6th September 2021

The 29th anniversary of the destruction of NULBIH 

On August 25, 2021, the National and University Library, with a special program and exhibition, marked the 29th anniversary of the shelling of the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Vijećnica.

Vijećnica, a former symbol of the meeting of different cultures and traditions, a gathering place and place of learning for students, was renovated and pompously opened seven years ago. To this date, not a single book from the Library has been returned to its pre-war home – Vijećnica, where it belongs.

On the occasion of the anniversary, NULBIH received a large number of telegrams, including a telegram from the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt, Vice President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina MelikaMahmutbegović, Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Science, M.Sc. Aldan Kajtaz, as well as many others.

According to the director of the Library, Dr. Ismet Ovčina, that night this institution was driven out of its decades-old home.

Mind you, there was a catalogue burning and catalogues in it, not empty offices. Reading rooms burned and books burned in them, not ceremonial salons. Donkeys burned and newspapers and books burned in them, not empty warehouses. On the night of August 25, 1992, the library was turned into a blaze above which charcoal fragments of pages of books, newspapers, magazines, proceedings, scientific and professional literature, atlases and maps fluttered for days to come. It burned for decades carefully guarded and collected and given for use to those for whom this library was founded,“Ovčina said at the beginning of the speech.

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Photo: Z.K./ Sarajevo Sehara

He adds that dramatic footage of the attempt to save City Hall has gone around the world.

Dramatic footage of the Library on fire and people trying to save what to save the day went around the world, and the act of burning was met with outrage and condemnation. That night, the Library was forced out of its multi-storey home, losing 2/3 of its structure, with no equipment, and above all no roof over its head. She became a refugee in her town. Nevertheless, the culture won, the Library survived,“Ovčina added.

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Photo: Z.K./ Sarajevo Sehara

He notes that to date, no books from the Library have been returned to City Hall.

Today we are here to remember the tragically killed colleagues, but also to mark the day when the atrocity was committed, but also to remind that in the current land-book documents the Library is still the only legal entity registered as the beneficiary of the Town Hall facility,“he concluded.

The attendees were also addressed by the Chairman of the City Council Jasmin Ademović, and on whose initiative the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina (NUB BI) for the purpose of working and accommodating valuable library material will be allowed to use the space in the town hall facility in the square footage belonging to it according to the Main Project of renovation of the Town Hall building.

Today’s address personally carries symbolism because I was born in 1991, while a year later the aggressor shelling of the former JNA will mark history forever. 29 years later, the Town Hall was rebuilt and proudly represents one of the most beautiful symbols of Sarajevo. Only one mosaic cube is missing in the reconstruction of the Town Hall and should have been returned, which is the library and archives,“Ademovic said.

He adds that thanks to the City Council’s decision, the Library was initiated to return to City Hall.

By the 30th anniversary, we want to believe that the issue will be put at the forefront, and that students will be heard again at the entrance to this building. Only in this way can we preserve the memory of the crime, and give generations the strongest weapon, which is knowledge,“he adds.

The Vice President of the Academy of Science and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prof. Dr. Lidija Lincender-Cvijetić, recalled that many believe that due to the “digital era”, libraries will come to an end.

“Ibelieve libraries have a brighter future by turning information into knowledge. Still in the world libraries have their place, including this one. A dynamic knowledge centre is a library and I wish everyone a successful future for the benefit of all of us,“she said.

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Photo: Z.K./ Sarajevo Sehara

Dusan Toholj, deputy director of the library at the time of the city hall’s burning, presented his testimony.

“Iam the one who saved everything destroyed with my son and his second and the team working to save what could have been saved with his bare hands. There was no water or food, and working hours from morning to night. We succeeded in the fact that none of the books were damaged in the basement. The library is my life, everything was but there is no more library, it will not be as we were,“Toholj said.

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Photo: Z.K./ Sarajevo Sehara

The brave Kemal Cacan also spoke in front of the Sarajevo Canton Fire Brigade, which was shutting down the Town Hall that night.

“I’m honored to be part of the brave guys who shut down City Hall. It’s also an honor to be one of the few who remains an active firefighter. 138 years ago, the Fire Brigade was founded, and war was our most difficult time. The beginning of aggression was met by the brigade without sufficient resources, and the fact is that of the 500 fires, 10% are wildfires. We’re the only ones who collectively got the Golden Lily Medal. We didn’t do what it was like ‘by the books’, but as we could and knew,“Cacan recalled.

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Photo: Z.K./ Sarajevo Sehara

To commemorate the NUBBiH received a large number of telegrams, among others, a telegram from the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, Vice-President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Melika Mahmutbegović, Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Science, Mr. Aldan Kajtaz, as well as many others.

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