A letter to Ukraine from Aida Cerkez, 5 March 2022, courtesy of the BBC World Service
Humanitarian organisations here in Sarajevo are collecting aid for you, and I am sitting in front of the closet in my apartment trying to remember what you would be needing the most now.
It’s not my warm socks or my jacket or my warm boots that you most need now.
It’s my now 30-year-old T-shirt imprinted with a slogan that kept me up during the 1,425 days that Bosnian Serbs fired at will and held my city under siege with no water, no food, no electricity, no heating, and no communication with the outside world. I wore that shirt and read its message as more than 2 million shells fell on our heads, and I dodged countless bullets but 11,000 of my neighbours didn’t.
The T-shirt says: Sarajevo will be, everything else will pass.
Bad times are ahead of you, my friends. But weapons are being sent so you can defend yourself and the values you stand for. We Bosnians fought back then for the same values, but the world imposed an arms embargo on us. It did not understand what the fight was about in Sarajevo.
Thank God, it understands now in Kyiv.
You are going to be hungry, thirsty, cold and dirty. You will lose your homes, friends and family members, but what will hurt the most will be the lies. Lies that you are somehow to blame for what is happening to you. Lies that you are actually doing what is being done to you. Those lies will poke countless holes into your hearts, but without stopping them from beating and without freezing them.
I see they just destroyed your TV tower. Ha! They want to keep you in the dark just as they kept us in the dark. They want to turn the lights off so we cannot see what they are doing to you.
Write down everything! Record it! One day it will define your history, explain what happened to Ukrainians who are yet to be born, and most likely, end up being used as evidence and proof in a court against those trying to kill you.
In the dark times that are ahead of you, you will lose faith sometimes and be overwhelmed by exhaustion. But I’m writing to you from the future and I’m telling you: You will prevail just as we did. I was supposed to be dead but I survived and I multiplied. I am going to take my grandchildren for a walk tomorrow.
You will one day too because I can see in you the same resilience I saw here. I hear you singing your anthem while pushing tanks away with your bare hands.
Over time you will sing, as we did, new songs about your courage during this plight. You will recite poetry not yet written and you will come up with your own slogans that will keep you alive.
For now, I am sending you the most precious thing I have. It’s my slogan, a bit modified for you: Ukraine will be, everything else will pass.