June 28 1914, a young girl wanders lonely, amongst the throngs of people out on the street of Sarajevo cheering the arrival of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Princess Sophie. Her earlier wish for independence turned into anxiety and a little panic; she stood outside Moritz Schiller’s Cafe, on the banks of the Miljacka, a place in which her parents often took a respite in the busy cosmopolitan capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
As she got more frightened, the Archduke’s car returned back along the road, by the Latin bridge, and for some unknown reason, shuddered to a halt. A young man leapt out, as though to help; there was a loud crack that resonated through the streets – he wasn’t helping – he had just killed the Archduke.
The future unfolded in front of the young girl, like a boulder rolling uncontrollably down a mountain bouncing without shame, for it was that moment that changed the 20th Century for ever. The single shot from the pistol of a young Serb national, released the coiled tension that existed between the various bumbling post-Victorian, monolithic empires that were seeking war for decades. As the bullet left the barrel, the fuse was lit, and the world descended into one of the most atrocious wars of history.
It ushered out the old Edwardian world of nobles and European monarchy, of the Habsburg empire into the total devastation that was the First World War, through the incompetent inter-war respite that bred fascism, hyperinflation, intolerance, and nationalism into the war that finally closed that chapter, that slid into a political decline, which spiralled into an insiduous pan-European schism, that drove men apart and incited a fear amongst neighbours throughout the East which after 40 years finally began to unravel, leading to one of the longest, inhumane, and bloody sieges of the Bosnian war, where no one was safe from the flying bullets of the snipers or the slow death of starvation and disease.
90 years later a young girl wanders lonely, amongst the throngs of people out on the streets of Sarajevo, in Bascarsija – the old town. The history still remains, albeit in places very shattered, but it has survived being the tinderbox for the 20th Century where, now, people can walk, safely, and peacefully as it continues to re-build itself to its former glory.