Hunting Serbian Terrorists Around Sarajevo
Bosnian Soldier Hunts His Father
30 December 1992.
By Neil MacFarquhar
Samir, fighting on the Bosnian government side, is in an anti-tank squadron in the suburb of Stup, where his father, Ljubomir Petrovic, commands a tank battalion for the Serbs [who terrorize Sarajevo].
“Chances are pretty good. I think about it a lot. It inspired me to fight,” the 19-year-old said in an interview at home, surrounded by his mother’s Bosniak relatives. He interrogates captured Serbs for news of his father.
The war that broke out nine months ago has destroyed much of Sarajevo and frayed the interwoven threads of its multiethnic culture. Some Serbs have left to fight with the Serb nationalists challenging the Bosnian government. Families like the Petrovics have split.
Communities of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs remaining in the besieged capital still try to respect the tradition of easy mingling among the 400,000 inhabitants.
But it is difficult. In the 60,000-strong Serb community, some wonder how long tolerance can last if refugees from districts where Serbs plundered and raped turn to revenge.
“How can you explain to someone that they have to follow the old rules when blood falls in their eyes?” asked Veljko Droca, a 61-year-old retired sociology professor who is a Serb.
Serbs scurry through the one functioning Orthodox church just long enough to light candles in front of the icons.
“They just come in and run away again. They are afraid,” said the priest, Avhkum Rosic.
The rumor that the Serbs planned to rename the city after Gavrilo Princip, a nationalist who sparked World War I in 1914 by assassinating Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, did not help matters.
The city fathers moved to protect a piece of history by cutting out his footprints and removing a plague on the wall where the shooting occurred.
Aside from one prominent Serb politician abducted and murdered carly in the conflict, however, the Serbs said the only abuse they suffer is verbal. They dismiss as ludicrous the claims by the Serb army that 20,000 of their number have been slaughtered [by Bosniak Muslims].
The Bosnian government says it is committed to protecting them.
“The first time you see a Serb slaughtered here, come and tell me and I will kill myself,” said Gen. Stjepan Siber, a Croat and deputy commander of the Bosnian military.
But Muslims [Bosniaks] often grumble that the Serb community has been low to condemn Sarajevo’s destruction, refusing to choose sides to save their necks if the city fell.
More than 300 Serb intellectuals tried to reverse that with a petition condemning the siege.
Samir Petrovic gloats about the day he blew up a tank and discovered he had killed his uncle Branislav.
“My heart was full. I was very happy,” said Petrovic.
Like many in Sarajevo, Petrovic grew up in a mixed neighborhood, and did not identify himself as a Bosniak. But his parents divorced when he was young, and he was always closer to his mother’s side.
“In the beginning of the war, you suddenly had to find the group you belonged to,” Petrovic said.