“We needed two things: arms and food. So the UN gave us malaria tablets and condoms – well they had promised to ‘protect’ us! We felt very safe.
“The food they sent us was varied. Sometimes it was left-overs from the Vietnam war – cans of food twenty years out of date. Sometimes it was pork – in a city where half the population is Muslim. But most often it was this can of beef called icar. This was the most disgusting thing imaginable. When I ask my grandfather if he would ever eat icar again, he says:
If there is another siege, I would rather die than eat icar.
“One of the first things the UN did was to put an arms embago on both sides of the conflict. This was very fair: the Serbs had the former Yugoslav army, the fourth largest fighting force in Europe, fit for fifty years of war; and the Bosnian army did not yet exist – it was made up of ex-policemen and criminals, the few people who had weapons.
“So we had to smuggle weapons into the city, against the wishes of the UN. In this, we got a lot of help from Colombian drug cartels. They did more to help save Sarajevo than the UN. There is always talk that we should build a monument to acknowledge their aid.
“There is a monument to the UN. It is a sculpture and the plaque on the sculpture reads:
In grateful acknowledgement of the humanitarian aid provided by the United Nations. We will never forget.
And the sculpture? It is in the shape of a can of icar.”
I travelled to Sarajevo in the summer of 2007. I heard these stories from the people there.