Ljubica Tomic spent four years hiding in her apartment, waiting for the day her son would walk through the door. He did exactly that Tuesday, coming home in the first wave of returnees that crossed into formerly Serb-held Grbavica after Sarajevo was reunified.
“Thank God the day of liberation came,” said the white-haired Croat as she and a neighbor walked through city streets and past a former hangout of Serb extremists for the first time since the Bosnian war began.
It was a day of reunions, of tearful hugs and kisses. But the transfer of the last of five Serb areas to the Muslim-Croat federation was also a grim reminder of how much Sarajevo has changed since the war started in April 1992.
The new Sarajevo, carved out at the Dayton peace talks, has lost much of its ethnic diversity. It has fewer than 300,000 residents, down to nearly half of its prewar size, and some boundaries remain in dispute.
Peace was supposed to bring free movement, but three Muslims trying to cross into a Serb-dominated area in the Dobrinja suburb were arrested by Bosnian Serb police Tuesday.
While Serbs, Croats and Muslims still live in Sarajevo, the city is much more Muslim today. Of the 60,000 Serbs who lived in the five areas handed over to the federation, only about 11,000 remain.