Sarajevo

November 22, 1992

Following is the text of a letter sent Nov. 15 from Dimitrij Rupel, foreign minister of Slovenia, to Dobrica Cosic, president of Yugoslavia, as provided by the Slovenian embassy in Washington.

Dear Dobrica!

Last night I came back from Sarajevo. I was trying to arrange for safe return of the Slovenes remaining there. . . . I want this evacuation to succeed, therefore I'm asking You for help.

While I was arranging for the Slovenes to leave, I perceived som other sights of Sarajevo and of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It helped me make up my mind to write a letter to You -- my (one-time?) friend, a fellow writer and a man I used to hold in fond remembrance.

Today, we are confronting each other. I am the Foreign Minister of Slovenia, You are the President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, one of the successor states of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that attacked my country last year in an attempt to restrain it from severing the bonds of the non-democratic and exclusively communist state. Let me tell you that the paradox created by the Yugoslav policy often came to my mind last year -- and more than once I had more than half a mind to send You a letter. Previous to that, there was a time when I thought we both, each in his own way, endeavor[ed] to set free our nations from under the Communism and Titoism, so that they would gain their dignity. I didn't discount the dignity of the Serbian nation, you didn't discount the dignity of the Slovenes. . . .

I have to speak to You as to a man that I used to know but cannot recognize anymore. Or to put it otherwise: I cannot reconcile the things that I know about You with the things that I saw with my own eyes in Sarajevo. I beseech you, do not answer as if neither You nor Your country has nothing to do with what is going on in Sarajevo and in Bosnia in general. If You look at this tragedy the way I do, then you simply must do something. You simply must listen to me -- if not for the sake of your curriculum vitae, at least for the sake of many evenings we spent together in company of our mutual friends; for the sake of many meaning-laden conversations the two of us had during the past years. In the capital of my country, Ljubljana, and in our mountain resorts of Bled and Bohinj. The memories of our emotion-packed, dissident whispering and tentative plotting, Yours and mine and our friends, are still vivid -- at least in my mind.

Let's set aside the considerations of political strategy. Let's set aside the "Yugoslavism," the communist federalism; let's set aside the trials of modern Europe. Let's talk, instead, of people in Sarajevo.

Among the people of Sarajevo, there are . . . teachers, physicians, politicians, ordinary people. Their children do not grasp the meaning of the words fruit or vegetable. There is no water, no power or gas. It is cold in Sarajevo and it's getting colder. Sarajevo is immersed in darkness. The night I spent in a Sarajevo hotel could be the opening scene of a novel. You and I have both seen similar scenes in some science-fiction movies. But this fiction is really happening! Neither TV nor any other media can depict the horrors of living today in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Television has become just another item among the cozy pieces of furniture which people do not endow with the ability of revealing the truth. And yes, it's a fact: all the reports are fictitious -- because it is impossible neither to imagine nor to describe the atrocities of the besieged Sarajevo. One has to live to see it -- if he stays alive.

In a man of culture -- and You are a man of culture -- a moral sense is bound to stir. As we are both writers we both know that politics cannot pledge us to amorality. Literature, if truthful, cannot be amoral. It cannot take side with soldiering murderers. The stories I heard in Sarajevo cannot be publicized, they cannot get into the letter, my words are too weak to carry the burden of hundreds of thousands of deaths, thousands and thousands of atrocious rapes, all those dying and desperate human beings. Maybe the stories are fit to be used by You and me in our respective writings. But how can our fiction survive if we don't tell it to Your people, go, say it aloud that for the sake of Your moral sense and for the sake of Your nation's dignity You forbid this war over Sarajevo to rage on. Open the doors of Sarajevo! As for the soldiers and militiamen, drive them back to their barracks or let them return to their homes.

The collars of everyone I saw in Sarajevo were two sizes too large. Those were the friends of yours and mine. The Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims. Wouldn't You want to give them a chance to talk over the future of their common state by light, in warm, and after a decent meal?

For the sake of our (one-time?) friendship, I beg You to act. Believe me, as far as the interests of Your nation are concerned, in Slovenia we are willing to listen. But right now, blood rises over our topic and drowns the senses we need to see and to hear. Do something! Let's do it together!

Yours,

Dimitrij

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