Bosnia was kind of a natural open society, if you will. There were always three ethnic groups: Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks. Serbs are Orthodox, Croats are Catholics, and Bosniaks are Muslims. Of course you will ask, “Then what happened? How did you have a war when
you had such a wonderful culture?” At the first elections, they suddenly realized that the majority of people voted for nationalistic parties. It was a complete shock. The CIA predicted civil war in the former Yugoslavia within 18 months. And I said, “These Americans, they don’t know anything.” [Colonel Vukasinovic? Yes, sir? Shell the presidency and the parliament.] For the first few months of the war, it was like a nightmare. When you go to work, you don’t know if you will be alive on the way back. The city was under siege for four years. We had to get to terms with not having water, not having food, being afraid all the time. War is like a disease which is destroying everything around you— destroying countries, destroying the families, destroying systems, destroying individuals. In the midst of this identity crisis of everyone, we are all sitting with each other and playing songs that were a common heritage, of not only Sarajevo, not only Bosnia, but of all of former Yugoslavia. Citizens of Sarajevo remained in solidarity towards each other. We were human beings who are put into an impossible position, and we now, together, need to survive this. People like Soros know what it
means to be in the middle of the war. That was one of the reasons why he was ready to help. The needs in Sarajevo were everything and anything. Human rights, rule of law, free press didn’t exist. He really, at that moment, jumped to promote the fight against the nationalism. To support this idea of Bosnia surviving as a multiethnic society and a state. My first project that I managed during the war was to put electricity wire through the tunnel. We decided the priorities would obviously be hospital, bakery, presidency as well. In order for the people to have the sanity they had to have things they had before the war. The fact that the Soros office was open during the war in Sarajevo was big deal. It was a kind of proof that the international community existed. It played a particularly important role in the relation with my newspaper, Oslobođenje. When that national party won the first elections, they agreed to control the media. After two months of war, we ran out of newsprint. And while all these battles were ongoing, Soros managed to bring us the newsprint. In a way, news were important for people in Sarajevo almost like bread. Journalists were more open and more critical during the war than in the period after the war. The first film festival—which now became the very famous Sarajevo Film Festival—was founded by Soros. We have to use the film as a very strong tool to tell the stories, and we would like to put people together, to walk together. I think the culture has to be above the politics. The response was overwhelming. We got 140 of the most recent features and documentaries. 20,000 visits in 10 days. They could get out of their houses. They could talk to somebody who is outside. Give them their dignity back. That’s one of the reason why the festival is today so big, so influential, so important. But I think, really, it was a built on this idea of reconciliation. Here, more than 20 years after the war, we’re teaching our children that our neighbors are enemies. If Europe is going to that direction, we are all lost. All people who really believe in democracy should be engaged and energized to fight as soon as possible. We have to be inventive, to be creative. Give the argument, why peace, and solidarity, and respect? To maintain curiosity, to maintain inventiveness. I hope for an integrated country. A country with no hatred or violence. And this, I hope for the rest of Europe and the world as well.