Sarajevo – Started the day with an interview with Tito’s granddaughter Svetlana Broz, the author of Good People in an Evil Time. We’ve had her on The World before but I wanted to talk to her specifically about how the war in Bosnia ended and what the Dayton Peace Accords have wrought here. She was feisty. Civil courage is the term she uses for what she’s promoting in Bosnia and Herzegovina, working with young people especially to help them become “upstanders” rather than “bystanders.”
Then a small sevdah concert by the Damir Imamovic Trio, promoting their second album Abrasevic Live, just out today. Look out for a global hit on The World soon (my second ever!) Damir’s grandfather Zaim Imamovic was the Frank Sinatra of sevdah here he says. Damir’s trying to keep the tradition alive by mixing it (of course) with other rhythms and styles. It was a wonderfully intimate scene today, sung the way he says sevdah should be sung—quietly to a small gathering—in this case outside the Babylon bar and café in the old town. I’m no music critic but Damir’s got something soulful and enticing going on.
Talked to various civil society types at Damir’s gathering; people who say politics here must change. There’s a sense of paralysis as a result of the ethnic designations that were reinforced at war’s end; the cynicism about democracy is palpable. And yet there’s enough progress to keep them working on the problem, and hoping for better times. Later met with a pair of documentary filmmakers passionate about the urgency of justice for war crimes victims here. Their outlook was bleak. It isn’t pretty when you dig beneath the surface here—there’s so much unresolved. There are uneven mixtures of anger, depression and optimism all over the place.
Had a late afternoon meal at Biban’s, a restaurant perched high above the city with stunning views.
It helped that the soft afternoon light somehow made the green hills stand out against the hazier cityscape below. Irfan pointed out the triangle of cathedral, church and mosque at the heart of Sarajevo.
On my plate, the tastiest trout I’ve had in years, surely plucked from a mountain stream not long before. Then cakes in a favorite place of Irfan’s near his childhood home. Afterwards he took me round the corner to show me this building which has yet to be fixed up since the war.
Tomorrow we drive to Banja Luka in Republika Srpska to witness the painstaking restoration of the 16th century Ferhadija Mosque, destroyed during the war.
Alarm is already set for 5 am. Jet lag is all in the mind.