Sarajevo School of Hard Knocks

February 16, 2015

"Imaju čudne akcente, nisu rođeni na Koševu. Ne znam ni da navijaju za one plave ili one bordo. Nema ih na nasim fotkama iz mladosti. Ne žale za starim vremenima. Čestitam Jim i Tim. Nadam se da ćemo i mi od vas naučiti kako danas biti Sarajka/Sarajlija." -- 'They have strange accents, they weren't born in Kosevo Hospital. I don't know if they cheer for those in blue or those in bordo. They aren't in our photographs from our youth. They don't yearn for the old times. I congratulate Jim and Tim. I hope that we will learn from them how to be Sarajevans today.' Amra Baksic-Camo (A behind-the-scenes star of Sarajevo's cultural scene and dear friend). Long silence....

tim and jim

Living in Sarajevo is no walk in the park . Although the city is well-known for welcoming its guests with some of finest hospitality one can imagine, when one 'goes local' one can expect a long-term initiation into the school of hard knocks. We can be harsh critics of each other, very often too harsh. We can show unbending stubbornness in the most petty of circumstances more often than we care to admit. Without a serious layer of thick skin, Sarajevo can wear one thin, even for domicile Sarajevans.

Sarajevo, and indeed Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a land of contrasts though.

I again began this blog with only a remote sense of what I might say and even less of how I may say it. I think Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later Sarajevo, has made me a more humble man - both because of the war and the generally modest lifestyles people live. It has made me a better man. It has made me a better person. It has given me a perspective on life, and what matters most, in ways that no other place has done. Sarajevo is not an overtly progressive or liberal city, though. It is sometimes frozen in its traditions, both good and bad. It seems to have always gotten the butt-end of historical and geo-political quagmires since the time of Christ. But there is always, always a struggle to break free of those confines.

Despite some claims to the opposite, Jim and I are no heroes. Although I can't speak in his name I will take the liberty to say a few things in our name. Perhaps it's our 'bostranac' status that gave and still gives us a sense of urgency to help our neighbors during the floods. I know a lot of that comes from lessons we learned in our new homeland. Lessons too many have forgotten. But in all honesty, it was us that reacted to you...not the other way around. We simply joined the spontaneous and selfless efforts of thousands of Sarajevans like Caki, Emela, and Ines to help those in need.

I am personally very humbled by Amra's post....and, quite frankly, by the remarkable show of support from those we know and those we don't for our April 6 Award nomination. I know we don't take an honor like that lightly.

Amra: We aspire to speak BHS as good as Alban one day. Even if it's still with a slight (and strange) accent. Our sons were both born in Vojna (kakvo Kosevo :) ). I root for 'plavi' because I have to, my father and brother in-laws would disown me if I didn't. But I don't have any problem giving a cheer for the ones in bordo either (i oni su nasi despite popular plavi beliefs). Jim could give a shit about blue or bordo. And no, we can't be found in old high school photo albums. Those too have become a distant and alienated part of our lives that we left behind. The only old times we yearn for is when we all stood together as one and simply lent each other a helping hand - because we all knew our personal well-being was so dependent on the collective well-being. And the reason we stay is because we know that is still the essence of Sarajevo, Sarajke i Sarajlija. Hvala Amra.

And thank you Sarajevo - for keeping us humble. For keeping us real. And for continuing to teach us lessons from the school of hard knocks.

The Bosnia Guy