Update: Republika Srpska 11-May-2004

Driving to Tuzla

Our host, Damir Atikovic from Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), suggested we film NPA’s demining activities around Brcko, a small town north of Tuzla in the Republika Srpska. Tuzla is only 100 km north of Sarajevo, but it took us two and a half hours to get there on the main road, which winds through some beautiful hills and forests. Damir showed us around his hometown of Tuzla, including a chilling visit to the town’s park which has a special cemetery for locals killed in one incident during the war. On the evening of 25 May 1995, Bosnian Serb troops responded to NATO air strikes against their positions by shelling the centre of the town, killing 71 and injuring more than 150. We later walked through the centre where the tragedy occurred and it was packed with teenagers drinking coffee and hanging out at “Bosburger.” (There are no McDonald’s in this country!!!

Brcko Minefield

The next morning, we visited NPA’s demining sites around Brcko. We interviewed a demining team supervisor who spoke about how he had laid mines in the same area the team is now clearing. The teams were working in the village of Lukic, which was largely abandoned during the conflict when the area became the front line. Like much of the places we drove through, the village was full of abandoned and destroyed houses, but people want to move back. NPA is using manual, dog, and mechanical demining teams, but the teams had to stop working a number of times due to rainfall and eventually gave up for the day. We’re glad we got this on film, however, as it shows how elements like rain and snowfall can slow down or halt operations altogether. The teams had started work in October, but ceased clearance between December and March as the ground when froze up during the winter.

Remembering the War

Our driver, Boyan from Zenica, and sound engineer, Emir from Sarajevo, both said it was the flattest place they’d ever visited in the country. It also felt quite different from Bosnia – there were no mosques, instead we saw several small churches. The Republika Srpska lies within the internationally-recognized borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it is largely autonomous. It is also home to several war criminals, such as Radovan Karadic and Vlatko Mladic and the local authorities have yet to arrest a single individual indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) or to try any Bosnian Serb on war crimes charges. We came here knowing very little of the war or its consequences and have been quite stunned by the extent of the damage and killings. Landmines form just one challenge for Bosnia...

Visoko Minefield

We drove back to Sarajevo because of the rain and spent today at another NPA demining site on a hillside of destroyed houses in the town of Visoko, about 30 minutes drive outside of Sarajevo. We tried some timelapse sequences of the deminers at work and filmed a machine that does the initial vegetation clearance so that the manual teams can move in. They help a lot, but machines and dogs are never going to replace these people…

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