My East, the one I was emotionally tied to, died in 1991.

(November 13, 1995 Vreme News Digest Agency No 215)

Poet Izet Sarajlic will soon publish his second book written in Sarajevo at war - the Book of Goodbyes. "The book is horrifying, one of the final ones, and I would love for people in Belgrade to read it," he told VREME. In this interview Sarajlic spoke about his "former love" Belgrade and Sarajevo today.

How did you end up in this war?

How did we all? That we should ask the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the general staff of the former Yugoslav National Army (JNA). To expand, Hitler used much less brutality to conquer foreign territories. And he never conquered them. General Mladic, at the very least, thought he was Napoleon. A simple man like that would hardly be fit to be a stable boy in Zhukov's army!

Why didn't you leave Sarajevo?

Where would Sarajlic go except Sarajevo?

You believed in people, have you stopped believing in this war?

Not in people, but it seems we have a deficit of human beings here.

Some in this war have accused you of being a man of the East, emotionally tied to Belgrade, to Russia. Have you become a man of the West?

I'm sorry to have to say this, but my East, the one I was emotionally tied to, died in 1991.

Which city disappointed you the most, and which surprised you the best?

In terms of goodness and emotions, solidarity with our suffering, rational Ljubljana. My greatest disappointment was, of course, Belgrade. Where did all that hatred come from, so much darkness in a city once so joyful that we all loved?

As a poet I would also say this. Skender Kulenovic wrote "Stojanka Mother of Knezopolje" in 1942. How is it that Matija Beckovic didn't even ask himself whether it is time for him to write a Moslem version of Skender's poem in 1992. Moslem mothers perhaps don't need that poem as much as ordinary Serb poets.

You received letters from Europe, the US, even Chile. Were there similar letters from Belgrade?

Except for dear Rade Radovanovic, only three brave women wrote to me from Belgrade: Vera Zogovic, Borka Pavicevic and one time Sarajevan Lula whose husband hopefully won't take offense that I only know her maiden name Alicehic. It was very nice to get, even very late, articles written for Nasa Borba and NIN by Branko V. Radicevic and Branislav Petrovic. Together with Ivan Stambolic, Filip David, Stojan Cerovic and Miladin Zivotic that is the only Belgrade I believe in now. The rest of my Belgrade people, I don't know if they have the right to take another exam of love. It's terrible but that's the way things are.

Did you have a chance to meet writers from Belgrade during the war?

Recently in Rovinj, on my way back from Switzerland, I met Mirko Kovac. I'm enjoying his novel which he gave me then. The novel was published in Sarajevo. And where else could a novel be published with so much longing?

We were dying in Sarajevo. Did the death of someone outside Sarajevo touch you?

Not only myself. Everyone in cultured Sarajevo was touched by the death of (Serbian actor and comic) Mija Aleksic. I think there are few older Sarajevans who didn't have a personal day of mourning. I was also painfully touched by the deaths of Milovan Djilas and Slobodan Selenic. Djilas stood on positions worthy of his name all through the war. I thank him for the many kind words about Bosnia I listened to during the worst shelling of the city.

As a poet what did you do in this war?

I wrote two books of poems. The first, "Sarajevo War Collection", had several reprints at home and abroad and the second, "Book of Goodbyes", will soon be published by Goran Mikulic, the son of my friend painter Mario Mikulic who was in the construction business before the war and now has a publishing house. Someone said, not someone but my dear Sinan Gidzevic, that only Izet Sarajlic could have written this book.

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