A Haunted Past: The Books And Films Of Sarajevo

| © Reuters
A. J. Samuels

With its complex and often painful history, Sarajevo can be seen as both haunting and inspirational at the same time. This can be discovered by delving into the wealth of literature and cinema surrounding the city, particularly the most influential pieces of work and the history that influenced them.

One Morning in Sarajevo by David James Smith

It was in Sarajevo on 28 June, 1914 that the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. This would trigger a wide array of consequences which would ultimately lead to the First World War. One Morning in Sarajevo by David James Smith is an account of the events and conspiracies that led to the Archduke’s death. This is unlike Alex Woolf’s Assassination in Sarajevo which examines the legacy of the incident and contemplates what history would have been like had it not happened. Instead David James Smith re-investigates this period of history, reconstructing the events that would would lead to this catastrophic war.’

Sarajevo Rose by Stephen Schwartz is the story of the Jewish people of the Balkans. The book follows their lives after being forced into exile from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. Their contributions, achievements and legacy in defining the social fabric of the Balkans before the tragedies of the Second World War are highlighted.

Sarajevo Marlboro by Miljenko Jergovic

The Siege of Sarajevo (1992-96) was the longest siege of a city in modern warfare. It was described by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as ‘a campaign of unrelenting violence against the inhabitants, so as to reduce them to a state of medieval deprivation in which they were in constant fear of death, with nowhere safe for a Sarajevan, not at home, at school or in a hospital from a deliberate attack’. As a result Sarajevo Marlboro was created. It is a compilation of 29 stories by journalist Miljenko Jergovic. Described by Slavenka Drakulic as ‘possibly the best book to be written about Bosnia’, it portrays the lives of the city’s inhabitants and their thoughts and emotions in the midst of the siege. The book won the Erich Maria Remarque peace prize upon publication and was praised for its depth and ability to transcend and connect to readers unaware and unaffected by the brutal conditions that the Sarajevans were forced to undergo.

Echoes from the Square by Elizabeth Wellburn

Vedran Smailovic was a cellist who played in the ruined buildings during the siege to honor the dead, drawing the eyes of the world to the plight of his people. Echoes from the Square is a fictional account of his inspirational and heroic tale. Written by Elizabeth Wellburn, the book narrates the story of a small boy and his experiences after hearing the cellist.

Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo by Peter Andreas

Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo by Peter Andreas is an excellent examination of the siege. Andreas traces the relation between the ‘formal front stage and the informal back stage’ activities during the war and shows how international intervention often had unintended consequences.

Goodbye Sarajevo: A True Story of Courage, Love and Surviva by Atka Reid

Goodbye Sarajevo: A True Story of Courage, Love and Survival is a story of two sisters. The book examines how war affects families and shows both extremes of humanity: brutal destruction and extraordinary kindness in the midst of the worst European conflict after the Second World War.

Born in Sarajevo by Snjezna Marinkovic

Born in Sarajevo is the story of author Snjezna Marinkovic who was 17 years old during the time of the siege. It is a deeply moving account of how the war developed and how the people gradually lost their ‘freedom, homes and lives’. Marinkovic tries to convey a message of hope and harmony and how it can be achieved despite the city’s difficult past. Marinkovic suggests in this work that ‘Sarajevo is a city where wars may begin, but love always triumphs as the victor’.

Sarajevo: Biography of a City by Robert J Donia

Robert J Donia’s Sarajevo: Biography of a City is a fascinating look into the city’s history from its foundation in the fifteenth century to the present. Exceptionally researched, the book has been described as ‘the best book to have been written on the city…’, ‘as it survives one epoch, one political regime, one religious dynasty after another’.

Welcome to Sarajevo by Michael Winterbottom

Welcome to Sarajevo is a British film which was released in 1997. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the film follows the journey of two journalists as they travel to a besieged Sarajevo and their efforts to rescue an orphaned Bosnian child in the country. Filmed with real debris and often with footage of real attacks, the film was praised for bringing the conflict into international focus.

Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams by Jasmila Žbanić

The critically acclaimed Grbavica: The Land of my Dreams shows the spirit, struggle, and more importantly the hope, present in Bosnian society in the aftermath of the war. The film, written and directed by Jasmila Žbanić, follows the lives of a single mother and her daughter. Subtle and soulful, Grabavica illustrates the lasting effects of war. However with an ending filled with hope, the film is testament to the fact that two decades later, whilst everyday life still bears visible marks of the conflict, Bosnia and Sarajevo is coming back to life.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article