A Child's Life in Sarajevo

[For Secondary LESSON PLAN: War Diaries]

from Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo

Monday, September 2, 1991

Behind me-a long, hot summer and the happy days of summer holidays; ahead of me-a new school year. I'm starting fifth grade. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends at school, to being together again. Some of them I haven't seen since the day the school bell rang, marking the end of term. I'm glad we'll be together again, and share all the worries and joys of going to school.

Mirna, Bojana, Marijana, Ivana, Masa, Azra, Minela, Nadza-we're all together again.

Saturday, October 19, 1991

Yesterday was a really awful day. We were ready to go to Jahorina (the most beautiful mountain in the world) for the weekend. But when I got home from school, I found my mother in tears and my father in uniform. I had a lump in my throat when Daddy said he had been called up by the police reserve. I hugged him, crying, and started begging him not to go, to stay at home. He said he had to go. Daddy went, and Mommy and I were left alone. Mommy cried and phoned friends and relatives.

Tuesday, November 12, 1991

The situation in Dubrovnik is getting worse and worse. We managed to learn through the ham radio that Srdjan is alive and that he and his parents are all right. The pictures on TV are awful. People are starving. We're wondering about how to send a package to Srdjan. It can be done somehow through Caritas. Daddy is still going to the reserves, he comes home tired. When will it stop? Daddy says maybe next week. Thank God.

Thursday, March 5, 1992

Oh, God! Things are heating up in Sarajevo. On Sunday (March 1), a small group of armed civilians (as they say on TV) killed a Serbian wedding guest and wounded the priest. On March 2 (Monday) the whole city was full of barricades. There were "1,000" barricades. We didn't even have bread. At 6:00 people got fed up and went out into the streets. The procession set out from the cathedral. It went past the parliament building and made its way through the entire city. Several people were wounded at the Marshal Tito army barracks. People sang and cried "Bosnia, Bosnia," "Sarajevo, Sarajevo," "We'll live together" and "Come outside." Zdravki Grebo (President of the Soros Foundation in Sarajevo and editor-in-chief of ZID, the independent radio station) said on the radio that history was in the making.

Monday, March 30, 1992

Hey, Diary! You know what I think? Since Anne Frank called her diary Kitty, maybe I could give you a name too. What about:




Or something else???

I'm thinking, thinking. . .

I've decided! I'm going to call you


All right, then, let's start.

Dear Mimmy,

It's almost half-term. We're all studying for our tests. Tomorrow we're supposed to go to a classical music concert at the Skenderija Hall. Our teacher says we shouldn't go because there will be 10,000 people, pardon me, children, there, and somebody might take us as hostages or plant a bomb in the concert hall. Mommy says I shouldn't go. So I won't.

Monday, April 6, 1992

Dear Mimmy,

Yesterday the people in front of the parliament tried peacefully to cross the Vrbanja bridge. But they were shot at. Who? How? Why? A girl, a medical student from Dubrovnik, was KILLED. Her blood spilled onto the bridge. In her final moments all she said was: "Is this Sarajevo?" HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE!. . .

Since yesterday people have been inside the B-H parliament. Some of them are standing outside, in front of it. We've moved my television set into the living room, so I watch Channel I on one TV and "Good Vibrations" on the other: Now they're shooting from the Holiday Inn, killing people in front of the parliament. And Bokica is there with Vanja and Andrej. Oh, God!

Maybe we'll go to the cellar. You, Mimmy, will go with me, of course. I'm desperate.

WHEW! It was tough. Oh God! They're shooting again!!!


Thursday, April 9, 1992

Dear Mimmy,

I'm not going to school. All the schools in Sarajevo are closed. There's danger hiding in these hills above Sarajevo. But I think things are slowly calming down. The heavy shelling and explosions have stopped. There's occasional gunfire, but it quickly falls silent. Mommy and Daddy aren't going to work. They're buying food in huge quantities. Just in case, I guess. God forbid!


Saturday, May 2, 1992

Dear Mimmy,

Today was truly, absolutely the worst day ever in Sarajevo. The shooting started around noon. Mommy and I moved into the hall. Daddy was in his office, under our apartment, at the time. We told him on the intercom to run quickly to the downstairs lobby where we'd meet him. . . The gunfire was getting worse, and we couldn't get over the wall to the Bobars', so we ran down to our own cellar.

The cellar is ugly, dark, smelly. Mommy, who's terrified of mice, had two fears to cope with. The three of us were in the same corner as the other day. We listened to the pounding sheels, the shooting, the thundering noise overhead. We even heard planes. At one moment I realized that this awful cellar was the only place that could save our lives. Suddenly, it started tolook almost warm and nice.

When the shooting died down a bit, Daddy ran over to our apartment and brought us back some sandwiches. He said he could smell something burning and that the phones weren't working. He brought our TV set down to the cellar. That's when we learned that the main post office was on fire and that they had kidnapped our President.

Thursday, May, 7, 1992

Dear Mimmy,

I was almost positive the war would stop, but today. . .a shell fell on the park in front of my house, the park where I used to play and sit with my girlfriends. A lot of people were hurt. Dado, Jaca and her mother have come home from the hospital, Selma lost a kidney but I don't know how she is, because she's still in the hospital. AND NINA IS DEAD. A piece of shrapnel lodged in her brain and she died. She was such a sweet, nice, little girl. We went to kindergarten together, and we used to play together in the park. It is possible I'll never see Nina again? Nina, an innocent eleven-year-old little girl-the victim of a stupid war. I feel sad. I cry and wonder why? She didn't do anything. A disgusting war has destroyed a young child's life. Nina, I'll always remember you as a wonderful little girl.

Love, Mimmy,


Monday, December 28, 1992

Dear Mimmy,

. . . You know, Mimmy, we've had no water or electricity for ages. When I go out and when there's no shooting it's as if the war were over, but this business with the electricity and water, this darkness, this winter, the shortage of wood and food, brings me back to earth and then I realize that the war is still on. . .

As I sit writing to you, my dear Mimmy, I look over at Mommy and Daddy. They are reading. . Somehow they look even sadder to me in the light of the oil lamp. . .I look at Daddy. He really has lost a lot of weight. The scales say twenty-five kilos, but looking at him I think it must be more. I think even his glasses are too big for him. Mommy has lost weight too. She's shrunk somehow, the war has given her wrinkles. God, what is this war doing to my parents? They don't look like my old Mommy and Daddy anymore. Will this ever stop? Will our suffering stop so that my parents can be what they used to be-cheerful, smiling, nice-looking?

This stupid war is destroying my childhood, it's destroying my parents' lives. WHY? STOP THE WAR! PEACE! I NEED PEACE! I'm going to play a game of cards with them!

Love from your Zlata

Wednesday, September 29, 1993

We waited for September 27 and 28. The 27th was the Assembly of Bosnian Intellectuals, and the 28th was the session of the B-H Parliament. And the result is "conditional acceptance of the Geneva agreement." CONDITIONAL. What does that mean?

Once more the circle closes. The circle is closing, Mimmy, and it's strangling us.

Sometimes I wish I had wings so I could fly away from this hell. Like Icarus.

There's no other way.

But to do that I'd need wings for Mommy, wings for Daddy, for Grandma and Granddad and. . .for you, Mimmy.

And that's impossible, because humans are not birds.

That's why I have to try to get through all this, with your support, Mimmy, and to hope that it will pass and that I will not suffer the fate of Anne Frank. That I will be a child again, living my childhood in peace.



Filipovic, Zlata, from "Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo," Translated with notes by Christina Pribichevich-Zoric; Penguine Books, New York. 1994.

(note: Zlata was 11 years old at the beginning of her book and 13 years old at the end. She survived and moved to Paris.)

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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