Like most of the dozens of reporters and photographers who came in and out of the AFP Sarajevo bureau from 1992-1997 (from when the "bureau" was nothing more than a room at the Holiday Inn and a satellite phone, to the days of the underground pizza parlour office when I was there) I would have got very few reports online without Dina Neretljak.
Forced to flee her home in Grbavica in 1992 by the war, and hired as a fixer-translator, Dina was soon office manager, not simply translating news reports and conducting interviews for journalists who, like me, did not speak Bosnian, but also managing our accommodation and office, and sharing all our dangers - racing along Snipers’ Alley and going to the morgue every day to count the bodies, for example, running like hell for the doors when the car stopped. Often these trips in the soft-skin cars we had at the time involved being shot at from both sides.
When the war ended, AFP started to wind up the office, and Dina went to work for the local war crimes tribunal, but kept in touch with many among us. A few weeks ago, she was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer - "large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma" to give it its full name. It is operable, but the operation is not available in Bosnia, and the operation, due later this month, is expected to cost 33,000 Swiss Francs. This is an enormous sum for anyone from Bosnia.
Dina did not mention the money or ask for help, but colleagues who know her heard about this, and we have her permission to ask among former colleagues for any small sums which you can afford to help someone who did so much for us a the time. It will be gratefully received and make a difference for a good friend at a very challenging time - above all the thought that people are grateful enough to give back.
- Christian Spillmann
- Janine Haidar
- Semir Arslanagic