In the summer of 2019, I have lived in a small hillside community bordering the old town of Sarajevo.
Every day, I walked past a cemetery where thousands of Bosnians who died in the Yugoslav War are buried. Vertical tombstones shrouded half the hillside in white, reminding people of the genocide that took place here. There were others in elsewhere in the world, and there will be another genocide, another terrorist attack, another hate killing; then another grave, another cemetery, and another monument, with or without the names of those who died. How could a passerby not pause and wonder why humans never stop killing each other?
The average income of college-educated Bosnian young people is approximately 600 to 700 Bosnian Marks (BAM); that is, if they can find jobs after the school. For those who are unfamiliar with BAM, that’s equivalent to about 300 to 350 euro. However, “most young people won’t even get a job,” according to one of my colleagues at the War Childhood Museum.
For those young people who try to stay in/come to Sarajevo, the biggest challenge might be the rental market. There are many international NGOs operating in Sarajevo, and they bring in a large number of the foreigners. Of course, there are also many people coming to experience life in an exotic – and affordable – European city. Foreigners earn euros or US dollars, and enjoy the low cost of living. Landlords increase the rental prices, double or triple; and those foreigners pay anyway because it’s far cheaper than where they came from. Most of them won’t feel guilty, as they believe that they are contributing to Sarajevo’s development.
However, neither rising prices nor economic development necessarily improve the lives of young Bosnians. It is hard to live in a city where rent can be as high as their entire salary.
My funding for the summer internship was 950 CAD per month, two times more than the average local income. That amount, in addition to getting to enjoy a three-room apartment in the heart of Sarajevo, was more than reasonable. I was also one of those people who had the luxury of not caring about rental prices.
And that just makes me feel sad.