Exactly 29 years ago, on this day, 19.02.1984. with the gala closing ceremony, in Sarajevo were closed the XIV Olympic Winter Games. Tagged as the brightest moment in the history of Yugoslavia and the first one organized by the socialist state.
My mother, nine months pregnant and with stomach to the teeth on the Igman arenas, watched with pleasure competitions in ski jumping live and when the big event ended I could be born too. And despite the fact that I was not practically born, in some strange way, I very vividly remember of that Sarajevo in that distant 1984 and those magical games, like I really was there, and actively participated in all.
Because of those days on the February 1984 occurred, as many say, the Olympic dream of a winter fairy tale, the historical 10 days of Sarajevo and the former Yugoslavia. City pushed into a valley and surrounded by mountains, at the crossroads of worlds, connecting East and West, or “village in the mountains,” as it is once called by the writer Susan Sontag, he opened the door to whole world.
And despite the fact that I live far away from Sarajevo, I still feel it and I love it as a part of myself. As I like winter, snow and February, I love the Sarajevo Olympics as well. That unique and almost mythical spirit of town was so much present and strong around me, so many times retold, sung, recorded and transmitted, that the other was impossible. And the spirit that was living then, before, and after in Sarajevo, could not never be explain rationally. It was special just as unreal time and ideas on which it was created.
Although the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the media in recent years and decades was represented as a city where the First World War began, the city host of the Winter Olympic Games in 1984, or as the former occupied, maligned and destroyed city, Sarajevo is not only that. It is, with all its vivid and valuable memories so much more than just a single image, a single species, or one-sided perception. It is all of the above, but it is a lot more of that. For its understanding it is one more view necessary! It is necessary to make a distance, retire, take a peek behind the hill to the village and to the east, from where it looks completely different. It is necessary to know its past and present for making judgies and talk about essence.
Surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains, Jahorina, Igman, Bjelašnica and Trebević, city lies on the River Miljacka in narrow Sarajevo valley that slowly spreads from the southeast to the source of the river Bosna, and continues to the northwest. Sarajevo is now a large, modern, European capital with its development, growth and importance, except natural position in the heart of Bosnia, surrounded by high mountains and river valleys, also ownes for many other influences that built it.
In the urban image of the city, there are a few periods:
- Initial core of the city is Baščaršija, which appeared as a typical oriental city center, and on the hills around it, by both sides of the Miljacka growth settlements with a fragmented structure of small family houses, which still stay thare in a very similar modified form.
2. Austro-Hungarian period kept the basics of modern urban development of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and what is known today. In that period Sarajevo got its still recognizable longitudinally urban grid, which was axial developed with the main city traffic artery and the River Miljacka as his shaft.
3. Period after the world wars, Sarajevo as the capital of the socialist republic within Yugoslavia brought rapid industrial development on the basis of urban settings and Corbusier’s Athens Charter principles as the basis of a new international style.
4. Sarajevo’s Olympic period brought international fame, a number of new infrastructures, new urban areas, tourism infrastructure and many other, sports and public facilities.
5. Finally, the last period of transition for the Sarajevo means, first of all, great post-war reconstruction of the war-battered and devastated city, but also the fight for survival and a huge change in social structure and shaping of the city with due to the new capitalist system.
In cultural space (milieu) of former state and Balkans in general, Sarajevo also has importance as a synonym for the common life of the most numerous Yugoslavian people. It is refuge of Spanish Sephardic, the largest center of the Serbian Orthodox Church west of the Drina, the European center of Islamic culture, and finally home of the Roman Catholic Croatian people and all other peoples who have lived and still live in the area. That is one of the reasons why Sarajevo is so strongly imbued with cultural layers, which are felt in every angle of the city, which builds the specific soul and that makes it what it is. It inherited vast wealth of cultural heritage, which reveal the layers and penetrate into every aspect of the city. In all contrasts and paradoxes that characterize the appearance of this large “village in the mountains.”
And they are huge. Side by side in Sarajevo are modern skyscrapers as symbols of brutal capitalism and small, shabby houses of the socialistic workers, Islamic believer with burka and a young hipster, Aščinica (some kind of oriental traditional fast foofd restaurant) and Mc Donald `s! On a small, cramped space in the small circle of just a few tens of meters, there is possible to hear bells rings on Sarajevo old Orthodox church in Baščaršija, as well in the Cathedral in Štrosmajerova street, and the call for pray of the Begova džamija (mosque) in Ferhadija street.
In addition to the concept of all elements of Sarajevo’s still a specific spirit. Although it s mostly disappeared, it somehow continues to exist in that special atmosphere and the fame or the fog that wrapped Sarajevo. It still flies somewhere around and remind on some other times. The people and events that Sarajevo celebrate it.
…That city on the sides of the surrounding hills and vast fields around the river has a beautiful soul has long been said and written that the soul is granted only to cities that have a past … This city has its own spirit. This spirit, the eternal spirit of Sarajevo, Sarajevo is the spirit of the far famed tolerance, respect and attention … (Zuko Dzumhur`s preface to the monograph Sarajevo with love, Ivo Eterovic, Književne novine, Belgrade 1983)
Get a feel and get experience of the Sarajevo`s soul means to know it inside and know it out as well. Know its past and present, in Sarajevo and around.