Sarajevo welcomes the exhibition ‘We don’t forget’ by Catalan photojournalist Miquel Ruiz

24 photographs from Miquel Ruiz, a Catalan photographer, are being displayed at an exhibition in Sarajevo, which kicked off on Thursday. The picture of the Library of Sarajevo destroyed by Serb artillery during the siege of the Bosnian capital is one of the masterpieces of the exposition ‘We don’t forget’, which takes place precisely in the same monumental building which appears in ruins in the image and which was restored in 2014. The Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, stated during his visit to the exhibition that it recalls that “Catalonia has always been with Sarajevo and Bosnia, even when the EU turned its back on them”. Romeva added that the images call us “to persevere in the construction of peace".

The Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, looking at a photo of the exhibition in Sarajevo with the former General Jovan Divjak (by ACN)
The Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva, looking at a photo of the exhibition in Sarajevo with the former General Jovan Divjak (by ACN) / ACN / Laura Pous

ACN / Laura Pous

October 14, 2016 07:08 PM

Sarajevo (CNA).- A photograph of the Library of Sarajevo razed by fire and destroyed by Serb bombs during the siege of the Bosnian capital is the centrepiece of the exhibition ‘We don’t forget’ by the photojournalist Miquel Ruiz from Girona, eastern Catalonia. The exposition opened on Thursday in precisely the same monumental building, restored in 2014. It should be recalled that "Catalonia has always been with Sarajevo and Bosnia, even when the EU turned its back on them", said the Catalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raül Romeva. According to the Minister, the photographs demand that we "persevere in the construction of peace" and remember "where we come from and what should not happen again.

The exhibition is a collection of 24 images of Ruiz's work in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the conflict, with photographs featuring life in Sarajevo during the siege, refugee camps and UN forces, and snapshots of years later, when they began recovering the remains of the victims, especially those who died in the genocide in Srebrenica.

A dream come true

The photographer Miguel Ruiz told the CNA that the opening of the exhibition at the Library of Sarajevo "is the fulfilment of an old dream and a promise” that he himself made in 1993 when he photographed the building destroyed by Serb artillery. "From the ashes of these ruins had to be reborn the culture of this country, and that is why it was wonderful to dream for many years that I could return to Sarajevo and do an exhibition inside the ruins. Finally, the dream has been fulfilled", said Ruiz. According to the photographer's own desire, the exhibition ‘We don’t forget’ will be a present to the city of Sarajevo and the association Mothers of Srebrenica.

Never again

Romeva, who lived in Sarajevo during the siege because he was working at the United Nations, stressed that "Europe failed in many ways" during the Bosnian war. "It is only necessary to pronounce the name of this city, Sarajevo, or remember the city of Srebrenica", said the Minister.

According to Romeva, "Europe today has to face a fate of enormous difficulties" and the refugee crisis is one of its greatest challenges. "Assisting the people who needed it was a duty 25 years ago in this land as it is now in the Mediterranean. Europe has its credibility and its future at stake”, said the Catalan Minister in a speech during the inauguration. Romeva reiterated the need to work to prevent that Europe or anywhere in the world experience conflicts such as the one Bosnia suffered.

Visit to the Divjak association 

The Catalan Minister also visited on Thursday the headquarters of the association Obrazovanje Gradi BiH (GBiH), led by the former Bosnian General of Serb origin Jovan Divjak. The association, which in English translates into 'Education Builds Bosnia and Herzegovina’, is dedicated to supporting families with children victims of the war and promotes education and training.

Divjak, who had a meeting with Romeva, left the Yugoslav army to join the staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and participated actively in the protection of Sarajevo during the siege. He has numerous international awards for his work, including the Prix 'Peacemakers', awarded by the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP), which Divjak received in the Parliament of Catalonia on the 17th of March 2014.

Bosnia, a point of reference for Catalonia’s new general plan for exhumations 

Romeva exchanged this Thursday and Friday in Sarajevo experiences about historical memory and the opening of pits with the Vice President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Minister of Human Rights and Refugees and the Institute of Missing Persons, among others. "What they are doing in Bosnia is essential, they are well aware that memory should be based on the truth", said the Catalan Minister.

The Government expressed to the CNA that it is working on a general plan for exhumations of Civil War victims, to be presented before the end of the year, which will help to complete the work of the Program for Genetic Identification of disappeared people during the civil war and dictatorship, presented last September.

"In Catalonia we are developing increasingly ambitious projects in this area", said Romeva, noting that this is the reason why it is "very important to learn and to establish bonds of cooperation" with the Bosnian authorities. The Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed that Bosnia is "working very seriously on the treatment of DNA banks", something that the Catalan Government also does and develops through the "framework for genetic identification". According to Romeva, "opening graves" is "very important work" and one of those which generates "the most technical difficulties" and that is why cooperation and mutual exchange of experiences with Bosnia is especially key.

The Federal Vice President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milan Dunovic, remarked that this is "the principle of a good cooperation between Catalonia and Bosnia, especially at the federal level". Indeed, the meeting with Romeva is the first made by the Catalan Government with the executive of Bosnia, although links between Catalonia and Bosnia, especially during the war, have always been important.

Dunovic admitted that historical memory and the reopening of graves is a "difficult issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina" and thanked the cooperation that Catalonia offered "during and after the war". "Now we have a different kind of co-operation, there are different challenges", he said.