Letter Re: Book Recommendation–Safe Area Gorazde

Hi Jim;
I’d like to recommend a book to your readers. It’s a graphic novel titled “Safe Area Gorazde” by artist/journalist Joe Sacco. It’s about his experiences with the people of the city of Gorazde during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s. It’s blunt, the language at times is raw, and the artwork is extremely graphic at times as he catalogs the brutality of that time and what the people suffered when the front lines were often at their doorsteps. Though the graphic novel format makes it look like a comic book, it’s definitely not for kids.

While much of the material is about the violence of the times, there is also considerable valuable information at what the people had to do to survive in a true “collapse” environment. Some lessons I gleaned:

1. People who you thought were your friends may turn on you if you’re on the wrong side of an ethnic or political line.
2. The boredom of daily living can be crushing when there are no newspapers or magazines, no television, no books or other entertainment outlets.
3. Currency can be things you don’t usually think of as currency (soldiers, teachers and medical workers were paid in cigarettes).
4. When the electricity goes out and it’s cold outside, you’re reduced to burning stuff to keep warm. Walking several miles to find wood so you don’t freeze is a bummer.
5. Eating the same thing over and over and over can be maddening, even if you journeyed for four days to get it and are thankful to have it.
6. Have a rifle and plenty of ammo. A pistol alone isn’t a good idea.
7. When the cars stop working, a bicycle is a good thing to have.
8. Staying alive without the conveniences of modern life is hard, hard work. It’s particularly difficult on women, children and the elderly.
9. You’re going to have to make difficult decisions, sometimes with life or death consequences.
10. Never, ever, become a refugee if you can avoid it.
11. Living in an urban environment can increase your difficulties in some ways, but there are some benefits as well. I still think that the cities are best avoided.

The bottom line is that many hardships can be mitigated, but only if you think of the possibilities and prepare for them. You must learn from the past. One man telling his story in the book says, “My grandfather and grandmother sometimes tried to explain to me what had happened (before), but I did not listen, or listened with one ear.”

It can happen here. All my prayers are that we will have peace and prosperity, but history tells us otherwise, if we will listen.

Be ready. God Bless, – Jason R.