By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Ayse Kulin (Translated by Kenneth Dakan)
Narration by: Kathleen Gati
Sarajevo, a town of less than 70,000 in 1917, grows to over 500,000 in 1991. The murder of one Austrian King (King Ferdinand) in Sarajevo precipitates WWI in 1914. The murder of thousands of Sarajevo citizens in 1992 nearly goes unnoticed. “Rose of Sarajevo” is a fictionalized story of an estimated 14,000 Sarajevo’ lives lost at the hands of Serbian soldiers.
Slobodan Milosevic is President of Serbia during the military’s campaign to reconstitute Yugoslavia into a greater Serbia after the death of former President Tito. Sarajevo’s population is estimated at less than 380,000 today.
Ayse Kulin, a Turkish author and newspaper columnist, writes of a female Muslim journalist that lives through the beginnings of the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s. The fictional journalist is married with two children and a husband who works as a free-lance engineer. Her husband is often absent from the family because of the nature of his contract work. His wife also works on assignment for the local paper and the children are babysat by their grandmother. The journalist wife falls in love with a fellow journalist. The husband finds out and leaves his wife and family. These personal circumstances are folded into the beginnings of the 1990’s Balkan Wars.
The perspective of the war is surrounded by the nationalist drive for independence of the former countries of Yugoslavia after the Croatian born leader, Josip Broz Tito, dies. Tito’s army is principally made up of Serbs and, upon his death, the power of that military devolves into the hands of Milosevic who is a Serb. Milosevic’s uses that military power in an attempt to create a greater Serbia. He attempts to enlist Croatia and Montenegro in an alliance that would gobble up Bosnia, Slovenia and any other satellite interests of the former Yugoslavia. Because of the military weakness of other independent nations, military power seems to go to Milosevic’s head. Kulin’s story reinforces the dictum of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Ethnicity becomes a reprehensible rallying point for Serbian aggression.
Milosevic preys on the ethnocentric differences between Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Croatian citizens to foment the army’s murder and rape of innocence. Kulin focuses her story on the atrocity of war and how people’s ethnic differences are tools of political power to foment human terror and slaughter.
Kulin’s personalization of history is modestly successful with a love story that exemplifies the worst of what humans are capable of becoming. “Rose of Sarajevo” compels one to review the history of the Balkan wars. Kulin deserves some praise for that accomplishment.