'Mostar was more than a bridge for us,' says Bosnian capturing demolition of historic bridge

Balkans
Sat, 12 Nov 2022 8:25 GMT
Collapsing from artillery shells launched by Croat forces in 1993, bridge, since rebuilt, continues to unite people from different races.
'Mostar was more than a bridge for us,' says Bosnian capturing demolition of historic bridge

The Mostar Bridge was more than a structure for us, said Eldin Palata, who recorded the historic footage of its collapse from artillery shells fired by Croatian troops in 1993.

Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday marked the 29th anniversary of the demolition of Mostar Bridge, one of the most important Ottoman monuments in the Western Balkans.

The bridge was destroyed by Croat forces during the 1992-1995 war and rebuilt after the battle, continuing its mission to unite people from different races.

The Bosnian cameraman immortalized the demise of the bridge, which was not able to withstand the barrage of artillery shells launched by Croat forces and collapsed into the waters of the Neretva River on Nov. 9, 1993.

Recalling the moments with tears, Palata said that such a beautiful, sunny day was overshadowed by the bridge's collapse.

"The day of Nov. 9 was beautiful and the weather was sunny. I was on my way home to take a shower. We had to hide in the gardens and by the riverside because we had to escape from snipers," he said.

"That day, seeing the condition of the bridge, I ran home and got my camera. The bridge had already been hit on Nov. 8 and was almost on the verge of collapsing. Perhaps even a drop of rain could knock it down.

The electricity was out, and I didn't know if my camera was charged enough. I grabbed my camera and started recording. My friend told me to move to a spot to see the bridge better, and it was when the artillery started. An artillery shot hit the bottom right corner of the bridge and it collapsed."

Palata said Croats celebrated the collapse, which he could never understand why.

"They started shooting into the air and celebrating the situation. I can't forget what happened that day. Why are you celebrating this? Why would you celebrate someone's death? It was more than a bridge for us. Even though 29 years have passed since that day, I still don't understand what happened," he said.

'When there was war in my country, I didn't feel good in Germany'

Palata returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993 from Germany as he felt homesick.

"I couldn't get used to Germany. I felt sad and lost. When there was war in my country, I didn't feel good in Germany."

He joined the Bosnian army when he returned to Mostar.

"When May 9 came, clashes with the Croatian army began. That's when the war started. It was a difficult war, and there were street clashes."

He then spent most of his time on the front line as his family was not in Bosnia and he did not have any trouble thinking about those left behind at home.

Ali Yalvac, a Turkish citizen living in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said he remembers the news and the footage of the bridge's collapse.

"I was heartbroken when I heard about it, such a beautiful and important Ottoman heritage was destroyed.

I love that in my country, Türkiye, we live in amazing harmony with people from different cultures and ethnicities. That is what I wish for in beautiful Bosnia-Herzegovina. It has a multicultural demography, and I truly believe that with respect and love, the people here can achieve it easily," he said.

"Mostar Bridge connects the west and the east sides of the city and the Neretva River, and is a great symbol of unity in diversification, as Muslims and Christians are connected via the bridge," Yalvac further said.

The bridge unites not only the two sides of the city but also the Bosniak and Croat people, who still live together.

It was designed by Ottoman architect Mimar Hayruddin, a student of famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, and completed in the city of Mostar in 1566.

Many countries did not remain silent over the collapse of the bridge. With the support of Türkiye, it was rebuilt in line with the original design of the bridge in 2004.

Mostar Bridge was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2005 along with the old town of Mostar.

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