The Siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, lasting three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad. Part of the larger Bosnian War, the city was under assault from Serbian forces from 1992 to 1996. Around 10,000 civilians were killed and a further 50,000 were seriously wounded.
In September 1991, ten year old Sarajevan Zlata Filipović began keeping a diary. Over the next two years, Zlata became accustomed to regular shelling, a lack of food, intermittent utilities, and pervasive fear.
Zlata has been called the Bosnian Anne Frank, but that isn’t quite accurate. While both Anne and Zlata spent the bulk of their time in a tiny space, their fears were different. Zlata feared a shell breaking through the glass of her windows rather than discovery by genocidal soldiers. Zlata was clearly aware of Anne Frank and after the beginning of fighting decided to name her diary as Anne did. Excerpts from Zlata’s diary were published as she was writing, making her minor celebrity in the early 1990s.
Zlata’s Diary is an interesting primary source from a child living in a war zone. Completed nearly 20 years ago, Zlata isn’t all that different from today’s tweens. She likes pop music and high fashion models, she records her grades, the presents she receives, and the top songs on MTV along with details of nights spent in the cellar as the fighting continues. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the Balkans or life in a conflict zone. It also makes an interesting companion to The Diary of Anne Frank.