Run to work to dodge bullets

June 20, 1997

AN ACADEMIC who braved three years in war-torn Sarajevo to help keep the university running gave Unison members a vivid account of his experiences at their annual conference last week.

Farouk Sifaric, vice rector of the university and dean of the music academy, told delegates at Unison's higher education sector conference on Monday, about the knife-edge existence he, his colleagues and students endured for the three years the city was besieged by mainly Serbian forces.

Professor Sifaric, who is also a member of the national executive of the Social Democratic party, said that the university had 26,000 students, 1,800 teaching staff and 1,200 non-teaching staff before the war.

This fell to 6,500 students, 600 lecturers and 400 non-teaching staff. He could only speculate as to how many had been killed.

Professor Sifaric told some 200 delegates: "You are familiar with the war from the TV but that is not 5 per cent of what happened. The second world war was a picnic compared to this."

Simply walking to work was to risk death. Professor Sifaric said: "I would run to work. You had to because of the sniper bullets and mortars. There was not a day in three-and-a-half years that Sarajevo was not bombed."

Hunger was the norm. "There was the black market, but with prices like Pounds 20 for a bottle of cooking oil, few could afford it."

"The winters are very cold and there was no fuel for heating," he said. "We would say to students bring some firewood. Sometimes they would bring enough for a 20-minute lecture, sometimes 30, sometimes maybe even an hour."

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