With song, bitterness, enterprise, Bosnians ponder their republic's future

February 23, 1994|By Newsday

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The electricity was back on at the Obala cellar club, and guitarist-singer Vlado Kajevic took time off from setting up the gig to share the lyrics he had written for his group, Don Guido and the Missionaries.

"I'm trying to think what will wake people up a little bit," he said, pulling a much-folded scrap of paper out of his wallet. He then softly sang the refrain: "Just imagine it all happens to me: Some day, some day, it might happen to you."

"I don't think they'll be ready for this for about a month," he said. It may be an understatement.

"I'm walking on glass," he sang again. "I'm walking on years of someone's work. Tell me who has the right to take away what's mine, to bring on the night."

Mr. Kajevic is one of the optimists about the future of this multiethnic republic, which many outsiders believe is headed for partition into ethnic mini-states under U.N. auspices. "It's one country. I don't think it will be divided," said the 32-year-old English teacher, from a Serbian family. "After all, people still live together. There's not that much hatred -- not as much as there should be."

Across the table in the smoky room, Zlatko H., 27, disagreed. "Everything has changed," he said, referring to NATO's decision not to use air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. "There is no hope now, no chance any more to save Bosnia-Herzegovina. I had more hope when Sarajevo was being shelled. It was a struggle. Today there is no struggle, no fight. Everything is frozen to death." He said it would be 20 years before the city came alive again.

On the second day after the NATO-U.N. deadline silenced Serbian guns that had pounded the city for 22 months, the future of the state was the topic of debate at the cafes and discos, in the magazines and newspapers.

Over on Titova, the main downtown street, there were the first stirrings of commerce. Mustafa Ibrisagic was folding up his home-made push cart, having earned just enough to feed his family for the day. Shells recently destroyed his locksmith's shop, but he rescued key blanks and a grinding machine, and using a car battery, an alternator, and other scrap parts, set up business a few days ago. He had five customers yesterday, and charges $3 a key. "But I also accept other means of payment," he said, pulling a can of mackerel from inside the cart, which he had accepted for two keys.

"Look, we're all private businessmen," said Nedzad Buco, a stallholder at Sarajevo's famous tourist bazaar. "We can start up quickly. I myself do the craft work. As soon as the roads open to Split and Zenica and Mostar, I'll fly out and buy materials, and I'll be ready to work. We could be up and running in a month."

The Bosnian PEN club held a business meeting yesterday, and its officers recalled how things had changed since they founded the chapter of the writers' group on Oct. 31, 1992. "That day, we couldn't approach the Holiday Inn for 1 1/2 hours. We had to approach by running," said Tvrtko Kulenovic, a novelist.

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