Oral History: The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996, video
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.
Oral History: The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996, video
Oral history is a methodology we used for preserving the truth about the subject of our research by interviewing those who lived through them. The methodology involved establishing a list of events that occured in the city under siege, day by day from 1992. to 1996. Events of the outside world were also included if they affected the citizens of Sarajevo. This list – a chronology of the siege – includes information on humanitarian aid, hand-made stoves, hospitals, theatre performances, grenade explosions, UNPROFOR activities, transportation, war meals recipes, holidays, hazardous areas, search for water ... from the beginning to the end of the siege. The chronology of events provided a platform which enabled identifying their direct participants and recording their memories. Oral history integrates a set of processes and methods including production of a format suitable for educational purposes.
About the project
The Oral history, based on the Chronology of the Siege (March 1992 to March 1996.), is the most comprehensive overview of the longest siege in modern history of mankind. This is a collection of emotional testimonies, inspirational stories on human struggle for survival under the meticulously planned four-year terror.
This project explores the siege phenomenon on daily basis from various perspectives: historical, anthropological, political, military, existential, cultural, social, educational, legal, philosophical, media, medical, psychological, economic, mental, humanitarian, religious, spiritual, human rights and war crimes. It gives a comprehensive overview of events through very lively descriptions, which is difficult to achieve in history books and documents.
During this process a number of survival themes were addressed through first hand experience of Sarajevo citizens of different social, economic, or professional background and ethnic orientation: ordinary citizens, former and then politicians, housewives, doctors, children, bakers, police officers, generals, lawyers, artists, undertakers, soldiers, senior citizens, journalists, refugees, translators, actors, diplomats, musicians, drivers, directors, writers ...
The siege survivors share their memories and experiences of the massacres, ceasefires, hunger, lack of water, electricity, heating ... of the arts and cultural events, banks, survival gardens, political negotiations, schools, funerals, convoys, hospitals, snipers, grenades, the tunnel – as the only exit and entrance to the city ...
Through the archiving project, the Siege of Sarajevo presented a new and credible method of studying history. The process of archiving the 1992-1996 testimonies started only 18 months after the siege was lifted, which was extremely important for documenting authentic memories as people often change their minds with changing their political views; and memories tend to fade over time.
The original document was created as a 50 hours long video-testimony (30 hours of edited material) with interview transcripts formatted into separate files, and a CD database which provides interactive search and is suitable for education purposes. This is a unique opportunity for many people to integrate the project content into their daily study/research of a phenomenon that marked the world at dawn of 21st century.
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.