Sarajevo is the birthplace, heart, and spirit of everything we do at Čuvaj Se. Our mission began there in a city under siege, whose citizens refused to give in to nationalism, surviving the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare: 1,425 days of shelling, sniper fire, and starvation perpetrated by Serbian ultra-nationalists, targeting defenseless civilians, Muslims, Croats, Serbs, Roma, Jews, and atheists alike. Sarajevo was the center of resistance to fanaticism and extremism, and many artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians came to Sarajevo to stand in solidarity with all people who believed in a multi-ethnic, democratic Bosnia.
That spirit continues today in the city itself, even in the midst of persistent threats and challenges from nationalism and foreign interference. Beyond the city limits, Sarajevans see themselves reflected in the people under siege in Aleppo, Syria, and in people fighting for democracy and against rising nationalism and authoritarianism in countries all across Europe and the world. And that spirit of resistance remains in the Bosnian diaspora in the United States as we witness our own struggle against nationalism and authoritarianism.
Photo: The Sarajevo Haggadah
The Sarajevo Haggadah is believed to have been originally smuggled from Spain by Sephardic Jews who were given a safe haven in Bosnia during the Ottoman Empire. It was then hidden from Nazi shelling by a Muslim cleric who hid it under the floorboards of a mosque. It was again rescued and kept safe in an underground bank vault during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990’s. It remains an enduring symbol to Sarajevans of the human spirit of survival and resilience.
Pictured below: Poetry Reading with Heather Derr-Smith, Amila Kahrović-Posavljak, and Ferida Duraković.