“Peace, peace, peace and only peace. Peace must reign between man and God, and among all peoples!” That is what the Virgin Mary herself told Marja Pavlović, one of the women who still assures nowadays, specifically on the 25th of each month, to be in contact with Virgin Mary. It was 1984, and after that announcement, Međugorje went from anonymity to one of the most prosperous regions in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A appealing “speech“.
I was thinking about this as our plane was preparing to land in Sarajevo in the middle of a great storm with strong turbulence and a group of ten Brazilian Carmelites, equipped with crucifixes and a closed habit, prayed behind my back, begging to reach land safely to go. to the pilgrimage centre. He ruminated that perhaps it was not necessary to ask the Virgin for anything if the degree of accuracy of her prediction was going to have a similar result. It is not clear if it was a lack of divine power of those words (supposedly) pronounced between the limestone stones of the Balkan Mediterranean, or because of the excessive power that nationalist leaders took in the beginning of the nineties, but either way “Peace, peace, peace and only peace” was not what was experienced in the region. The war in the former Yugoslavia broke out a few years later, starting in 1990, causing between 130,000 and 200,000 deaths.
Gliding in that deep gray, circling in my seat and with the intoxicating murmur of “our fathers” in Brazilian Portuguese, I thought of the other “clouds” we were passing through on our descent to the “innocent city.” He speculated on the information that circulates about us and imagined infinite paths of syllables, highways of phrases, cobwebs of words. All that matrix that is nourished by our little ones “uploads“, “likes“, “Yes, I accept” and back, in a spiral, it transforms us, seduces us, dominates us and makes us feel nourished. It empties us. They are like showers and squalls, the meteorology of the 21st century. Clouds of (mis)information and their microdroplets loaded with algorithms that affect our mood, as does a rainy day, a blue sky or the sun’s rays on the skin. A single image or a simple tweet can change our “mood” in a matter of seconds.
Who knows if perhaps, at that precise moment, we were piercing the web that draws the “Balkan Non-Paper“. There is no other better way than the denial in the very essence of its definition, to express how threatening the mere existence of these documents supposes. Supposedly attributed to the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša, the “Balkan Non-Paper” propose, in the XXI century, to redraw the borders of the Balkans, resurrecting the idea of a “Greater Serbia”, a “Greater Croatia”, a “Greater Albania”, keeping Montenegro, cutting the limits of North Macedonia and reducing to a minimal expression Bosnia that would come to be called the State of the Bosniaks (that is, Muslims).
And if no one can prove or deny the existence of the words of the Virgin Mary in Međugorje, but they had a real effect on the economy and well-being of the town, no one can prove the originality or not of the “Balkan Non -Paper” written this year, but in the same way, its leak unleashed a real effect on local society, especially in Bosnia: boredom and fear.
Latin Bridge over an angry Miljacka, Sarajevo.
Incessant rain in Sarajevo, overflowing rivers and power outages. An autumn like the old ones, or perhaps even sharper due to the fury of an angry planet. Walking through its streets and surrounded by the genuine beauty fruit of the centuries, I see the new influences: real estate posters written in Arabic offering small villas near rivers and lakes. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s treasure, water, is the claim to attract the middle class from the East. Thirsty desert dwellers imagine that religious “brothers and sisters” live in these lands, while Bosnians, immersed in an eternal post-war, sell the only thing they can, their land, obtaining income that they refuse to come from the West. Some women, who do not speak the local language, walk around Baščaršija in burqas, confusing visitors and tourists about the interpretation of Islam in the city. Whoever believes that a citizen from here and another from Dubai, Qatar or Riyadh have something in common has not gone out to “rock and roll” on the night of Sarajevo.
And also voices that beg for alms, voices of young women and men who ask for frames to spend the night. They are refugees. Who knows if they are fleeing the conflict or the poverty of one of the world’s hornets’ nests, the Middle East. But what difference does it make, they are at the gates of the Union, perhaps without knowing that Bosnia, the Union, is also resisting them.
When next year marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and more than 25 years of the signing of the agreements that brought peace to this region, nobody, absolutely nobody, disputes that “Dayton ” will it has become the perfect trap, ungovernability, the comfort zone of leaders with nationalist rhetoric who do not represent anyone.
 The Dayton Accords is the name of the peace agreement, signed on November 21, 1995, which ended the Bosnian war and were signed by the Serbian (Slobodan Milošević), Croatian ( Franjo Tuđman) and Bosnian presidents (Alija Izetbegogić).
Copper craftsman in Baščaršija, Sarajevo.
During the trip, between meetings, receptions and visits, in my spare time I read “Ñamérica” by Caparrós. Almost at the end of the book, the brilliant Argentine journalist describes the regime in which we live globally for more than two decades: polling democracy. Today, in the vast majority of countries, there is no other project than to find out what the citizens think to adapt the speeches with the sole objective of maintaining (or accessing) power. Groucho Marx already said it “These are my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have other ones“. Here in Bosnia, Dayton does not even allow that model. It is not necessary to listen to the voters. It is a system designed to mantein power those who encourage nationalism and to boycott any attempt to leave these blocks behind, adding to the disillusionment that, as Rubén Blades used to sing, “eats even a priest“.
And slowly the remains of what was a state crumble. I talk to my loved ones that were in the city. Jas, resigned, tells me that he has paid more than 300 Euros for a bronchitis treatment for his son, a treatment that can become chronic. In a country with a minimum wage that does not exceed 400 Euros, paying for health is becoming another burden for its inhabitants. Jasmina brings me up to date on the number of people looking for an exit abroad. The country is estimated to have some 3.2 million souls. Almost a million live outside Bosnia, the most capable, the most educated, the most restless. It is the diaspora, the goodbye, for now final, of those who lived here.
Vijećnica, Old Library, Sarajevo.
The sun rises. The rain continues in Sarajevo, one more day. The Ferhat-Pasha Mosque takes up almost the entire view from my room window at the Hotel Europa. Five centuries of Ottoman history next to the oldest hotel in the city, built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during its occupation of the Balkans. In these times, I think about what Europe could learn from Islam if it came closer to Bosnia, how healing it would be to remove the fear that has been put in our body. We approach from our story (and we feel it close) to understand that we are all made of a thousand and one pieces, that everything is much more complex than it seems and at the same time much simpler. Bosnia, its inhabitants, its architecture, its music (the Sevdah), its way of understanding time, the great lesson that first-speed Europe does not want to stop and listen to. Again, the realization that the most European city in Europe is still outside the European Union.
And throughout the trip an idea haunts me: allies. How important they are in life, sometimes consciously chosen, sometimes without even realizing it. In a time when everything is measured, the impact, the indicators, the baselines, the efficiency… I think about the symbolic of being here. A delegation from Barcelona, 6 people from a city that is exactly 1,992 kilometers away and that back in 1992 decided to join Sarajevo to achieve the same goal: peace, life, freedom, diversity. And almost in the year 2022, thirty years later, it is still exciting that a taxi driver, a teacher, a minister or a police officer speak of Barcelona as a sister city. The strategic elements that often condition cooperation between cities or states are not involved here: fishing agreements, access to raw materials, migratory quotas and a long and often shameful etc. It could be said, without fear of being cheesy, that here there is only love. It is about putting a grain of sand so that the two cities that I love the most can relive their own love story and make all the potential that both have at the disposal of their inhabitants.
No Teeth …? To Mustache …? Smell like shit …? Bosnian Girl! What was a denigrating graffiti of a blue helmet towards Bosnian girls during the war, has now become a powerful message of vindication of the strength of women. Austro Hungarian Quarter, Sarajevo.
The day before leaving I do the math. More than half of my life is tied to Sarajevo. I will not deny that, at 44 years old, I felt somewhat old. Older and certainly different from the Ivan who first set foot on Sarajevo in 1998. Now I see the world with different eyes. I remember Pedrag Matvejević saying in his wonderful Mediterranean Breviary, that our sea is a state of mind. It is not a transitory emotional situation, it is a way of being prolonged, without beginning or end and that influences our way of understanding the world. Such is the power of the Mediterranean that makes us see, permanently, everything that surrounds us with different eyes. With Pedrag’s permission, may he rest in peace, I appropriate this almost psychic definition to define this metropolis, Sarajevo. Whoever has stepped on this city, who has walked through its streets and met its people will no longer be able to see the world in the same way. You will live in another state of mind.
International Relations Coordinator
Translated from Spanish into English by Susanna Pujol Clivillé