Sarajevo: Olympic City Under Siege

DREW VO: I’m Drew Scanlon. I’m exploring the world through the
lens of games, and I’m doing it with the support of
people like you on Patreon. Help us out at DREW VO: Video games often task us with waging
war. But sometimes you get a game like This War
of Mine that focuses not on the belligerents of a conflict, but on those left in its wake. The game involves balancing the needs of a
group of survivors trapped in a war zone. This can mean searching for supplies in houses
that are sometimes still occupied, spending precious time and materials to make improvements
to your shelter, and deciding whether it’s worth it to help neighboring survivors. When I first played the game, I was intrigued
by its unique approach, but what made it unforgettable was learning that it was based on a real event:
the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. The Bosnian War was a complicated three-sided
conflict between Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia. During the Cold War, the countries were all
part of Yugoslavia, a socialist state that, amazingly, had good relations with the USSR
and the West. Damir is the founder of a gaming magazine
and conference in the region called Reboot, and explained what it was like to live in
Yugoslavia. DAMIR: Yugoslavia, while being a socialist
country, was actually not behind the Iron Curtain. Actually, Yugoslavia was a gateway of various
computers to countries behind the Iron Curtain. Because it was socialist, it was easier to
smuggle through Yugoslavia to all of them. We were basically the gateway for video games
to a lot of countries behind the Iron Curtain, so that’s a cool thing. In the 80s in Yugoslavia, we even had radio
stations which at a certain point would say “okay, turn on the cassette recorder” and
you would turn it to “record” and they would just start playing the code of the games
over the air. You would record the whole damn set of games,
take the cassette, and just play it. Because at that time, the market in Yugoslavia
was completely illegal. Games were not officially sold at stores. Everything was basically black market, like
pirated games. DREW: What did it sound like when they were
transmitting? DAMIR: Super weird, like pings and pongs. Not like a modem, but completely weird. DREW: Okay. So you would record on a tape recorder and
then put that same tape into the reader and play it? DAMIR: Yeah. DREW: That’s crazy! DAMIR: Yeah! It’s like… better than the Internet. DREW: Yeah! DREW VO: Unfortunately, the good times didn’t
last. After years of growing tension, Slovenia and
Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1991, sparking a brief but brutal conflict. A year later, Bosnia tried, but Serbs within
Bosnia boycotted the independence referendum, and with the support of the Serbian government,
laid siege to Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, for nearly four years. Today, Sarajevo is a bustling, modern city,
but it still shows scars from the war. These monuments, known as Sarajevo roses,
are craters from artillery strikes filled with resin. They are reminders of a past all too present
for the citizens of the city. To get a firsthand perspective, we hired a
guide named Zijo who lived through the siege. ZIJO: I was 25 when the war started. I was working for the Red Cross, helping them
to do the best they could to help the people of Sarajevo. Because I’m a pacifist, something like that. I speak a little Russian, a little German,
a little English, and they needed somebody like me I was actually lucky because it was a chance
to meet people on every side: Serbs, Croats, Muslims. The war was a good education for me. DREW VO: As Yugoslavia fractured, it did so
along lines of national identity intertwined with religion. Most of Serbia is Orthodox Christian, Croatia
is mostly Catholic, and Bosnia largely Muslim. Sarajevo, however, has long been a melting
pot, exemplifying the Yugoslavian ideal of brotherhood and unity. ZIJO: Sarajevo was always a small Yugoslavia. 43,000 mixed marriages existed. 85,000 Catholics, 150,000 Serbs, 200,000 Muslims,
3000 Jews, 60,000 people declared Yugoslavians. It was the center of rock and roll. Happy people. The Olympic Games happened in Sarajevo, the
only communist Winter Games in history. DREW VO: The ‘84 Winter Olympics are a source
of pride even today for the small city of less than 300,000. Sarajevo’s surrounding slopes hosted many
of the events, including downhill skiing and the bobsled. Mount Igman, ski jumps.
And here, Mount Trebević, bobsleigh. ZIJO: One mile, exactly, long, from start
to finish. This is a fascinating place, especially because
it’s a ruin. This was a really incredible, expensive project. We were proud, Yugoslavia was proud, of this. And today… nothing. DREW VO: Sarajevo’s natural geography, however,
also made the city easy to surround. ZIJO: Artillery position from the last war. This was a hotel, the first privatized hotel
in ex-Yugoslavia, and became headquarters for the Serbian forces during the war. This was the first NATO target on September
1st, 1995, when they started airstrikes. Imagine how easy it was to control and to
shoot Sarajevo. DREW VO: The juxtaposition was hard to fathom. For two weeks, the world came here to play
games together. Seven years later, the world watched as the
Olympic city burned. Life during the siege was hard. Joe runs a video game shop in Sarajevo, and
lived through the siege as a kid. JOE: Because of the war I was expected to
grow up way faster. I five years, I grew up 15; in thought, in
what counts and what doesn’t count, what it’s like to be hungry, what it’s like to not have
electricity, water, stuff like that. I appreciate life more because of the war. I constantly say that even though I
did have a shit childhood, I wouldn’t change it.
It made me into the guy I am right now. But it was a shitty thing.
People died and everything. DREW: Yeah. Probably not able to play a lot of games at
that time. JOE: You’d be surprised! We had batteries from buses, and we had a
guy who was on a dynamo and he would pedal and charge it, and you can play for an hour
or two. Prince of Persia, old school! 286, 386. DREW: Really?
JOE: Yeah. It was still gaming! You had to get electricity somehow. During the war there were certain primary
buildings, like an infirmary, and they had electricity all the time. And we would climb on the poles and steal
electricity to have games to play. DREW: Wow. JOE: Yeah, crazy. DREW: Did you play cards or board games as
well? JOE: I love board games, but nobody loves
board games here. I was always into Dungeons & Dragons and stuff
like that. I love those. DREW: So what other things would you do for
fun during the war? JOE: There wasn’t much fun to do. We were collecting shrapnel from all sorts
of grenades and stuff like that, bullets. “I have a mortar, grenade parts, T-80. Do you have a T-90?” Or exchanging bullets: “I got one from an
anti-aircraft gun, look how big it is! Oh, I”m going to give you mine.” It’s kind of normal, but it’s not normal. When you see it from afar, it’s not normal. But that’s what you’ve got. You don’t have stickers, you don’t have cards,
you have shrapnel, all over the place. The crazier the shrapnel, the better you have
it. Children. DREW VO: Certainly, the past is present on
many minds here. The recent past of the war, and the more distant,
pleasant past of brotherhood and unity. This is where the country’s most popular
football club plays. Here, too, the Olympic rings adorn the stadium,
a reminder of its part in the opening ceremony. ZIJO: I was here February 8th, 1984. I was there, inside. I was just finishing catering and tourism
school. I cleaned the stadium a few days before the
opening ceremony and I deserved a ticket. And I was happy to see Kirk Douglas, the Swedish
princess, black people; I said “my city’s the best in the world!” It happened here. This stadium and this ceremony created me
as a tourist guide. That’s the reason I like this place. DREW VO: It’s easy to focus on the past,
on what’s been lost. But we can also remember the survivors and
the hope they represent. The effects of the past persist, but as we’ll
see in the coming videos, more and more in the region are focused on the future. ZIJO: Hello! Welcome to Sarajevo! DREW VO: Cloth Map is possible only because
of our supporters on Patreon. If you liked this video, and want to keep
seeing more like it, we’d love to have you with us!