Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Going Sledding with the Serbs above Sarajevo ; Five Years after the War, Bosnia Is Still Largely Divided. but the Lure of Olympic Ski Slopes Draws Some Families across an Ethnic Boundary

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Going Sledding with the Serbs above Sarajevo ; Five Years after the War, Bosnia Is Still Largely Divided. but the Lure of Olympic Ski Slopes Draws Some Families across an Ethnic Boundary

Article excerpt

The invitation came as a surprise. A friend in Sarajevo, a teacher, and her two teenage sons wanted me to join them on their first trip to Jahorina since Bosnia's bitter 1992-1995 war as Yugoslavia broke apart.

It was also their first trip to Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb state-within-a-state in Bosnia.

"Come give us moral support," they urged. "We'll go sledding with the Serbs."

Nestled high above Sarajevo, Jahorina's sculpted slopes hosted the women's downhill and slalom competitions in the 1984 Winter Olympics and provided a picturesque backdrop for television announcers.

It's a lot quieter now. The Olympic flame was doused, and a few years later Sarajevo itself was burning. Bosnian Serbs dug in to Jahorina and other mountain villages surrounding the Bosnian capital and dropped shells and mortar rounds on people below: The same people who used to pack Jahorina's slopes, chalets, and restaurants every weekend.

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic - indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague - set up shop in nearby Pale. He and his cronies would pop up to Jahorina for meetings of the Bosnian Serb parliament or to relax on the slopes. It was at the Heavenly Valley Hotel here that Bosnian Serbs rejected the 1993 Vance-Owen peace plan that even had the backing of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Today, the guns, mines, and tanks are gone and the twisting, 12- mile road from Sarajevo is open to anyone who cares to make the drive. Almost no one does. Bosnian Muslims, or "Bosniaks," and Bosnian Croats feel understandably uncomfortable here.

But we decided to go anyway. A city bus leaves downtown Sarajevo every Saturday morning, as long as at least eight people show up. There were nine, so the bus left the station and climbed up the mountain, passing devastated buildings and incredible vistas of the city below. My friends grimly point out their top-floor apartment, which Serbs dropped several mortar rounds on in 1992. …

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