At the centre of Sarajevo, at the corner of Marshall Tito Str. and the pedestrian zone, I saw the Eternal Flame (Vječna Vatra). It is a memorial dedicated to those who fought with the Yugoslav National Army during World War II, dated 6 April 1946–the 1st anniversary of the liberation of Sarajevo. One night I took a walk downtown with my friend and as we were approaching the Eternal Flame, we saw this group of Roma kids hanging out around the memorial, probably trying to get warm. I had seen homeless or poor people gathering around the memorial before, a sight worth documenting as I felt it was very symbolic.
As I was trying to discreetly take a picture of the group, a boy, no more than 9 or 10 years old, noticed me and started heading our way with a cigarette in his mouth. I was afraid that I crossed the line, but he only wanted to ask for money. In the end, he was happy to accept some candy.
I woke up very early the next morning as I wanted to take some pictures of the city waking up. Two of the kids were still there sleeping, holding on to each other for warmth–a heartbreaking sight. When I was later researching the Eternal Flame memorial, I stumbled upon a comment on the Eternal Flame by a tourist: “This flame commerates (sic) the partisans who fought in WWII. There is graffitti around this monument as well as Roma kids begging. The city should tidy this monument up.” As much as I understand the need to be respectful to a memorial like this, I felt the comment had an out-of-sight-out-of-mind aspect to it, oblivious to the social problems such a sight might represent and sum up.
The writing on the memorial reads as follows:
With Courage and the Jointly Spilled Blood of the Fighters of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian,Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian Brigades of the Glorious Yugoslav National Army; with the Joint Efforts and Sacrifices of Sarajevan Patriots, Serbs, Muslims and Croats on the 6th of April 1945 Sarajevo, the Capital City of the People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was liberated. Eternal Glory and Gratitude to the Fallen Heroes of the liberation of Sarajevo and our Homeland, On the First Anniversary of its Liberation–a Grateful Sarajevo.
A memorial showing gratitude to those who liberated the city from the Nazi rule, whose forgetful descendants fought each other over this same city no more than 47 years later; a memorial lending warmth and comfort to the homeless. A memorial to all.