It has been 26 years since the night in which the City Hall Sarajevo, where the National University Library of BiH was then located, was first shelled and then burned down.
On that night was destroyed about 80 % of the library fund, which is about two million library units. The City Hall was reopened in 2014 – at the Day of Victory over Fascism, after 18 years of reconstruction.
Kemal Cacan was born in the street right across the City Hall. His whole childhood was related to this building, and what happened in it 26 years ago, definitely changed the rest of his life. He was trying to extinguish the flames as a firefighter back then. More than two decades after that long night, Kemal went through the door of the Sarajevo City Hall for the first time and remembered how things looked like back then.
“There was only a few of us, not enough, and we were tired. We were extinguishing the fire whole day. When it comes to equipment, we had what we had. Believe me, we were decimated with the equipment. I am proud. This is a recognition for my generation. My colleagues who were here on that day and who have spent the entire war here doing this noble work. The first and primary task for a firefighter is to save a human being. People usually think that the first task for firefighters is to extinguish the fire, but it is to save,” recalled Kemal Cacan.
The reconstruction of the City Hall lasted for 18 years, and around 12 million EUR was invested in it. The largest part of the money was donated by the European Union. The reconstruction itself was conducted in accordance with the original designs that have been preserved, and rare original parts that survived shelling and fire testify that.
“With the aim to resolve the status of the National University Library in the City Hall, NUL BiH initiated a court dispute at the competent court in Sarajevo in June 2014. The still-unresolved issue of law-financial status makes it difficult for the National University Library of BiH to work regularly. It means that although we are doing well, we might be even better if these conditions were created,” said Ismet Ovcina, director of NUB BiH.