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August 2, 1997
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 304
Pale, these days

In Karadzic's back yard

by Dusko Jaksic

The words "Welcome to the Serbian Sarajevo city" are written on a huge board by the road at the eastern exit from Sarajevo. The settlement which lies twelve kilometers further up the road is definitely neither a city nor Sarajevo, although it undoubtedly is Serbian. Prior to the war, Pale had a thousand and a half to two thousand residents; today seventeen thousand people live here who can be divided into three categories: refugees, government top officials and Serbian Republic MPs and policemen. Most of the refugees are people who have come from Grbavica, Dobrinje and other neighborhoods which were held by the Serbs during the war. They are now left to fend for themselves in their temporary dwellings located in the suburbs and villages. "Let me tell you, everyone here is a victim of post-traumatic stress" says Branko Z., former psychologist of a Sarajevo school. "I don't have a job nor any earnings apart from the occasional kilo of flour from humanitarian aid once a month". Branko says that he personally is calm and collected as he had lost all that he had, including his family and that nothing worries him anymore.

However, the majority of the people are worried and they have good reason to be. Ever since Sima Drljaca was killed in Prijedor and Mica Kovacevic arrested that anxiety turned into tension which can almost be physically felt in the air. After those events, rumors of the upcoming landing of NATO parachutists who will conduct a massive terrain "cleansing" of all those people from the famous Hague list have spread throughout Pale reminiscent of a steady drizzle which has hardly stopped falling these days. The most worried of all is the man from the top of the list: Radovan Karadzic, the former Serbian Republic president. He resides in one of the villas surrounded by trees, around a kilometer from the road towards Podvitez. The tiny road which leads to his house is intercepted with a ramp around which some twenty or so very obvious policemen hover, with at least ten times as many others in hiding. In case the above mentioned landing was to occur, they would be first in line, which is why they are so nervous. They are especially nervous when they spot SFOR helicopters over their heads (Serbs are prohibited to fly) or when foreign journalists appear. Therefore, ten men unexpectedly pounced upon an American daily correspondent, who had wandered in the vicinity, shouting: "Delta! Delta!", obviously convinced that the man was a member of the special forces even though he weighed less than fifty kilograms fully clad. As their commander managed to persuade them, with extreme difficulty, not to slit his throat on the spot, he was released with a hardly feasible story that doctor Karadzic was in Greece.

Other top RS officials don't have it any easier, and are therefore releasing their tensions by going for spins in their new limousines and visiting a few strategically placed pubs. The season and lamb are in full swing while lamb makes people thirsty, as the overall situation does as well, so that from the early afternoon hours in the Malom Gaju pub in the vicinity of the government headquarters and in the vicinity of the Panorama hotel a song can be heard which dispels fear: "I'm from Pale, my name is Bozo/ I'll knife anyone who touches me". Sometimes a convoy of automobiles with darkened windows breezes through Pale: that's doctor Karadzic as he heads for work in the former Famos factory, or M.A. Krajisnik as he returns from an important meeting. Sometimes those limousines have Belgrade license plates: as Milosevic's high emissary arrives in Famos, such as Jovica Stanovic who arrived some time ago, remaining there on Saturday until 2 a.m. The Italian SFOR soldiers, who are advertising Ray Ban sunglasses on two locations, pretend not to see anything.

The ordinary people worry that they could end up being "collateral victims" in case of an American landing, however there are other, everyday problems: due to a number of new Pale residents, consumption has gone up so that both electricity and water are often turned off. Along the main road some thirty or so vendors of imported cigarettes and Orbit chewing gum await customers in vain: hopelessly as the ordinary citizens cannot afford to buy Marlboro, while top officials have been supplied with all that they need for a long time. "They have provided for their great-grandchildren as well" says a vendor, adding that he had not sold a single item all day long. Those close to the separation line fare much better, who also have customers from the other entity (cigarettes are a lot more expensive in Sarajevo).

From the Serbian side, people rarely descend down to the "city" - the name Sarajevo is rarely pronounced here. "The women sometimes go, the younger ones. I wouldn't be caught dead there" says sixty year old Dara who was born in Pale. Dara claims that all Muslim women in Sarajevo are veiled in keeping with the Sheriat law. Upon hearing our comment that veiled women are rarely seen down there, she says: "Those are all Croat women, and some of ours as well. Their women are not allowed out of the house which is why they can't be seen". Even now, without any discernible barricades between Sarajevo and Pale, life on the outskirts of the city which one cannot enter is hardly bearable.

What worries the people (apart from the top officials) least is the current conflict on the Pale - Banjaluka line, i.e. Krajisnik - Plavsic. No matter who comes out as the winner, their pre-war lives are finished and things can only be worse. Upon hearing the sound of helicopters, some people utter between clenched teeth: "Let it happen already, so that we can die in peace".

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