Aaron C. Greenman: “Pazite, Snajper!” Sifting for Remnants of the Siege

Where were you in 1995?

In Europe, we think often of, and frequently see the evidence of, the atrocities of the great wars of the early to mid-20th century. We celebrate victory days as holidays, remember our earlier generations’ pain and suffering, and every once in a while meet someone of those dying generations who was actually there.

What we often overlook are the wars and suffering that took place under our very noses, practically in our own backyards, in our own time. What is it like to live as a person under constant threat?

The Siege of Sarajevo, as it has become known, was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. During the Bosnian War, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army from May 1992 to February 1996. We talk of Stalingrad – yet this siege was three times longer.

After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, Sarajevo was encircled by 13,000 soldiers positioned in the surrounding mountains. For years, the city was bombarded with artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs and sniper rifles. During the siege, there were more than 300 shell impacts per day. Signs reading “Pazite, Snajper!” (Beware, Sniper!) became commonplace throughout the city. It is estimated that 11,000 civilians were killed or went missing in the city, including 1,500 children, with another 50,000 injured.

Is this death and destruction still evident? In short, yes – bullet holes pock the facades throughout the city, and damage from shelling gash the old city’s stone walkways. Most conversations distinguish themselves as pre- or post-conflict, with some remarking on the almost eerie silence of the nights after curfew without electricity, and thus television or radio.

And cemeteries – evidence of excessive death – hang omnipresent over the city; at a minimum, such sadness at least represents a final resting place, as opposed to the stadiums and other public buildings that acted as makeshift morgues during the conflict.

- Aaron C. Greenman

Aaron C. Greenman has been a photographer for over 25 years and has lived and worked on four continents. He has previously been profiled on the Leica Blog for his work in India and Israel. More of his images can be viewed at acuitycolorgrain.com and his first monograph is now available for the iPad.