Sarajevo love story: just how a chance photo shared the happiness and pain of Bosnia’s battle | Cities |


t was a typical Saturday night in downtown Sarajevo: during the Underground nightclub, an area heavy-metal band was about going to the period. I became in Bosnia
recording 2 decades of comfort
, trying to include stories on the younger generation – the so-called “war children” – who had been born during or perhaps following Bosnian conflict, and were now coming old.

It had been my personal next time for the area, and that I had expected this day in particular to-be some unique: exactly two decades before, the
Dayton Peace arrangement was finalized
. It signalled the end of fuck near you four numerous years of raw combat between Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), additionally the siege of Sarajevo – the longest siege in modern-day history.

But along with a pompous ceremonial event at the greatly protected and fortified United states embassy earlier in the day (that wasn’t exactly a public occasion), there have been no other occasions during the area to remember the wedding. 20 years towards the time, and it felt there is nothing personally to photo.

There is certainly no wedding event within club that evening. The students people drank, smoked and partied on whatever – perhaps unacquainted with the 20-year anniversary, or maybe just as well hectic with Saturday-night to care and attention.

I took certain photos from the group and the band (who have beenn’t going to be finalized anytime soon), but there was clearly barely adequate light to recapture any photographs. I scanned the crowd finding some background light and fascinating faces. Usually the one picture I saw ended up being of a woman and her boyfriend, about to kiss. I found myselfn’t actually at ease with the notion of being a


, or privately invading somebody’s personal time. But we got the try anyway then kept – with a sore head through the heavy metal and rock and cheap alcohol, but happy I would got at least one usable photograph from night.

Two weeks later on, Guardian Cities posted the picture as an element of
a photoessay of my task
. Soon after, i acquired a shock mail through the woman for the photo: Lejna Čelebičić, a 20-year-old radiology student who was simply born the very same few days the Bosnian combat finished in 1995. She started the email claiming:

“we noticed that you got a photograph of me and my personal boyfriend! I have had people from all over getting in touch with me stating Im throughout the Guardian internet site. It actually was incredible if you ask me that you took that picture of us given that it suits completely because of this post – as my date is Serb and I am Bosnian.”

a look at Sarajevo after the dispute, in 1996.

Photo: Chris Leslie

In a nation in which recollections on the combat are nevertheless natural and painful, Lejna along with her 19-year-old boyfriend, Damir Marilović, are one thing of a rarity. Nationalism still is a whole lot typical right here: tensions and divisions remain, and stick to energy, most politicians as well as their news allies encourage more and more nationalist agendas.

Different education programs try to replicate the divisions, and every side enforces a unique historic viewpoints and governmental ideologies. There seems to be minimal range for integration. Young people including Lejna and Damir are the uncommon exception, frustrating the consensus that actually 20 years following the battle, the nationality of boyfriend or girl is essential.

It is simply whenever Lejna tells me the storyline of her parents’ wedding that I realise their jump across the political and ethnic separate actually works for the family.

The woman mommy, Ivona, is a Catholic Croat along with her father, Elvir, a Bosnian Muslim. They met and fell in love on Valentine’s Day 1994 in a little town outside Sarajevo. Ivona and her family happened to be living truth be told there as refugees after fleeing Sarajevo, while Elvir ended up being stationed indeed there as a soldier.

Lejna’s father and mother Ivona and Elvir Čelebičić in 1995, the year the conflict ended

It absolutely was a time of intense fighting between both sides, in addition to their relationship was frowned-upon by everyone. Within 2-3 weeks they chose to go back again to Sarajevo, busting inside town through a secret canal that went underneath the airport to prevent the frontline checkpoints.

Sarajevo in 1994 was not just the right location for two “star-crossed lovers” to start their brand new existence together. The combat had been raging: Sarajevo was actually entirely in the middle of Bosnian Serbs, and was being systematically and indiscriminately destroyed with shelling and sniping daily. Yet Ivona made a decision to follow Elvir into area they called residence.

“some people were desperate to exit Sarajevo, I found myself going straight towards it,” Ivona recalls. “I didn’t think about the hazards, I just realized Elvir was actually my soulmate, my personal other half. While I arrived on the scene of the tunnel within opposite end, Sarajevo was outlined facing me – devastated, desperately sad, but mine.”

Elvir was given birth to and bred in Sarajevo and, like all Sarajevans, fiercely proud and safety of his home. Inspite of the siege, he has got fond recollections from the emergency spirit associated with area during that time.

“in spite of the horror by which they lived, individuals of Sarajevo were chuckling plus ‘alive’ than they truly are today. People appreciated and distributed to others even when they didn’t have a great deal. They clung on to exactly what tradition ended up being kept or readily available: some of the best neighborhood stone songs was developed in Sarajevo during duration – ‘rock under siege’, we called it. I noticed Waiting for Godot directed by the belated Susan Sontag, just who visited Sarajevo. These marked a number of the pleased times of this regrettable time, and kept all of our area live for some reason.”

The pair happened to be married in Sarajevo in August 1994, along with March 1995 Ivona became pregnant with Lejna. During her pregnancy, Elvir finished up in healthcare facility after becoming hurt throughout the frontline by a grenade that nearly caused him to get rid of their knee. Ivona carried on as most useful she could, walking six kilometers daily – steering clear of shelling and snipers – to go to work and visit Elvir in hospital.

Residing under siege, there seemed to be bit when it comes to deluxe or cash. Within the last couple of weeks of the woman maternity Ivona’s neighbors would tear within the floorboards using their domiciles for firewood so she don’t get too cold. Lejna was created on 14 November 1995 and, seven days later, the Dayton Peace arrangement is made.

“We had survived nine months associated with the war jointly in my body,” Ivona recalls, “enduring a hail of bullets and grenades on a lot of occasions. We had lived along these lines day by day, maybe not imagining life could be any different once Lejna was given birth to. The other week after she came into this world the firearms ended, and then we started a fresh life under tranquility.”

Lejna together with her parents in 1996.

Photo: The Čelebičić family

The Sarajevo of 2 decades back, the war-torn urban area in which Elvir and Ivona developed house, is actually an extremely different spot now. In the centre the physical scarring of war are nearly impractical to find as Sarajevo puts on a brave, cosmopolitan face for your international society. The rebuilding procedure features rebranded it with stores, resorts and apartment blocks to make it seem like all other European town. But for Elvir and Ivona, anything vital has been lost:

“Our sensation is the fact that Sarajevo and its residents have demostrated their own power inside combat. Will, solidarity, give up, pleasure and defiance will be the characteristics this particular town confirmed if it had been the most difficult and a lot of required. Now we are missing out on that. We know that duration of the combat in Sarajevo features a particular place in our minds, and will also be here until our finally breathing.”

Today the
country’s jobless rate
is approximately 43per cent, and governmental and financial corruption and mismanagement plague civic existence. Lejna admits truly hard-going in Sarajevo in certain cases, and she’s unsure if she and Damir will remain there when they both graduate. But for today, the couple are happy becoming young plus really love, reliving the lives of Lejna’s moms and dads in Sarajevo – without the backdrop of war.

At the end of our talk on Skype, Lejna thanks me personally once again for photographing this lady, but informs me i obtained something defectively completely wrong. Kiddies created two decades back whenever conflict ended commonly “war babies”, when I had labeled as all of them – quite contrary. She yet others of the woman generation, no matter what nationality or ethnicity, needs to be referred to as “peace infants”.

Chris Leslie is actually an
award-winning photographer and filmmaker
. Follow Guardian Cities on
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