavljalo moje "odrastanje" kao novinarke. Bila sam u ratovima i sukobima i prije, ali ništa me nije pripremilo za Bosnu. I ništa me nije pripremilo da se zaljubim u grad, njegove ljude i borbu da se uradi prava stvar – da se pokuša približiti priča Sarajeva svijetu.

Često je bilo jako frustrirajuće. Napišete nešto i imate osjećaj da vas nitko ne sluša u SAD-u ili Londonu. A tad smo se osjećali kao da smo iznevjerli ljude. Kao novinari, osjećali smo ogromnu obavezu da budemo svjedoci užasnih prizora koji su se dešavali. Nakon 1995. godine, izvještavala sam iz mnogih, mnogih ratova diljem svijeta. Radila sam to sa strašću i uvjerenjem da dajem glas ljudima koji nemaju glas – ali nisam nikada osjetila istu strast kao kada sam izvještavala o ratu u Bosni.

Prijateljstva koja sam sklopila u Sarajevu su bila značajna. Moji najbliži prijatelji dolaze iz tog doba. Još smo bliski, jer smo živjeli, radili i gotovo umrli skupa. Tu sam upoznala i čovjeka koji će biti moja sudbina na mnoge načine, oca mog djeteta – Brunu Girodona. On je francuski novinar, koji je radio za France 2, u avgustu 1993. godine, kada smo se upoznali u Holiday Innu. Deset godina nakon što smo se upoznali, vjenčali smo se - gotovo na isti dan kada smo se i upoznali. Imamo divnog dječaka zvanog Luca, što znači donositelj svjetla. Oboje smatramo da nas je iskupio od svih ratnih prizora koje smo vidjeli.

Što se tiče sjećanja, najjača su zapravo trenuci – Badnje veče u Aleji snajpera 1992. godine, burek koji je majka mog vozača napravila od humanitarne pomoći, ratnih barova s plinskim grijanjem, načina na koji su ljudi pomagali jedni drugima, kako rat izbaci na površinu najbolje – i najgore – u ljudskoj prirodi.

Zbogom svemu tome

By Janine di Giovanni

London, zima 2004. (The Times Magazine)

Ne gledam mnogo televiziju, ali me nedavno prijatelj nazvao i rekao da pogledam Prime Suspect. To je bila dvodijelna mini-serija u kojoj je Helen Mirren istraživala ubistvo bosanskog izbjeglice u Londonu, koji je svjedočio brutalnom masakru za vrijeme Balkanskog sukoba. Pogledala sam prvi dio, a iduće noći sam ostala kući da pogledam i drugi dio. Glumac kojeg sam znala iz Sarajeva je glumio negativca. Helen Mirren je polako počela da ludi kako se sve više uvlačila u slučaj. Korak po korak, počela je da bude opsjednuta. Odbila je da sluša svog šefa, žrtvovala je svoj posao i otišla u Bosnu na vlastiti račun da istraži masakr. Čudno ponašanje. Ali sam prepoznala taj pogled u njenim očima.

Prijatelj me nazvao kad je drugi dio završio. "Šta je to s Bosnom", pitao je, "da tako opsjedne ljude?" Nisam znala odgovoriti, ali sam razmišljala o tome. Izvještavala sam o ratu u Bosni 1992. godine i, iako nisam ranjena niti bolujem od PTSP-a, ne prođe dan u kojem taj rat ne prođe kroz moj um. Srela sam svog muža u Sarajevu. Neka od mojih najbližih prijateljstava su nastala u Bosni. I, na neki grozan način, moja najsnažnija sjećanja dolaze iz tih godina.

Jedna od mojih kolegica iz Bosne je nedavno rekla: "Izvještavati o ratu u Bosni je bio vrhunac mog života." Razumjela sam šta je mislila – da taj intenzitet nikad nije nadišla – ali je i dalje to bila čudna izjava.

250 hiljada ljudi je umrlo u tom ratu, a 3,5 miliona ljudi (od predratnog stanovništva od 23 miliona) su raseljeni. Ako pitate njihove porodice šta je vrhunac njihovog života, zasigurno neće biti godine 1991. - 1995.

Dakako, ono što je ona htjela reći je da nikad više ne može osjetiti takvu strast, čak ni u nekom drugom ratu. Nastavila je raditi – kao i većina nas novinara – u drugim ratnim područjima, ali ništa ne može biti kao ratovi koji su rasparali nekadašnju Jugoslaviju na komadiće u posljednjoj dekadi 20. stoljeća.

Ne vjerujem da novinari izvještavaju o ratovima zbog adrenalina; osim ako nemaju neki psihološki problem. Bosna nije bila ni najgori ni najopasniji rat o kojem sam izvještavala (tu nesretnu nagradu će dobiti Čečenija ili ratovi u Sjevernoj Africi). Ali, nepravda i okrutnost će me proganjati godinama, čak i više nego gomila tijela koje sam vidjela uz cestu u nekadašnjem Zairu ili slijepci koje sam srela zatočene u razrušenoj kući bez hrane, vode ili pomoći nakon pada Groznog.

Iako rijetko govorim o svojim iskustvima u Bosni, često ih sanjam. Živi su to snovi, poput halucinacija uzrokovanih drogom. Ljudi koje sam znala i voljela bi se vratila kao fotografije u boji. Dijelovi zaboravljenih razgovora bi se ponovili. Pitala sam se da li je to zbog toga što sam bila tako mlada kad sam počela raditi ili zato što me se sve lako dojmilo. Ali ovo nije bio rat s kojim sam stekla svoju "punoljetnost". Bila sam i mlađa kad sam izvještavala s Bliskog istoka, a kasnije i iz Ruande i Liberije. Ti ratovi me nisu dodirnuli u istoj mjeri niti prouzrokovali isti gnjev.

Počela sam pisati Vidljivo ludilo 1999. godine. Ta knjiga je imala čudno porijeklo.

Za vrijeme rata na Kosovu, bila sam na liniji za vrijeme NATO-vog bombardovanja KLA (Oslobodilačke vojske Kosova). Dok sam bila zarobljena tu, pisala sam dug tekst u stilu "toka misli" u kojem se nisam osvrnula samo na te grozne dane, nego i razne druge ratove i sjećanja iz njih. Tekst je dobio nagradu, a nagrada mi je donijela izdavače.

Željela sam objektivno napisati knjigu – da to ne bude knjiga o iskustvu jednog novinara, već o iskustvima drugih. Postoji jedan prizor u kojem je mene i još dva novinara uhapsio pijani srpski vojnik. Natjerao nas je da marširamo kroz šumu - kao da će nas smaknuti. Dugo sam pisala tu scenu jer nisam željela da ispadne previše teatralna. 

Ipak sam živa i izašla sam iz tog iskustva bez da sam silovana ili pretučena. Nakon što je pročitao knjigu, jedan je američki kritičar komentirao moj stil: "Kako ste mogli o ovome pisati na takav način?" Zato jer to nije bila moja knjiga. Pripadala je ljudima koji su mi dozvolili da pišem o njima. Željela sam pisati o osjećaju rata, kako on miriše, kako izgleda, kako je to sjediti dok vas bombarduju. Više od svega, željela sam da pišem o tome kakav je osjećaj umrijeti.

Prije nego što sam počela izvještavati o ratu, mislila sam da smrt dolazi dostojanstveno; s anđelima koji poetično silaze s nebesa, uz zvuke Pachelbelovog “Canona” ili Albinonijevog “Adagija”. To nije smrt. Smrt je soba puna staraca u Sarajevu koji umiru od hladnoće i kojima ja ne mogu pomoći. Smrt su stanovnici Ruande koji su pali pred moje noge i povraćali nekakvu zelenu tekućinu za vrijeme epidemije kolere.

Smrt su goli ljudi, svezanih ruku, koje sam pronašala uz put blizu moje kuće u Obali Slonovače nakon coup d'etat.

Nedavno je jedan kanadski psihijatar intervjuisao mene i malu grupu kolega za svoju trogodišnju studiju o utjecajima rata na novinare.

"Koliko ste leševa vidjeli?", bilo je jedno od postavljenih pitanja. "Nemam pojma", odgovorila sam mu. Nisam izbjegavala odgovor. Provela sam mnogo vremena u Africi. Gledala sam u mnoge masovne grobnice. Vidjela sam ukočene loševe ugurane u bunare. Zaista nisam znala.

"Ne mislite li da je to čudan odgovor?", pitao me i dodao da mnogi ljudi vide samo mrtva tijela svojih baka i djedova na sahranama. Trudila da mi je to stalno na pameti dok sam pisala Vidljivo ludilo. Željela sam da ljudi o kojima pišem – među kojima je raspon likova bio od vojnika tinejdžera do masovnih ubica – govore kroz mene i kažu svoje priče.

Da se vratimo Bosni: zašto se tako duboko urezala u duše mnogih ljudi? Martha Gellhorn je jednom napisala za španski građanski rat: "Možete voljeti samo jedan rat, nakon tog, pretpostavljam, samo radite svoju dužnost". Moje kolege i ja se jesmo, na neki strašan način, zaljubili. Zaljubili smo se u zemlju ne tako daleko od Engleske, do koje možemo doći avionom za manje od tri sata, a potom se voziti kroz mračne šume i planine do grada koji se nalazio u srednjevjekovnoj opsadi. Tu smo našli pjesnike koji spaljuju svoje knjige, doktore koji operišu bez antibiotika, operske pjevače na rubu ludila i djecu koja se i dalje igraju u snijegu, uprskos neprestanim zvucima granatiranja.

 

Janine (u pozadini); Sarajevo, avgust 1993. godine

Nedavno sam vidjela intervju s talentovanim CNN korespondentom Nicom Robertsonom u kojem ga neki naivni novinar pita da li je Bagdad opasan kao Sarajevo. Lice mu se zgrčilo i znala sam šta je mislio – "Budalo! Kako to možeš porediti?" Jer, zaista, ništa nije kao Sarajevo.

"Ne, Sarajevo je bilo daleko gore jer je bilo opasno i izaći pred svoju kuću", strpljivo je Robertson odgovorio. To je bila istina. Djeca su umrla pred vlastitom kućom jer su im roditelji dozvolili da se igraju vani, ne znajući kako ih više zadržati u kući. Starac je ustrijeljen među oči jer je izašao nacijepati drva za svoje prijatelje koji su se smrzavali. Ponekad, i oni koji nisu izlazili su se znali naći u opasnosti. Znala sam porodicu čiju je majku snajperista ubio dok je prala suđe.
Ne, ništa se nije moglo porediti s Bosnom.

Nekad u 1993. godini sam donijela nesvjesnu odluku da zabilježim rat nestrastveno poput stenografa. Skoro sam svaki dan išla u mrtvačnicu da bi prebrojala tijela. Zapisivala sam recepte kojima su ljudi pravili sir i vino od riže iz paketa humanitarne pomoći. Pažljivo sam bilježila razgovore i slike; poput psa koji je trčao s ljudskom rukom u ustima pored Predsjedništva. Ili sam šetala kroz improvizirana groblja čitajući spomenike: Rođen 1971., 1972., 1973I. Postoji pjesma sarajevskog pjesnika, Početi nakon svega, koju sam neprestano čitala:

Nakon što sam pokopao svoju majku (pod vatrom sam otrčao s groblja)

Nakon što su vojnici došli s mojim bratom umotanim u trampoline (Vratio sam im njegov pištolj)…

Nakon grabežljivog psa koji se hranio krvlju (samo još jedno mrtvo tijelo u Aleji snajpera)

Pisac i historičar Misha Glenny je jednom pisao o zavodljivoj čaroliji koju je Bosna bacila: "Kroz sredinu Bosne, Istok susreće Zapad; Islam sreće Kršćanstvo; Kršćanstvo gleda u Pravoslavlje… Bosna je podijelila velika carstva Beča i Konstantinopola… To je paradigma mirnog, javnog života na Balkanu i njegove najmračnije suprotnosti…"

Ja sam, kao i mnogi drugi, bila uhvaćena u tu opasnu čaroliju. Nije u pitanju bila samo činjenica da je ovo Vijetnam naše generacije, kako je netko rekao, ili da smo isprva osjećali jaku obavezu da izvještavamo o zlu koje se dešava tako blizu i samo 50 godina poslije Holokausta. Nije to bila čak ni zavodljivost multietničkog, kozmopolitskog grada ili prelijep kraj kojeg je rastrgao rat. To je bilo više pitanje toga šta je natjeralo te ljude, u svojim lijepim naseljima sa lijepim crkvenim zvonicima i lijepim rijekama koje prolaze kroz ta naselja, da unište jedni drugima živote? Odakle je to zlo došlo? To je ono što, nas je sve, tjeralo, vjerujem: želja da saznamo kako je čovječanstvo palo u takvu tamu.

Nekada je to dolazilo uz veliku cijenu. Jedan vikend u ranim ratnim godinama, moj nevjerovatno tolerantni dugogodišnji momak je doputovao u Zagreb. Njegov plan je bio da ću napustiti Sarajevo jednim od UN-ovih humanitarnih letova i biti s njim par dana u ugodnom hotelu. Bilo mi je nelagodno: brinula sam se da će se humanitarni letovi ukinuti, kao što se često dešavalo, ili da će se nešto veliko desiti u Sarajevu, što ću propustiti. Osjećala sam i strašnu krivicu što će meni ugađati dok će moji bosanski prijatelji biti pod opsadom. Ali on je bio uporan i konačno sam, jednog petka, otputovala u Zagreb.

Bio je to siv, sumoran dan. Jeli smo šnicle, pili crveno vino u restoranu uređenom u Habsburg stilu, a potom šetali ulicama. Osjećala sam se jadno, kao da mi nedostaje ruka. Pitala sam se šta se dešava u Reutersovom uredu, pitala sam se da li je moje bosansko kumče, Deni, prebolilo temperaturu. Veći dio dana sam kupovala namirnice koje ću odnijeti prijateljima. Provela sam vikend bojeći se da će otkazati nedjeljni let i da se neću moći vratiti.

Moj tadašnji momak – koji je umro mlad – i ja smo bili skupa već nekoliko godina. Bio je jednostavna osoba, želio je miran život, oženiti se, djecu, gledati sportske emisije i čitati novine u miru svakog jutra uz doručak. Mogao je biti sretan.

S druge strane, ja sam bila komplicirana. Drugog dana našeg vikenda je vedro rekao: "Kad se vratiš, proslavit ćemo to i onda pokušati započeti porodicu!"
Srce mi je otežalo. Kad bi imala djecu, ne bih se nikad mogla vratiti u Sarajevo. Kakav bi to život bio? Ta mi je misao bila nepodnošljiva. Nasmijala sam se i rekla: "Vidjet ćemo". Ali tog vjetrovitog nedjeljnog jutra, on se vratio u Notting Hill, ja sam se vratila Sarajevu i dugo se nisam vraćala kući.

Janine sa sinom, Lucom

Nekoliko godina nakon kraja rata u Bosni i prije rata na Kosovu – oko 1997. godine – spalila sam svoje bilješke iz Bosne. Bila je to čudna stvar za uraditi, čin otpora i prkosa prošlosti. Svako jutro sam se budila gledajući u te bilješke. Predstavljale su rat i patnju. Počela sam ih mrziti. Pisma, dokumenti, dnevnici – sve sam spalila. Željela sam krenuti dalje. O njima nisam više dugo mislila.
Nekoliko godina poslije, nazvao me istraživač iz haškog suda. Željeli su da svjedočim o opsadi Mostara.

Za vrijeme te opsade, živjela sam na istočnoj, muslimanskoj, strani Neretve u ruševnom stanu sa dva mlada vojnika. Svoje dane smo provodili na liniji, oni su bili snajperisti s malom jedinicom, a noći smo provodili pokušavajući izbjeći gelere. Čega se sjećam iz tog doba? Noćnog ležanja na madracu, zvuka granatiranja, trešnji i hladnog graha za večeru, jedine nam dostupne hrane; mojih prijatelja vojnika koji se smiju nekoj blesavoj šali. Ali najviše se sjećam osjećaja da ne postoji život van te sobe, te linije, tog grada. U tom malom, opasnom svijetu sam, na neki čudan način, bila sretna. Kako sam to mogla reći haškom sudu? Rekla sam začuđenom istraživaču da sam spalila svoje bilješke – dokumentaciju o hrvatskim zločinima, broju mrtvih, intervjue sa svjedocima. "Šta ste uradili?", zavapila je ona. Tek sam tada shvatila šta sam uradila.

Ali to nije izbrisalo ta sjećanja. Ne mogu zaboraviti mrtve. Bili su gdje god sam gledala. Kad god sam se vraćala u Sarajevo nakon rata, još su bili tu – oko nove Benettonove radnje ili internet kafea ili meksičkog restorana koji je posluživao loše margarite.

Slijedili su me okolo poput toplih, sivih oblaka. Jedino moj prijatelj Dragan, koji je sa mnom proživio rat, je razumio. Jednog dana me odvezao na aerodrom i rekao mi da si nađem život. "Udaj se, imaj djecu, zaboravi ovo mjesto", rekao mi je. "Reci Doviđenja Bosna".

Samo je pisanje Vidljivog ludila to učinilo. Kad sam dala svim likovima, i živim i mrtvim, slobodu da lutaju po mojoj knjizi – jer se čita više kao roman nego kao neko neknjiževno djelo – oslobodila sam njih, a, na kraju, i sebe. Tek kad sam završila posljednju stranicu, isprintala je i poslala svom uredniku mogla sam konačno početi da ih zaboravljam.

Napomena: Zahvaljujemo za posredovanje i pomoć Bobi Lizdek, koja je tokom rata radila kao prevodilac u štabu UNPROFOR-a, te za mnoge inostrane medijske kuće uključujući agenciju Reuters.

Prijevod i obrada: Zdenko Voloder, Radiosarajevo.ba

ENGLISH

Janine di Giovanni is one of Europe's most respected and experienced reporters, with vast experience covering war and conflict. Born in the US, she covered almost all most violent conflicts and wars at the brink of 20th and 21st century. Bosnia, the Balkans, Chechnya, Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq…Janine has written several books: Ghosts by Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love (Bloomsbury/Knopf 2011); The Place at the End of the World: Essays from the Edge (Bloomsbury 2006); Against the Stranger (Viking/Penguin 1993) about the effect of occupations during the first intifada on both Palestinians and Israelis; The Quick and The Dead about the siege of Sarajevo, and the introduction to the best-selling Zlata's Diary about a child growing up in Sarajevo. Her work has been anthologized widely, including in The Best American Magazine Writing, 2000. Janine has won four major awards, including the National Magazine Award, one of America's most prestigious prizes in journalism. She has won two Amnesty International Awards for Sierra Leone and Bosnia. And she has won Britain's Grenada Television's Foreign Correspondent of the Year for Chechnya.
Janine lives and works in Paris and has an 8-year old son Luca with French journalist Bruno Girodon, whom she met and fell in love with - in Sarajevo in 1993.

Sarajevo and the time i spent there was probably the most important period of my life. in many ways, as a reporter, it was my "coming of age" story. i had been in wars and conflicts before, but nothing prepared me for bosnia. and nothing prepared me to fall in love with a city, its people, and the struggle to do the right thing - to try  to bring the story of sarajevo to the world.

it was often hugely frustrating, when you wrote something and felt that no one was listening in london or usa. and then we felt we let people down. as journalists, we felt a huge obligation to bear witness to the atrocities. after 1995, i went on to report many, many wars all over the globe. i did it with passion and conviction that i was telling the story of people who did not have a voice - but i never again felt the same passion i felt while reporting the bosnian war.

the friendships i made in sarajevo were huge.  my closest friends come from that era. we are still close, because we lived, worked and nearly died together.  i also met the man who would be my fate in many ways, the father of my child, bruno girodon. he was a french journalist working for france 2 in august 1993 when we met at the holiday inn.  ten years after we met, nearly the same day, we married. we have a wonderful little boy called luca, which means the bringer of light. both of us feel that he redeemed us from seeing so much war.

for memories, the strongest ones are of moments -- of christmas eve mass on sniper's alley in december 1992; of the burek my driver's mother made for me out of her humanitarian aid package; of the war time bars with the open gas fires, of the way people helped each other, how war brings out the best - and the worse  - in human nature

Goodbye to All That

By Janine di Giovanni

London Winter, 2004 (The Times Magazine)

I am not a big television fan, but recently a friend rang and told me to watch Prime Suspect. It was a two-parter in which Helen Mirren was investigating the murder in London of a Bosnian refugee who had witnessed a brutal massacre during the Balkan conflict. I watched it. The next night I stayed home to watch the second part. There was an actor I knew from Sarajevo playing the bad guy, and there was Helen Mirren, slowly going mad as she became more and more embroiled in the case. Eventually, she became obsessed. She disobeyed her boss, sacrificed her job and flew to Bosnia at her own expense to investigate the massacre. Strange behaviour. But I recognised that look in her eyes.

My friend rang me after the second part ended. "What was it with Bosnia," he asked, "that made people so obsessive?" I could not answer, but I have been thinking. I began reporting the Bosnian war in 1992, and while I am fortunate enough not to have been injured or to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, not a day goes by in which the conflict does not enter my mind. I met my husband in Sarajevo. I forged some of my closest friendships in Bosnia. And, in a horrible way, my most powerful memories come from those years.

One of my colleagues from Bosnia recently said, "Reporting the war in Bosnia was the highest point of my life." I understood what she meant - that the intensity had never been surpassed -but it was an odd statement.

After all, 250,000 people died in that war, and 3.5 million from a prewar population of 23 million were displaced. If you asked their families what the high points of their lives were, they would surely not be the years 1991-1995.

But, of course, what my friend meant was that she could never duplicate that passion, even in another war. She went on -as most of us reporters did -to work in other war zones, but nothing could match the wars that ripped the former Yugoslavia apart in the last decade of the 20th century.

I do not believe journalists report war for adrenalin rushes, unless they have some sort of psychological problem. And Bosnia was not the most brutal or dangerous war that I have reported (for that, Chechnya or the wars in West Africa take the unhappy prize). But the injustice and cruelty of it haunted me for many years, even more than the piles of bodies I saw by the side of the road in Zaire, or the blind people I encountered trapped in a bombed-out house with no food, water or assistance after the fall of Grozny.

While I rarely spoke of my experiences in Bosnia, I would dream about them; vivid, Technicolor dreams, like drug-induced hallucinations. People I knew and loved would return as perfect as a colour photograph. Snatches of forgotten conversations would be replayed. I wondered if it was because I was so young when I began working there, or so impressionable. But this was not a coming-of-age war. I was even younger when I reported from the Middle East, and later, Rwanda or Liberia. Yet those conflicts did not move me to the same extent or provoke the same outrage.

I began writing Madness Visible in 1999. The book had a strange genesis.

During the Kosovo war, I got caught in a Nato bombing raid on a KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) front line in which many men died. While trapped there, I wrote a long, stream-of-consciousness piece which did not just stick to those gruesome days, but which drifted back and forth in time to years of conflict and memory. The piece won a prize, and the prize got me publishers.

I wanted to write the book in a detached way, so that it was not a book about a journalist's experience, but the experiences of others. There is one scene in which I and two other reporters are captured by a drunken Serb paramilitary and made to march in the woods in mock-execution style. It took me ages to write the scene because I didn't want to overdramatise it.

After all, I am still alive and I emerged without having been raped or beaten. But, after reading it and commenting on the detached style, an American critic kept pressing me, "But how could you write about this in such an impersonal way?" The answer was that it was not my book. It belonged to the people who allowed me to write about them. I wanted to capture what war smells and feels like, what it looks like, what it is like to sit under a bombardment. Most of all, I wanted to write about what it feels like to die.

Before I began reporting war, I thought death came with dignity; with angels descending poetically from the heavens; with the strains of Pachelbel's Canon or the Albinoni Adagio; with closure. But that is not death. Death is a room full of old people in Sarajevo dying from the cold, while I was unable to help them. Death was the Rwandans who collapsed at my feet vomiting some disgusting green substance during a cholera epidemic.

Death was the naked men, their hands tied behind their backs, who I found by the side of the road near my house in the Ivory Coast after the coup d'etat.

Recently, I and a small group of colleagues were interviewed by a Canadian psychiatrist for a three-year study on the effect of war on journalists.

"How many dead bodies have you seen?" was one of the questions the shrink asked me. "I have no idea," I said. I wasn't being glib. I have spent a lot of time in Africa. I have stared into many mass graves, and seen bodies stiff with rigor mortis stuffed down wells. I honestly did not have a clue.

"Don't you think that's an odd answer?" he said. After all, he added, most people just see their grandparents' bodies at funerals. I tried always to keep that in mind as I was writing Madness Visible. I wanted the people I wrote about -a cast of characters ranging from teenage soldiers to mass murderers -to speak through me and tell their stories.

But getting back to Bosnia: why did it etch itself so deeply into so many people's souls? Martha Gellhorn once wrote of the Spanish Civil War, "You can only love one war; afterwards, I suppose, you do your duty." My colleagues and I did fall in love, in a gruesome and horrible way. We fell in love with a country not far from England, one which we could fly to in less than three hours, then drive overland through the dark fir forests and mountains to a city that was enduring a medieval siege. There, we found poets burning their books and doctors operating without antibiotics and opera singers going mad and children still playing in the snow, despite the constant thud of the mortars.

Recently, I saw Nic Robertson, the talented CNN correspondent, being asked by some naive anchor back in Atlanta whether Baghdad was as dangerous as Sarajevo. I saw his face twitch and I knew what he was thinking -"You moron! How can you compare the two?" Because nothing really compared to Sarajevo.

"No, Sarajevo was far worse because it was dangerous just to go outside your door," Roberston replied patiently. This was true. There were kids who were shot in front of their houses having been allowed out to play because their parents simply could not keep them confined any longer. There was an old man who was shot between the eyes when he went out to chop wood, because his friends were freezing to death. Sometimes, even those who had not ventured outside found themselves in danger. I knew of a family whose mother was shot by a sniper while washing dishes at the sink.

No, nothing else compared to Bosnia.

Sometime in 1993, I made an unconscious decision to record the war as dispassionately as a stenographer. Almost every day I climbed the hill to the morgue to count the bodies. I wrote down the recipes people used to make cheese and wine from the rice in their humanitarian aid packages. I recorded conversations and images carefully: like the dog seen running near the Bosnian presidency building with a human hand in its mouth. Or walking through makeshift graveyards reading the markers: born 1971, 1972, 1973I There was a poem by a Sarajevo poet, Beginning After Everything, that I read over and over following the war: 

After I buried my mother (under fire, I sprinted from the graveyard)

After the soldiers came with my brother wrapped in a tarp (I gave them back his gun)...

After the ravenous dog feasting on blood (just another corpse in Sniper's Alley)

The writer and historian Misha Glenny once wrote about the seductive spell that Bosnia cast: "It is through the middle of Bosnia that East meets West; Islam meets Christianity; the Catholic eyes the Orthodox... Bosnia divided the great empires of Vienna and Constantinople... it is both the paradigm of peaceful, communal life in the Balkans and its darkest antithesis..."

I and many others were caught up in the dangerous spell. It was not just the fact that this was our generation's Vietnam, as someone pointed out, or that we felt, initially, a strong obligation to report the evil that was happening so close to home just 50 years after the Holocaust. It was not even the draw of the multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan city, or the heartbreakingly beautiful country ripped apart by war. It was more a question of what had driven these people, in these neat villages with pretty church steeples and pretty rivers winding through them, to destroy each other's lives? From where did this evil come? That is what drove all of us, I believe: the desire to find out how humanity could plunge to such darkness.

Sometimes, it came at a huge cost. One weekend early into the war, my incredibly tolerant long-term boyfriend took a weekend trip to Zagreb. His plan was that I would leave Sarajevo by one of the UN humanitarian flights and stay a few days in a nice hotel with him. I was uneasy: I was worried the aid flights would shut down, as they always did, or that a major event would happen in Sarajevo and I would miss it. I also felt terrible guilt that I was going to be pampered while my Bosnian friends were stuck inside the siege. But he was persistent, and finally, one Friday lunchtime, I flew to Zagreb.

It was a grey, drizzly day. We ate schnitzel and drank heavy red wine at a faux-Hapsburg restaurant, then walked the streets. But I was miserable. I felt as though I was missing a limb. I wondered what was happening in the Reuters office, or if my Bosnian godson, Deni, had got over his fever. I spent most of the day shopping for supplies to take back to friends. I worried the whole weekend that the Sunday flight would be cancelled and I would never get back.

My then-boyfriend -who has since died young -and I had been together for several years. He was an uncomplicated person who wanted to live quietly, get married, have kids, watch Match of the Day and read the newspapers in peace in the morning over his breakfast. He had it in him to be happy.

I, on the other hand, was complicated. On day two, he said brightly: "When you get back, we'll have a great holiday and then try to start a family!"

My heart sank. If I had kids, I would never be able to go to Sarajevo again. What kind of life would that be? The thought was intolerable. I smiled and said, "We'll see." But on that wintry Sunday morning, he went back to Notting Hill, I went back to Sarajevo and I did not come home again for a very long time.

A few years after the war ended, and before the war in Kosovo erupted - around 1997 -I burnt all my Bosnian notebooks. It was a strange thing to do, an act of defiance and rebellion against the past. Every morning I had woken up staring at these notebooks. They represented war and misery. I had begun to hate them. Letters, documents, diaries -all went into the raging fire. I wanted to move on. I did not think of them again for some time.

Then, a few years later, a researcher from the war crimes tribunal at the Hague rang. They wanted me to testify about the siege of Mostar.

During that siege, I lived on the east side of the Neretva River, the Muslim side, in a bombed-out apartment with two young soldiers. We spent our days on the front line, where my friends were snipers with a small unit, and the nights trying to avoid being hit by shrapnel. What do I remember from that time? Lying on a mattress at night watching red tracer rounds; the sound of the bombing; eating cherries and cold beans for dinner, the only food available; my soldier friends laughing over some silly joke. But most of all I remember the feeling that there was no life outside that room, that front line, that city. In that limited, dangerous world, I was strangely happy. How could I report that to the war crimes tribunal? Instead, I told the startled researcher that I had burnt my notebooks -the documentation of Croat atrocities, the count of the dead, the interviews with witnesses. "You did what?" she gasped. Only then did I realise what I had done.

But it had not erased the memories. I could not forget the dead. They were everywhere I looked. And when I went back to Sarajevo over and over after the war, they were still there -hanging around the brand-new Benetton shop or the internet cafe or the Mexican restaurant that served bad margaritas.

They followed me around like warm, grey clouds. Only my friend Dragan, who had been with me during the war, understood. One day he drove me to the airport and told me to get a life. "Get married, have kids, forget this place," he said. "Say Dovidjenja Bosna (Goodbye Bosnia)."

But in the end, only writing Madness Visible did that. As I gave all the characters, living and dead, the freedom to roam around my book - because it reads more like a novel than a work of non-fiction -I liberated them, and, ultimately, myself. Only when I finished the last page, printed it, and sent it off to my editor did I finally begin to forget about them. 

Radiosarajevo.ba

comments powered by Disqus

Ko će slaviti u vječitom derbiju sarajevskih rivala?

Željezničar
Sarajevo
Bit će neriješeno