He was called Vucko and he was a nice little wolf, a regular visitor to the woods of the Dinaric Alps in the Balkans. Based on the cartoon by the Croatian artist Nedeljko Dragicwas made by the Slovenian artist Joze Trobec and became the official mascot of the 1984 games at Sarajevo, the first Winter Olympics in a communist country. Cheerful and man-friendly, just like the city of Sarajevo, a historic crossroads of cultures, ethnic groups and religions.
“The most beautiful Olympics ever” defined the then president of the IOC Juan Antonio Samaranch. A success between two editions of the Olympics, Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984, marked by boycotts imposed by the Cold War. Instead, everyone went to Sarajevo, without hesitation. And it was a party. It was also the last wish granted by Tituswho disappeared four years earlier, and the last act of that mosaic that was there Yugoslavia.
«Six states, five nations, four languages, three religions, two alphabets: one Tito» recited the nursery rhyme: without his guidance, by charisma the only personality able to keep the pieces together, within a few years the mosaic it went up in flames, reduced to ashes by a fire on which the local satraps had been blowing for some time. The symbolic places of the 1984 Olympics were burning, in the crazy idea of erasing the past, the city was caught in the grip of a dirty and ferocious war. Vučko found refuge by holed up in his woods, now the time of the werewolves had come.
From 1991 to 1996, with Sarajevo under siege for over 1400 days, a city that was a sacrificial symbol of the madness of the most sinister nationalisms, in bosnia the werewolves in uniform caused 300,000 dead and wounded, 40,000 of them children; they raped 50,000 women and slaughtered their husbands and sons in a ruthless ethnic cleansing operation, left 300,000 people homeless and created 1.2 million refugees. A genocide.
Europe has seen horrors it thought it had put behind it forever in its face. Thirty years later, we see those same horrors in the steppes further east, in the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine. Today’s Sarajevos bear the names, of Irpin, Bucha, Borodyanka, Moschun, Mariupol, Bakhmut: because human folly may change the geography, but not the substance. An unequivocal sign that what happened thirty years ago in the Balkans unfortunately taught us nothing.
Redesigned by Dayton Accords of 1996, the Bosnia Herzegovina is today a State divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of the territory where Croats and Bosniaks live) and the Serbian Republic of Bosnia (49%): in fact, two separated at home under the aegis of a forced marriage of convenience. The presidency is a triumvirate made up of one representative from each ethnicity: a Bosniaka Croatian it’s a Serbian. Each member rotates as president for a period of eight months.
Everything in Bosnia is multiplied by three, from public offices to sports federations: with so many seats available to appeal to politics, it is therefore not surprising that the corruption is one of the plagues afflicting the country. Established by the Dayton Accords, the highest civil authority is the figure of theHigh Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovinawhich is responsible for control, monitoring and supervision of the implementation of the conditions set by the peace agreements.
The current High Commissioner is German Christian Schmidt. The Dayton Accords date back to 1996, they should have been transitory and lead to stabilisation, but after twenty-seven years they still remain the balance, certainly not very firm, on which the country is based. If this is the case, we owe it above all to the Serbian side which is still smoldering under the ashes of nationalist and separatist ashes and between one provocation and another does nothing to hide it. Ergo, the transition is slow and the stalemate remains. The only solution to the Rubik’s cube is offered by Bosnia’s entry into theEuropean Union: the candidacy is official, and theItaly it is among the European countries that push most in that direction, but to implement it you need time and will on everyone’s part.
With an economy that limps biting its tail in corruption and in a divided country from which young people flee because they see no future, a path that is anything but easy. To speed up the process, it should be said that Italy is engaging in intense diplomatic activity to promote integration between the different communities. In all fields, even in sport as we were able to see with our own eyes last week on the Olympic mountains of Bjelasnicain Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, e Jahorinatoday in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia.
State-of-the-art ski lifts made in Italybeautiful slopes, prepared and kept in perfect condition: thus, from February 27th to March 2nd, the abundant snow of Bjelasnica hosted the third edition of Telemach Children Speed Campthree days of skiing with training on the track, final competition, and classroom teaching reserved for about sixty under 14 and under 16 category kids from different countries, even fromArgentina.
Teachers former great champions of alpine skiing like the Croatian Ivica Kostelicfor the third consecutive year in Bjelasnica, and ours Kristian Ghedina, who had been on these snows only once, in January 1988 when, very young, he competed in a downhill in the European Cup. queen of the show, Paola Magoni who at the age of 19 in 1984 at the Sarajevo games in the fog of Jahorina won gold in the slalom, first Italian woman to give our country an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing: «Paola, this is your mountain!», thus the director of the ski resort of Jahorina welcomed her, Dejan Ljevanicin a festive atmosphere all to herself.
«Coming back here was a great emotion, they gave me an incredible welcome. I didn’t expect that. Not even in Italy they did something like that for me. They were beautiful days in which I was able to appreciate the human warmth of a cheerful and joyful people who want to live and be together» declared our Paoletta with shining eyes.
The Speed Camp was organized by the director of the ski resort ZOI’84 Olimpijski Centar Sarajevo, Jasmin Mehic, and by the president of the Ski Kluba Olimpic, Edin Durić, and promoted by the city of Sarajevo, as well as by a large group of sponsors; this year, precisely due to the presence of two of our champions such as Paola Magoni and Kristian Ghedina (they were both awarded by the mayor of Sarajevo Benjamina Karic on the occasion of the official visit to the Olympic Museum, in the presence of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt – by the way, do we want to build an Olympic museum in Cortina?), also enjoyed the support of theItalian Embassy: «Sarajevo is an open and multifaceted soul, with a tradition of tolerance and multicultural and religious coexistence.
It is incredible how in the space of a few years we have gone from a symbol of peace and harmony like the Olympics to an atrocious and absurd war. The wound is open, there is still no shared narrative of the war. Supporting initiatives like this means pushing towards a multicultural and European future of Bosnia. It was wonderful to see the affection that the people of Sarajevo have reserved for Paola Magoni and Kristian Ghedina. A demonstration of empathy, typical of this people» commented the Italian ambassador Marco DiRuzza.
There have been days of comebacks; in fact she is back to skiing in Sarajevo too Ariana Boras, three participations in the Olympics between 1992 and 1998 (the first in 1992 in Albertville under the Yugoslavian flag, the other two, 1994 in Lillehammer and 1998 in Nagano, for Bosnia-Herzegovina), sheltered during the war in Bormio, where he still lives. Her sport allowed her to escape the horror of war and start a new life in our country. Nice story.
This year she returned to Bjelasnica as well Ski European Cup; it has been missing since 1989 and it is a big step forward, but the real goal is to be able to host one again world cup competition and you work for it. Bring back the White Circus on these mountains, we believe it is a moral duty on the part of the International Federation, but also of That is, what a symbolic act that sport can and must give: after all, «The Olympic spirit is a great destroyer of walls» said Baron De Coubertin, right? «The World Cup is our dream and we are working to achieve it. We know it’s difficult, but we believe in it,” he explains Jelena DojcinovicSecretary General of the Bosnian Winter Sports Federation and Member of the Olympic Committee of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Now the only functioning cannons shoot snow: a symbol of rebirth. And then there is Vucko…After the werewolves ended up in a cage and there they will remain to pay for the atrocities they committed until the end of their days, he too returned: his smile brought back joy and a spirit of friendship, exactly as it did in that distant 1984.
Next year Vučko and his five circles will turn forty and we are already thinking about how to celebrate them: «It could be a competition with the Ski Legends, the great champions of the past» the president of the Ski Kluba Olimpic confides to us, Edin Duric. Gripped by the throat for four years, Sarajevo mourned her children and suffered hell; no more hatred, no more violence, today it is a city that has begun to breathe again and has only a great desire to live. All we have to do is say goodbye with the words of the Sarajevan artist Edin Numankadic, historical director for years, now retired, of the Olympic Museum, here considered a hero for having saved it from Serbian grenades: «Sarajevo is only remembered for bad things. But it is an Olympic city, and the 1984 Olympics were beautiful». See you in 2024.
All photos are by Lorenzo Fabiano
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