This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is
being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use"
provisions of the Federal copyright laws.
Source: L.A. Times, Sunday , July 23,1995

Bosnians Recall Karadzic, a Neighbour Turned Enemy


SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina. "It is a mystery", Izeta Bajramovic says, "how the awkward kid with the unruly head of hair, who used to come around Bajramovic's corner sweet shop for free chunks of baklava, grew up to become international pariah Radovan Karadzic".

"He was skinny, hairy and shy, very, very shy," she recalls. "I used to feel
sorry for him. He was provincial, a typical peasant lost in the big city."

Although Karadzic was born in 1945 in the backward, rural hills of Montenegro in the embryonic days of Marshal Josip Broz Tito's Communist
Yugoslav federation, he lived in Sarajevo for 30 years before emerging as
leader of an extremist Bosnian Serb nationalist movement that would plunge the Balkans into war.

Coming of age in Sarajevo, educating himself, getting married and having
children, he lived (amicably, it seems) among the Muslims he now tries to

Those former neighbors and buddies remember the gangly, penniless boy who grew into a boastful hustler and mediocre poet with a weakness for poker. And then, with a shiver, they remember his transformation to harsh-tongued politician surrounded by bodyguards.

The betrayal they now feel mirrors the success Bosnian Serb nationalists
like Karadzic have had in turning Serbs and Muslims against each other, the essence of the unmitigated bloodletting that his characterized Europe's most deadly conflict since World War II.

Like all of Sarajevo, Karadzic's former neighborhood has suffered the
ravages of his war. His old apartment building at 2 Sutjeska St., where he
courted his wife and raised a daughter and son, is pockmarked from the
mortars the Serbs routinely fire on this city. The street faces a high
school (closed because the war makes it too dangerous for children to attend classes) and green patches that residents use to grow potatoes, onions and other sustenance crops because Karadzic's men have blocked all food deliveries to the city.

"Half of our neighbors are dead now, and most of them were Karadzic's first neighbors," Bajramovic says, sipping Turkish coffee at a neighborhood cafe and recalling how the people on these streets took in and helped the young Montenegran.

"He talks now about being unable to live with Muslims. Muslims helped him
the most! Starting with me.'

Karadzic arrived in Sarajevo in 1960 as a 15-year-old. He came to study
medicine and, at first, lived in student housing on a hill above the city.
Bajramovic and others remember a lonely kid who always wore the same dirty sweater and who ate cake on credit.

"He was a bit untidy as a student," recalls Mohamed Dedajic, the
neighborhood barber and one of Karadzic's longtime poker pals. "He had a
hillbilly kind of haircut, very fashionable in his village. When I tried to
make a suggestion, he'd say, 'No, no, I like long hair.'

"He was an OK guy, normal and nothing special. He'd do you a favor, but he'd
always ask for money."

And he was ambitious, a man with pretensions. He marched at the head of
student demonstrations and waved pictures of Tito or shouted for dcmocracy, whichever was the fad of the moment.

"I believe it was a career move," Bajramovic says. "He had to prove himself in some way." Eventually he met fellow medical student Ljiljana Zelen, who lived with her upper-class family in the Sutjeska Street apartment building. They married and Karadzic moved in, first with her parents and later into the building's elegant top-floor apartment.

He graduated from school and began work as a psychiatrist. Thanks to his
business ventures and his wife's family, he now had money, and with money came confidence.

"He always liked to be called 'Duke,'" recalls Dedajic, the barber. "It was
kind of a joke for us, but he liked it."

Karadzic joined a writers club and bored his friends with mediocre poetry.
And he secured a position at Kosevo Hospital _the medical facility that
Bosnian Serbs have targeted in recent weeks, killing patients as they lay in their sickbeds.

Although by most accounts he got along well with his neighbors, there were dark sides to his personality and his life in Sarajevo. He thrived in the Communist Yugoslav federation's world of connections and corruption.
Karadzic began making friends with senior police officers, many of them
Serbs. And he ran a profitable racket selling prescriptions and providing
false medical diagnoses to help people collect insurance or pension

He was eventually arrested on corruption charges involving the use of state construction materials for a chicken farm he was building in Pale. His defense attorney was an old friend and neighbor, a Muslim. He ended up
serving nine months in jail.

"He was a lazy guy, always dreaming of his greatness," says Marko Vesovic, one of Karadzic's colleagues from Sarajevo's poetry circles. "He told everyone he was the third [best] Serb poet. I'm not saying he didn't have talent, but he was lazy and he didn't like to work."

Vesovic, who went on to become a well-known writer, says Karadzic used to tell his writer friends that he was one of the Yugoslav federation's
foremost psychiatrists. And then he'd tell his psychiatrist friends that he
was one of the Yugoslav federation's foremost writers.

"In poetry and in life, Karadzic was a person without personality," Vesovic
says. "He was like clay, without personality, without character, who could
be molded."

At the dull-green apartment building on Sutjeska Street, the name Karadzic still appears on the ground-floor mailbox. Karadzic's old apartment is occupied by a refugee family from elsewhere in Sarajevo, they are among the more than 1 million people forced from their homes by 39 months of war and Karadzic's ruthless campaigns of "ethnic cleansing."

From the back windows of the apartment building, Gypsy children can be seen playing in the wreckage of bombed cars and the rubble of shelled houses.

Now 50, Karadzic presides over the "Republika Srpska" (the Bosnian Serb
Republic) in the former ski-resort town of Pale, nine miles southeast of
Sarajevo. He calls Pale "Serb Sarajevo" and calls himself president.

Despite spending most of his adult life in an integrated Sarajevo
neighborhood, Karadzic bases his war on the argument that Serbs, Muslims and Croats cannot live together. It is a position he reiterated last week after forcefully expelling more than 30,000 Muslim refugees from a U.N.-designated "safe area" that his army brazenly overran.

"We know Muslims and Serbs do not want to be together," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais. "The international community and the Muslims must accept this country used to be totally Serbian. We will never accept being a province inside a Bosnian state. We will never accept a Bosnian state."

His neighbors back in Sarajevo say they never really noticed much of a
nationalist streak in him (at least until 1990, when he became head of the
radical Serbian Democratic Party). He got a new car, a driver and
bodyguards, who were posted outside the apartment building and who earned the scorn of neighbors by occasionally shooting off their guns.

In 1992, as war clouds gathered and the Serbian Democratic Party began to speak of the need for ethnic purity, Karadzic moved to the Holiday Inn,
party headquarters.

Zahid Olorcic, the neighborhood shoemaker, last saw Karadzic a month or so before the war began. He passed by with his bodyguards, and waved. Olorcic, who used to repair the Karadzic family's shoes, says he cannot forgive Karadzic for destroying the ethnic harmony that once was Sarajevo's trademark

"Funerals, weddings, birthdays, we never counted how many Muslims were
there, how many Serbs, how many Croats," he says in his tiny shoe shop,
where customers no longer have the money to pay for his handiwork. "The only important thing was to be together,to have fun, to drink a little. It had been like that for so many years I never suspected it could change."

The neighborhood, like the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina, changed when Karadzic and his ultranationalists began their violent plans to build a Greater Serbia. In February, 1992, Bosnians voted to secede from the disintegrating Yugoslav federation in a referendum that most Serbs boycotted at Karadzic's behest. The next month, Serbs began setting up barricades around Sarajevo, and in April the war and the siege of the capital began.

It is with a fair measure of disbelief that Karadzic's old neighbors think
about what he became.

Bajramovic, the sweet shop owner, recalls the last time she saw Karadzic, after he had moved to the Holiday Inn. "He said, 'Whatever you need, whenever you need something you'll know where to find me. I have an old debt with you,' he told me. I thought it was funny. Why should I have to ask him for a favor? And now look at it," she says.

"I personally think he's someone's puppet. They gave him money and power. I knew him and I knew his abilities, and he was not capable of this. I would like to meet him again and ask him, 'Why?"'

Vesovic, the writer, says "The liar that exists in this war, we knew before. But we didn't think such a cruelty, such a killer, existed in him. That surprised us."

This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is
being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use"
provisions of the Federal copyright laws.
Source: U.S. News & and World Report, July 24, 1995

The world of Radovan Karadzic

by Samantha Power in Sarajevo

His apartment was cluttered. His poetry was good enough to gain entree to Sarajevo's literary circles but not enough to earn fame. His crowd was ethnically mixed: the godfather of his kids a Serb, his best man a Muslim. His ideology, say former friends, colleagues and neighbors, was pliant.

Radovan Karadzic, the rebel Bosnian Serb leader who over the past 39 months has destroyed a European country and held the world's greatest powers and minds hostage, seems an altogether unremarkable man who has done an altogether remarkable amount to shatter global faith in international order.

He arrived in Sarajevo in the early 1960s, a shy and impoverished15-year-old from the Montenegrin hills who dreamed of making it big as a poet and making big bucks as a psychiatrist. Like thousands of other students who filed into the university town from all over Yugolavia, Karadzic was assimilated. It wasn't hard to spot a shy farm boy alone in the big city wearing the same grimy, white pullover (knitted with wool from his village) every day from the first October frost to the last April thaw. His neighbors responded. ``The barber gave him free haircuts, the shoemaker cobbled his shoes and I gave him baklava on credit,'' says Izeta Bajramovic, who runs the sweetshop Karadzic frequented for more than two decades.

Karadzic's taste for poetry brought him in touch with an idealistic circle of poets and dissidents whose words he devoured. ``We spent nights discussing God, life, communism and fate,'' recalls Marko Vesovic, one of Bosnia's most eminent literary figures, who arrived in Sarajevo from Montenegro in 1963 and quickly linked up with his zealous countryman. Back then, says Vesovic, Karadzic considered himself a Montenegrin, not a Serb.

SARAJEVO SPIRIT. When Karadzic met Ljiljana Zelen, a Serbian psychiatrist-in-training from an upper-class Sarajevo family, say his friends, he knew he had it made. Karadzic moved in with his new wife's family in an apartmentbuilding that housed 11 families--one Croat-Hungarian, five Muslim,four Serb, one Croat. It remains a metaphor for the Sarajevo spirit of coexistence: Even though Karadzic himself has been saying for four years that Bosnia's three nations ``cannot live together,'' all but Karadzic and his Serb in-laws still reside at Sutjeska 2.

The park across the street where Karadzic loved to kick the football around with son Sasa has been ravaged by Sarajevans in need of wood to heat their homes; the stoop from which Karadzic recited his poems is riddled with shrapnel and bullet pockmarks. All told, 210 people in the neighborhood have died from rebel Serbian shelling and sniping. District residents are convinced that is no accident. ``I can't talk to you,'' stammers one elderly Croat in Karadzic's old building. ``He'll just send more grenades.''

Karadzic's old associates say prison and power changed him. In the mid-'80s he was incarcerated for fraud after using a $100,000 socialist grant meant for farmers to build his own chicken farm in nearby Pale, the ski resort town 10 miles from Sarajevo that now doubles as the self-proclaimed ``capital'' of ``Republika Srpska,'' the ethnically pure, unrecognized Bosnian Serb statelet he created. In the late 1980s he was befriended by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and then appointed head of Bosnia's Serb Democratic Party, which in 1990 proclaimed a network of ``Serb Autonomous Regions'' and which since1992 has orchestrated the removal of all Muslims and Croats in the Serbs' path. His former friend Vesovic remains philosophical. ``Karadzic was a failed poet and psychiatrist, but now at last he thinks he has succeeded. He says history will judge him,'' the Montenegrin muses. ``Maybe he is finally right. In 100 years no one will ask how many Croats and Muslims were killed while Karadzic carried out his mission. He'll simply be the man that made Serbia bigger.''