Visitors from the war zone Bosnian barristers: A group from the University of Sarajevo Law School stops in Baltimore during a tour of U.S. law schools.

February 02, 1996|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,SUN STAFF

The saddest day Ibrahim Festic can recall spending as dean of the University of Sarajevo Law School occurred in May 1992 several weeks after the outbreak of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On a Sunday, Mr. Festic strolled the halls of the law school, looking into classrooms and down corridors.

He saw no one.

"On any Sunday, there would be many, many students there," Mr. Festic said yesterday through an interpreter. "On this day, no one came to the university. I was there myself. It was a combination of feelings, mostly sadness and loneliness."

That was one of several stories that Mr. Festic told yesterday about running a law school in a city under siege.

Another was the day a mortar shell ripped a hole in the school building. Remarkably, the law school did not close that day, or any other during the war.

"Yes, it makes you sad. But you go on," said Mr. Festic, an erect man with a polite manner.

With colleagues from his school, he is on a monthlong tour of U.S. law schools. Yesterday's stop was the University of Baltimore Law School. Their journey, sponsored by the Central and East European Law Institute, also takes them to law schools in Philadelphia, Washington and Chicago, among other places.

The professors hope to create ties to the U.S. schools, perhaps creating exchange programs for students and faculty.

Yesterday, Mr. Festic and another University of Sarajevo professor, Sladan Ajvaz, met with law school deans in Baltimore for this week's American Bar Association convention.

Earlier this week, they gave a speech that inspired an audience of faculty and law students at the University of Baltimore.

Mr. Festic and Mr. Ajvaz, a professor of constitutional law, told many stories of hardship.

When the war began, their multiethnic school had about 2,000 students. About 980 remain, mostly women.

For most of the war, the school had no running water, electricity or heat. Classrooms were very cold, Mr. Festic said.

The most dangerous times were commuting to and from the law school, said Mr. Ajvaz. Inside, "I was never scared," he said. "It is a monument of a building. I felt protected by it."

Several students were killed in mortar attacks, and Mr. Festic had to stop and compose himself as he recalled a young female student who perished with her mother.

Since the U.S.-sponsored peace treaty was signed, Sarajevo has begun to come to life again. But, Mr. Festic said, "we're not sure yet what kind of peace it is going to be. There are no guarantees."

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