Ciglane is Sarajevo's neighborhood built in the early 1980s at the location that used to be home to an old brick factory. The neighborhood sprang up on a landslide entirely in line with the systemic idealism that had failed to recognize the moment in time when the development of a solid and compact state project turned into building castles in the air. Envisaged as the peak of Sarajevan elitism, the Ciglane project successfully ignored the fact that the bigger they are the harder they fall, or that a dung beetle is not supposed to climb trees because at some point it'll inevitably roll down. In any case, upon its completion Ciglane became Sarajevo's first true snobby neighborhood with its residents ranked in three categories: those at the bottom (privileged grounding with bathroom tiles made of the Chinese porcelain, which was the subject of scandal year after year) – with these slots “rightfully” belonging exclusively to the most deserving cadre of the JNA (Yugoslav National Army), next, those pinned in the hillside who for a decade and a half pretended they knew what it meant to have their back covered, especially if it was Mount Everest behind their back (the higher middle class of non-military orientation) and, finally, those who found themselves on top of the hill, mostly inconsequential left-leaning dummies who simply weren't important enough do get luxurious apartments at the bottom of the Bosnian pyramid, ending up instead in scrappy ones with an unremarkable view of the Roma settlement of Gorica. In 1984, at the time when my family moved into Sarajevo's “Beverly Hills” – all nicely tucked between the military superior and civic inferior complexes – Ciglane was a neighborhood with its borders defined by rose gardens, rooted firmly in its hill, and generally solid in all respects. No one expected that an ordinary group of moles could be undermining such a “firm” multi-culti structure.
How did the crumbling down of Ciglane start? Ciglane started its inevitable inclination toward the black bottom already in the early nineties, when the ground, under the pressure of tones of cement and concrete, started dislodging paving slabs and breaking them in half across the middle in the process. As early as 1991, we were walking on trenches. By this time there was no one to take away all the soil that came out and bring things back to normal, and so, some residents began to complain that they hadn’t paid all that money to have shit swimming in plain sight. Still, Ciglane retained a veneer of cultivation until March 1992 when the officers’ majority made Ciglane the only Sarajevo neighborhood that largely boycotted the referendum in the city that was predominantly pro-independence. Here Ciglane's landslide really came to the fore. Only a couple of months later, the canon of the Army of BiH was placed in the tunnel on the east-facing hillside, while the main staff of this joke of the military organization moved into a building on the opposite, west-facing hillside, the building that is now home to the Tax Administration. As a result of this strategic positioning of military objects and assets – and with privileged apartments in lower Ciglane vacant since the officer moles had left for Belgrade long before the 4th of April having done their subversive job excellently – Ciglane's middle class found itself squeezed between a non-stop targeted main staff and a non-stop active cannon, while the small fry on the top were assigned the role of being the target for sustaining direct shelling hits. As bonus points, garbage containers were overflowing with Tito’s framed pictures, ranging from photographs to oils on canvases, while empty premises of Šipad Komerc company became home to a masjid – an adequate price to pay for an architectural miscalculation.
Even then no one thought that Ciglane could sink deeper. Even when Bosniak war profiteers grabbed for themselves the officers’ apartments turning them into gold-plated exhibitions of kitsch. Even when turbofolk came roaring out of Ciglane's cafés creating a suitable atmosphere and a shortcut for slick Sarajevo's sugar babes to meet their future gift-givers. Even when its dark streets and alleys became the meeting point of junkies and lunatics. No one thought that it could get worse. Only when the first bomb planted under the car of one of Sarajevo's recognizable mafiosos exploded, and then the second, and then the third, we realized that never again we'll be able to look down upon anyone, even if we lived on top of the hill and had a view of the entire city, even if we were the only neighborhood in the city with a fricking inclined elevator (inclined dick, if you'll pardon my French). We became a certified hellhole with the composition of the population from the Eastern Bosnia and Sandžak in the fifty-fifty ratio. Bullet-proof jeeps drive around the neighborhood, with master Ćelo [Sarajevo mobster who died in 2008], logically, putting up a ramp in the street in which he lives to make room for his vehicles’ fleet. He is, generally, a man you meet daily in the local supermarket, along with two of his bodyguards whose guns brazenly stick out of their pockets and with their hands resting on them, as if it's the worst time of the war. But, this is not the peak of the ecstasy. The ecstasy comes when you look up from the black bottom, and you see Breka.
Breka is the only Sarajevo's neighborhood that aspired to take away the prestigious medal for snobbery from Ciglane and probably the only one that managed to degrade itself even more radically than its much hated rival. I remember how long time ago, we, the unruly youth, used to throw Hepo fire lighting cubes at passers-by on the Fuad Midžić street square, the same one from which Selena fled [reference to the song of Sarajevo’s cult band Zabranjeno Pušenje], which is now home to a mosque that appears to have been fitted there through the eye of a needle. I say that because architecturally it was impossible to fit the mosque that big on so small a square and because needle drop deejays have become masters in mixing the call to prayer, and turning up the volume, leaving everyone with ear pain. There is no more Hepo fire lighting cubes’ crew in Breka’s dark streets. They are either in diaspora, on horse or in the mosque (or all three together?!?), but whatever the case – it's some form of turbofolk.
And so I sit in my apartment in Ciglane. I sit and bleat. My best friend's (now in Canada) apartment, next door to mine, was given as a gift to her housemaid in gratitude for her long years of assistance. I could swear that she's the most moderate and urban person in the whole building. For the sake of my mental health, I'll skip the mention of all ministers, scientists and other illiterates who moved in from 1992 until now. We sank slowly, but efficiently, and it must be said that from the top of the hill, or from a bird in the branch we had a rough landing and ended up with burnt feathers and a broken beak. Even if we manage to chirp, it can only be in the rhythm of the Fatiha prayer. I am amazed at how we deal with the fact that the Merhemić square (used to be the Non-Aligned Movement square) will soon become the construction site for another colossal mosque and that our next-door neighbors are nowadays burying sihir, or black magic, in gardens that were used for planting exotic herbs. In all likelihood, it's only now that we've reached the bottom from where there is no further descent, and me… I am just keeping my mouth shut and watching and waiting for us to join the current trend of tumbling down and finally wake up – under the ground!