Kherson, Kharkiv, Mariupol. How many sieges. The last war makes us forget what happened before, other sieges, more pain, more uncertainty, more injustice. And not just war, attacks, terrorism, acts of oppression. Belfast, New York, Baghdad, Mosul. And Sarajevo, a siege that began just over thirty years ago, in April 1992. An exemplary siege not only because it is the longest in modern history (four years, between April 1992 and February 1996) but because, in the heart of Europe, in Sarajevo menacingly and ominously looming ghosts return that seemed to have disappeared, extinguished with the consciousness of evil that emerged from the Second World War. But no, here they are: ethnic hatred, revenge, betrayal, deceit, massacre, torture. Short memory, tiredness and opportunism deposit only a thin layer of ashes on all the evil in the world, which is now re-emerging in Ukraine.
For this we must remember Sarajevo; Andrej Đerković, today, is here for this with his story and his images, his works exhibited in the four corners of the world with the insistence and tenacity of someone who knows, from lived experience, that oblivion, forgetfulness kills. Andrej was born in Sarajevo in 1971. He was 21 when his city was caught in a grip that Bosnian Serb forces wanted to kill. In the following years, succumbing was infinitely close several times. Yet it didn't happen. At the ceasefire and already for years before, 35,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed (all), 12,000 dead, 50,000 injured. All of all. Ethnic groups, conflicts, divisions, on both sides of the line there was no one who could call himself, I won't say winner, but not even escaped, relieved. The enormity of the loss had overwhelmed history in those Balkan valleys. 12 thousand seem few compared to the numbers of this last war, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, but everything is relative. In a relatively small city, dead and wounded are close to 30% of the total population.
Andrej starts again from faces, bodies, silent black and white portraits. 9.11 is not only the date of the attack on the twin towers but the pairs of twins he had photographed in 2002 in Sarajevo; different people by confession and affiliation, nine out of eleven survivors of the war and two out of eleven left alone, documenting an irreparable loss, that is, the caesura, the wound that becomes personal from historical. It's a matter of distance: all history, observed closely enough, becomes tragedy and personal tragedy. The image does not comment, does not insist but somehow participates. Today, in 2022, thirty years after the siege of Sarajevo, the works of Andrej Đerković are here, at the House of Memory, as an invitation to remember, not to feel exempt, separated from what can also hang over us in any moment. We are grateful to him for this.
Casa della Memoria, Milano, december 2022