The Siege of Sarajevo 92-96:
Survival Questionnaires

Year of Production
Production location
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
OriginaL format
Questionnaires (text)
The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996: Survival Questionnaires – recording personal experiences of ordinary citizens.
Research Period
This was the first and only survey ever conducted in reference to the siege of Sarajevo. Its importance is further valued by the fact that it was conducted relatively soon after the siege had been lifted – capturing memories while they were still fresh. In the process, close to 5,000 ordinary Sarajevans from all city districts shared their personal experiences by answering 31 standard questions and stating their gender, year of birth, profession, and the city district. Collection represents unique and rich insight into people's daily lives, hardships, achievements, hopes, fears, innovations, humour and mental survival.
Only 97 of these questionnaires are available in English, due to costs involved in translation and technical processing of the entire collection.


Suada Kapic
Project Manager
Lejla Pasovic
Lejla Hasanbegovic
Processing Team
Marina Banic, Sanja Mizic, Lejla Hasanbegovic, Dajana Gurda, Dzenana Samouk, Mirsada Bjelak
20 surveyors who conducted the interviews
© FAMA International


Because of their influence, those who watch, observe, analyse and explain meaning to the masses are considered a kind of elite; however if this elite use faulty methodology or have impure intentions, it can lead to disastrous consequences. We, the founders of FAMA, the first independent multi-media company in the former Yugoslavia, were fully aware of the sensitivity of the area in which we chose to invest. From the very beginning of the disintegration of Yugoslavia, we knew that documentation, of all types and forms, would play a vital role in the fate of current and future generations. In keeping with our own personal principles, our methods rely on fact, oral history and recorded documentation (documented documents). It is through our unique insight and gift of foresight that we have been able to develop a step by step methodology that 'makes the obvious visible'.

Gaining insight. This involves watching events attentively with an open mind as an observer rather than a participant, in order to note significant elements of the observed phenomenon; then putting these elements together to identify early signs of any emerging dominant trends that might launch a new process of cause and effect.

Continuing research through oral history. Those who participated in an observed event talk about their own experience of it, without commenting on other participants. These elements are recorded in photo/video format.

Structuring the research. Putting first hand facts and documented documents of a particular event, period or phenomenon into a structure that transfers this knowledge in a form acceptable to an audience, devoid of any indicators that would point to a conclusion. Readers, viewers, students, researchers draw their own conclusions on the basis of the given format.

Converting the structure. This phase involves producing a format suitable for mass production (maps, albums, films, encyclopedias).

Creating a study pack. We have created an educational pack consisting of different sections that can be used for different levels of education, as our unique contribution to the interpretation of the period 1991-1999.

The Siege of Sarajevo '92-'96:
Survival Questionnaires

Not all parts of the city had the same fundamental requirements for survival. People did not walk great distances only in order to learn how life went on in other neighborhoods. In 1966, we realized the time had come for a survey to be conducted in ten different parts of the city in order to establish a methodological flow. All survey questions were related to personal experience of siege at all survival levels. But that was not enough for getting the whole picture. We therefore digitalized approximately 5,000 polls, thus receiving instant responses to each of the questions. And we discovered great things. 5,000 responses is a significant enough sample for frequent answers to be considered a rule, for instance: Work is the law of survival; You mustn't think about anything other than what is happening at that exact moment; If it were not for cigarettes, Sarajevo would have fallen; Recycling means finding new use for objects; People moved in order not to think about how they felt – and this resulted in many achievements; Many chronic illnesses (egg. migraine) dissapeared because a body employed a range of defense mechanisms to survive ... Today, our collection includes pearls which could present initial capsules for upgrading various scientific disciplines.

About the project

We started the archiving project immediately after the peaceful reintegration of Sarajevo began in 1996. The Survey on Survival '92.-'96 was planned as its first part. We were aware that memories could be deceptive, and that people change their minds under various influences, that they die, or decide to move elsewhere, and that it was important to record their testimony as soon as possible. We distributed the survey by municipalities, well aware that experience of the siege differed depending on the part of the town, on neighbourhoods even – based on water-sources, or land available for survival gardens, on whether houses were exposed to a direct sniper fire, or whether a neighbourhood was close to any strategic places frequently shelled. We used the random sampling method, and people interviewed were of different gender, occupation, age, and – first of all – with different places of residence. We wanted to obtain an authentic testimony, without trying to get a projected result. The choice of questions was certainly significant if we were to establish an authentic picture of the siege at all levels, from its first to its last day.

Later on, all these factors demonstrated our chosen method as the key for documenting events if they are to serve as a valuable contribution to interpretation and learning about the 1991-1999 period in the former Yugoslavia. Besides its educational role, the project has also proved as a significant contribution to the processes of truth and reconciliation, as well as to the democratization process of our post-war society.


The Siege of Sarajevo '92.-'96.

• Year of Birth:
• Profession:
• Gender:
• City District:

Questions / answers:

• What was your experience with the street barricades erected by the SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) members in March of 1992; and did you try to break them down?
• What was your experience with the street barricades erected by the SDS members in April of 1992: and did you try to break them down?
• In your experience, what was the role of JNA (Yugoslav People's Army) in Sarajevo during March, April and May 1992?
• Were you unlawfully deported, exposed to shelling, or were you forced to leave your place of residence during the Siege?
• In your experience, what was the crime level, and were there any local gang activities in the city during the Siege?
• In your experience, who was the hero of the defence of the city?
• How did you obtain a work obligation certificate, passport and/or any other kind of accreditation?
• The role of media during the Siege? The role of rumours during the Siege?
• What did you do in your spare time?
• What kind of work did you do during the Siege?
• How did you move around the city?
• Survival – How did you obtain water, electricity, cigarettes…?
• Did you ever leave the city during the Siege?
• Did you have your own invention for Survival?
• Did you (or someone close to you) leave the city with one of the convoys?
• What was your experience with snipers in the city?
• Please describe your cellar/basement:
• Did you attend any of the cultural events in the city, or organize any such events in your neighbourhood?
• How did you send out messages, make telephone calls and/or receive packages?
• What was the most important event in your neighbourhood during the Siege?
• What was your own experience with UNPROFOR and UNHCR during he siege?
• How did you study? How did you go to school/university? How did you entertain your children?
• Were you wounded, or close to death?
• Did you (or someone close to you) have to pay ransom?
• What do you consider your personal achievement during the Siege?
• Did you have a pet during the Siege? If so, how did you manage feeding it?
• Could you describe your "Family Economic Chain" during the siege?
• How much weight did you lose during the Siege?
• Did you ever give interviews to foreign journalists?
• Did you wear special clothes for running from snipers?
• Did you ever pass through the "Tunnel"?