“Good morning, listeners, young and old, I’m still alive!” - Macro Story #5: Radio (FAMA Collection)

The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996

“Good morning, listeners, young and old, I’m still alive!”

Macro Story #5: Radio

The siege of Sarajevo lasted 1,425 days. "Being under siege" meant accepting the fact that the former way of living has disappeared and that the abnormal is becoming normal. Over time, the citizens of Sarajevo discovered methods of survival through innovations and creations, repurposing objects that were available to them, surviving despite permanent terror and destruction.

„Dežurni mikrofon“ radio program

“…began to aim directly at us, right at the 6th floor, where the heart of the radio was, all the central connections and the central studio. It seems it isn’t so easy to get a direct hit right through a window - if they had done that, I think they would have wiped out the entire production unit and all the central connections. It was one of those key moments. We were all crammed into one room that used to be called the PP centre - meaning the dispatch centre, it was the place where all material for the radio and TV came in and went out. And we were all crammed in it round a few lamps. The whole production staff worked there, getting broadcasts ready, except when we were in that little editing room. Then for the first time I saw, in that apparently stifling little room with a few lamps, about twenty people not just trying to produce a broadcast, but actually doing so.” Boro Kontić, Journalist

© FAMA Collection; Oral History: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'


Already in May 1992, the aggressor blocked all telecommunications, destroyed the post office building, the city was left without telephone connections, and communication with the outside world was impossible. The destruction of the city began. In such circumstances, radio takes on a special role as a direct means of informing citizens. Radio amateurs and radio messages manage to connect people from Sarajevo with families and friends outside Sarajevo who could not get in touch with each other.

„Radio M“ stops broadcasting

“I remember the moment when that happened. My friend Vetko Šalaka and I went down because there were already a lot of people in front of the Parliament, and since we were looking at that plateau from the place where we worked, we were able to see everything that was going on there. So, we went down because we wanted to see what was happening. At that moment the shelling started, from the Holiday Inn and, of course, from everywhere. Maybe half an hour later we heard that Suada Dilberović was dead. At that same moment we got back to the Radio. I wrote a letter, which I decided to read to the ‘Radio M' audience. After that I turned off the signal. I said in that letter that this was a music radio station, a human radio, always ready to help people. I couldn’t play music while people were getting killed. And since then, there was no program, no music, no nothing.” - Mirsad Ibrić, Director of „Radio M“

© FAMA Collection; Oral History: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'

Mapping of the Siege of Sarajevo

The Radio-television building - The massive cement building which had been built to comply with war-time standards of construction suffered frequent shelling. It was one of the first buildings shelled by a modified airplane bomb. On that occasion the building underwent the heaviest damage. Even that did not stop the broadcasting.

FAMA Collection

© FAMA Collection; 'Survival Map (The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996)'


Survival was the basic need of every individual during the siege of the city. The citizens of Sarajevo learnt new skills, acquired new knowledge - inventiveness and creativity became indispensable in everyday life. One of the ways to survive is to search for news about the situation in the city, about dangerous zones, news about films and music from around the world, repair of power lines, the arrival of gas or water, attacks by the aggressor and massacres. The radio was an important source of information throughout the siege. Radio programs and the voices of presenters also provided hope in the most difficult moments.

The phenomenon of war radio

„People who used to listen to the radio at that time, when they were not able to satisfy their essential needs, they would let their thoughts wander. Via radio they would imagine a life which they wanted to live. At that period Radio 'Zid' tried to attain the most important information on music and film. Therefore, people who listened to that radio station were actually able to simulate the life of other young people, or the lives of all the people from the same planet. Radio was a collective illusion. After the war, radio became less important, because television took over.“ Aida Kalender, Journalist - Radio „Zid“

© FAMA Collection; Oral History: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'

Optimism at the „Vrhbosna“ radio station

„On 11 April ’93 the official 'Vrhbosna' Radio Station was opened. As you know yourself, this radio was born in the war. It was founded by 'Napredak', the Croatian Cultural Society, whose main goal was for a radio to exist. I thought, and so did all the people, who worked in it, that it should be a city radio, which would specially help people in Sarajevo to survive the war more easily. The idea was that it should mainly play music. I must say, it was music that somehow, as we like to say, smelt and tasted of the sea. This means that it was music of a Croatian background. Which our listeners could not reach at that time. And in a way this gave some kind of hope, some kind of optimism, we also gave information about what was going on.“ Klea Berlinger-Primorac, Radio Station „Vrhbosna“

© FAMA Collection; Oral History: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'

© FAMA Collection; Encyclopaedia: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'

© FAMA Collection; Encyclopaedia: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'

How did you send out messages, make telephone calls and/or receive packages?

As I used to be a ham, I was able to communicate with the rest of the world. I re-established many broken ties and I was very pleased because of that. This form of communication was a great relaxation to me. I received packages through various humanitarian organizations.

year of birth: 1958
profession: Electrician
gender: Male
city district: Alipašino polje

It's true: as the reports from outside grow worse and worse, the radio, with its wondrous voice, helps us not to lose heart and to keep telling ourselves: Cheer up, keep your spirits high, things are bound to get better!

- Anne Frank

© FAMA Collection; Encyclopaedia: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'


The citizens of Sarajevo realized that they had to create an alternative way of life in order to survive. One of the important aspects of this new way of life was the repurposing of objects in order to replace everything that was not available during the siege. Inventions and recycled objects became survival tools. Car batteries were used to listen to the radio and the news.

© FAMA Collection; 'The Art of Survival' Guide

Listening to the radio

„We were close to each other, and especially so when darkness would fall, and we knew we’d survived the day. We listened to the radio, which worked on an accumulator. We listened to other people’s voices and the music. I then made a radio powered by a dynamo. However, we could only listen to it if one of us was turning the bicycle pedals.“

The new normal

The siege of Sarajevo showed that a person can survive a disaster and remain a human being. Sarajevo chose culture as its weapon of defence against terror. Citizens walked the streets under the impact of grenades and snipers to perform their daily tasks of survival, went to theatre performances and exhibitions as a way of resistance and defence of the human civilization. A new normal has set in. One civilization disappeared, and a completely new one was simultaneously established in its wake.

© FAMA Collection; 'The Art of Survival' Guide

A date

„I spent most afternoons with my girlfriend. We listened to the radio attached to an accumulator. So we simulated the normal life of young people. It was a collective illusion. The concept of the radio station was music that smelled, tasted of the sea.“

Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?

„When I get there, I'll give you a call.“ Boro Kontić, Journalist

© FAMA Kolekcija; 'Sarajevo LIFE' magazin

© FAMA Kolekcija; 'Sarajevo LIFE' magazin


The need to establish some kind of balance in the midst of chaos arose spontaneously. In order to maintain mental health, every citizen of the besieged Sarajevo tried to keep himself in balance by bringing his old way of life to the now changed conditions.


“My favorite film was ‘Goodbye Vietnam’ that’s about an American DJ sent to Vietnam to do a program; he did the morning program every morning. It began with the words 'Good morning Vietnam' and James Brown’s song 'I Feel Good'. I felt it must be an ideal thing to be a radio presenter. And to find yourself in such an inspirational position. But when the war came and I found myself in a situation like that - to be a radio presenter during a war, and to do more or less what that guy in the film was doing. Then the film stopped being my favorite. I don’t believe that I’ll ever look at it again, though I used to look at it endlessly. The reason is that you come to see that what the film showed was - well - twisting the truth - lying actually. Every morning when I came to work I had to sprint over the intersection and then on Sunday morning, when I did the morning program I would say ‘Good morning all of you, listeners young and old, I’m still alive, let's go if you’re still alive’. You simply had nothing to do. Only the box existed with little people living in it who were talking, or playing music, or singing and so on, and so on. And there was no electricity, you had to get contact through the telephone or find an accumulator, and live your life through others. With no TV, no MTV, no news, no food, no nothing, except a world which for a moment helps you to forget what is happening and creates indirectly or directly a feeling of it being a lie.” Adi Sarajlić, Journalist - Radio „Zid“ (August 1994)

© FAMA Collection; Oral History: 'The Siege of Sarajevo 1992-1996'


„I am Adi Sarajlić. I look a little different than in the first video from the war, I'm a few years older and a few kilos plumper. What else has changed in relation to the period of the siege of Sarajevo and the current one, apart from my physics? Basically, back in the days, my friend Karim Zaimović wrote about the rock and roll that flourished at the time or the alternative scene that flourished in Sarajevo that it was, in fact, the swan song of a generation. He asked it as a question, whether it is the swan song of one generation or something more. And we all knew then, as he did, that it was just the swan song of a generation. So, everything is completely different. Actually, everything is basically the same as it was before the war. Our music is commercial, capitalism is all around us, there are no quality radio stations, everything has lost that deeper meaning than the one we had during the war. At that time, we had no water, no electricity, no gas, no food, but we didn't think about that, we looked at how to upgrade ourselves spiritually or how to replace that food and that water with other things. And that kept us alive. And now we are in a daily struggle for food, for the payment of bills, electricity, gas, which is available in abundance, but simply life is trampling you and you don't even have time to record this video and send it, so on this occasion I apologize for that. Simply, the thing that is somehow the saddest and most regrettable to me - ok, we ran into that capitalism, we lived in some hippie commune during the war - is that, if I look at it from the perspective of the radio, I think that this city, not to say this country, they deserve a quality radio. So, we had an advertisement, a jingle on the radio during the war that said: 'This nation and this army have no other alternatives'. Simply, everything has become way too commercial. Media that no one watches anymore, serve more as decor in some spaces. It's not the internet's problem. Simply, the problem is that we are... We have become a horrible, overly commercial society in which everything that revolves around us exudes complete nonsense. It was much better during the war.“ - Adi Sarajlić, Journalist (May 2024)

© FAMA Collection; Macro Story: 'The Siege of Sarajevo - Then & Now'