The kids confined to Bjelave orphanage had suffered terribly – each due to the battle, and from neglect and abuse. One journalist described the establishment as “the worst place in Sarajevo aside from the morgue”.

It’s greater than 20 years since I first arrived in Sarajevo in late summer time 1996. The destruction within the metropolis was jaw-dropping: rows and rows of damaged, bombed-out high-rise flats, shell craters and explosion indents in every single place; libraries, workplaces, factories all in ruins. This was city-wide destruction – a late-20th-century Dresden or Stalingrad.

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The Bosnian battle had resulted in 1995 and Sarajevo was having fun with its long-awaited peace. Sarajevans took to its scarred streets in large numbers, consuming ice cream and ingesting espresso secure within the data they wouldn’t be struck down by a sniper or shell. It was a time for easy pleasures. Anxieties in regards to the future, unemployment, PTSD and rebuilding their metropolis would come later.

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Sunday outing, Sarajevo, 1998.

  • Sunday outing, Sarajevo, 1998. Picture by Edina Hrnjic aged 14.

In 1997 I arrange a darkroom utilizing donated gear from Scotland and began a small picture class within the basement of the orphanage.

I taught the kids, aged six to 16, fundamental images methods – capturing with 35mm SLR movie cameras, creating their movies and printing. There have been no themed assignments or educating of preconceived notions of what images was, and the language barrier wouldn’t enable for the educating of technicalities.

The youngsters from the orphanage and surrounding neighbourhood ran round their playgrounds and streets documenting something that got here into their viewpoint. They’d free rein to {photograph} what they noticed and what they needed to seize. They photographed pals, strangers, destruction, peace-keeping troopers, previous women nosing out of home windows, canines within the park, avenue scenes, shopkeepers.

I ran the venture voluntarily for 3 consecutive summers earlier than coaching up one of many native college students, Edina Hrnjic, to take over and run the venture for the youthful kids.

A lot of the pictures taken by these younger individuals lay forgotten as negatives for greater than 20 years and have solely now been developed and scanned. The pictures present an trustworthy and distinctive perspective on a Sarajevo that now not exists. Its war-scarred buildings have been repaired and large purchasing malls and skyscraper residences now fill the skyline.

Dina Džihanić in Sarajevo, June 2018. Inset: Dina at the Sarajevo Eternal Flame memorial in 1997 aged 10.

  • Dina Džihanić in Sarajevo in June 2018, picture by Chris Leslie. Inset: Dina on the Sarajevo Everlasting Flame memorial in 1997 aged 10, picture by Amra Džihanić Barac aged 13.


Dina Džihanić, now 31, joined the picture venture in 1997 along with her sister Amra. She lived in the identical neighbourhood as Bjelave orphanage and ceaselessly helped out with the youthful kids. Right now she works in microfinance as a advertising and marketing supervisor. When the picture venture was arrange, she noticed it as one thing particular that she was fortunate to be concerned in. As a younger youngster, she says, her experiences of battle had been higher than these of peace.

“Conflict was the norm and everybody was equal: nobody had something,” she says. “However after battle as individuals returned that they had good garments, good faculty stuff. The years after the battle we actually struggled – we needed to put on previous garments that have been too small for us. These have been the worst moments for me.”

Sarajevo kid’s view
  • Oggi Tomic, aged 13, in Sarajevo, June 1997, picture by Chris Leslie. Click on or faucet the picture to change to a self-portrait by Oggi in Cambridge, June 2018.


Oggi Tomic (who can also be pictured in the principle picture) was born with water on the mind and deserted at delivery – docs gave him simply months to stay. He survived surgical procedure and spent his earliest years in a number of orphanages within the area. In 1993 battle made life not possible, and he ran away to the besieged metropolis of Sarajevo.

He entered a kids’s establishment there and stayed till 2004, when he was advised to depart. A number of years later he gained a spot to review documentary movie and TV on the College of Wales and got here to the UK on a scholar visa. He graduated with honours and arrange his personal profitable movie and video manufacturing company in Cambridge.

Dobrinja, a suburb of Sarajevo, 1998.


Old lady on Bjelave street, Sarajevo, June 1998.

Child beggar in Grbavica, 1998.

The graves of Edina Hrnjic and her son Nedim in 2018. Inset: Edina in Sarajevo, June 1999.

  • The graves of Edina Hrnjic and her son Nedim in 2018. Inset: Edina in Sarajevo, June 1999. Photographs by Chris Leslie.


Edina Hrnjic joined the picture venture in 1997. Two years later she took over the picture venture and ran it for 12 months, educating the youthful kids within the orphanage. In 2013, Edina, her one-year-old son Nedim and her mom have been killed when a automotive Edina was driving misplaced management and crashed into the Neretva river. A particular exhibition of the kids’s pictures to be held later this yr in Sarajevo might be devoted to her reminiscence.

Girl on a tram, Sarajevo, June 1998.

Winter preparation, Dobrinja, Sarajevo, 1999.

  • Woman on a tram, Sarajevo, June 1998; and winter preparation, Dobrinja, Sarajevo, 1999. Photographs by Edina Hrnjic.

Younger students with Chris Leslie and Edina Hrnjic, whom he trained up to take over the project in 1999.

  • Youthful college students with Chris Leslie and Edina Hrnjic, the previous scholar he educated as much as take over the venture in 1999.
Amra Džihanić Barac.
  • Amra Džihanić Barac aged 13 in June 1998, picture by Dzenita Hodzic, aged 11. Click on or faucet the picture to change to Amra aged 32, picture by Chris Leslie.


Amra Džihanić Barac, now 32, works as a restaurant supervisor in Sarajevo and has two younger kids. However like most individuals within the metropolis, she feels hamstrung by the politics, corruption and poor salaries. “I’ve two lovely kids and I see that as my life’s achievement,” she says. “If I handle to depart this place and provides them a greater future, I will even take into account that as an achievement.

“In case you have been to satisfy me only some years in the past, I might inform you how a lot I like my metropolis. I might be an enormous patriot. However as I look over this metropolis right this moment with its lovely views, I now not see it as such. The political state of affairs disgusts me. Individuals who have been born on this metropolis and who stay listed below are handled as second-class residents.”

Rina Trifkovic in her local neighbourhood in June 2018. Inset: Rina aged eight in the Bjelave orphanage playground. Now an accountant, on her days off she visits the orphanage and arranges excursions for the children.

  • Rina Trifkovic in her native neighbourhood in June 2018, picture by Chris Leslie. Inset: Rina aged eight within the Bjelave orphanage playground, picture by Muhamd Bosnjo aged 12. Now an accountant, on her days off she visits the orphanage and arranges excursions for the kids.


Rina Trifkovic, now 28, was deserted as a child in Bjelave orphanage. On the outbreak of battle she and 40 different kids have been evacuated to Germany. When the bus carrying the kids made its means by the besieged capital, it got here below sniper hearth. Two kids have been killed, and a number of other have been taken off the bus at a Bosnian Serb militia checkpoint.

Rina Trifkovic (right) learns photography in 1998.

  • Rina Trifkovic (proper) learns images in 1998. Picture by Dzenita Katovic.

In 1997 Rina and 30 different kids have been returned house to Sarajevo amid a lot of the identical controversy that accompanied their evacuation. The battle had ended and Bosnian officers insisted on bringing the kids again to their native nation as a result of as Bosnians they belonged in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dzenita Katovic
  • Dzenita Katovic, aged 13, sits exterior the destroyed BiH parliament constructing in June 1998, picture by Edina Hrnjic. Click on or faucet the picture to change to Dzenita photographed afresh in entrance of the newly repaired constructing in June 2018, picture by Chris Leslie.


Dzenita Katovic was 13 when she joined the venture from the outset in 1997. She lived within the surrounding neighbourhood close to to the orphanage. Right now she is married with a baby and works as a main faculty trainer. She wish to keep in Sarajevo and produce up her household.

Dog in Sarajevo, August 1997.

  • Canine in Sarajevo, August 1997, picture by Dzenita Katovic.

Muhamd Bosnjo, 34, sits near the spot where his mother jumped to her death from the cliffs behind him, June 2018. Inset: Muhamd outside the destroyed Osloboenje newspaper office at the age of 13 in June 1998.

  • Muhamd Bosnjo, 34, sits close to the spot the place his mom jumped to her demise from the cliffs behind him, June 2018. Inset: Muhamd exterior the destroyed Oslobođenje newspaper workplace on the age of 13 in June 1998. Photographs by Chris Leslie.


Muhamd Bosnjo lived in Bjelave orphanage after being deserted at two months previous. His mom had psychological well being points and couldn’t look after him.

Through the battle the kids lived out a modern-day Lord of the Flies as their carers fled or have been positioned on the frontline. Muhamd and the opposite kids would beg and steal to outlive. On the age of eight he was wounded by a shell that fell in his playground, severely damaging his leg. When he was 10 he was held captive by Serbian forces for a number of months as they interrogated him for data. He was later launched in a prisoner change.

Robna Kuća shopping centre, 1997.

  • Robna Kuća purchasing centre, 1997. Picture by Muhamd Bosnjo.

He later married and lived briefly in London earlier than getting divorced. The Dwelling Workplace then advised him he needed to go away the UK and he was despatched again to Bosnia. Right now he works for a safety firm in varied outlets throughout town. It’s a robust job with poor pay.

Ten years in the past Muhamd’s mom dedicated suicide by leaping off a excessive cliff on the fringe of town. On his someday off work he at all times sits by the spot the place his mom died.

Dzenita Hodzic
  • Dzenita Hodzic, aged 11, in June 1997, picture by Amra Džihanić Barac. Click on or faucet the picture to change to Dzenita in June 2018, on her method to the technical faculty the place she works as a trainer, picture by Chris Leslie.


Dzenita Hodzic joined the picture venture in 1998 aged 13. Right now she works as a physics trainer and professor of arithmetic and pc science.

Nusret revisits the bombed-out windowless squat where he lived with other homeless Sarajevans, June 2018. Inset: Nusret (aged 13) and another child.

  • Nusret revisits the bombed-out windowless squat the place he lived with different homeless Sarajevans, June 2018, picture by Chris Leslie. Inset: Nusret, aged 13, and one other youngster, picture by Dina Džihanić.


Nusret misplaced each his mother and father at first of the battle in 1992 when a shell hit their condo. He and his brother the place then despatched to the Bjelave orphanage the place they fought laborious to outlive because the siege of Sarajevo raged.

When he was 15 he and brother have been kicked out the orphanage and he hit laborious occasions, residing homeless and begging on the streets. His brother died of an overdose. For a quick time he managed to return off medicine and settled down and received married, having a younger child son. The kid was later taken from him by the authorities, who claimed it was in danger, and positioned in the identical orphanage Nusret as soon as known as house.

Nusret, aged 12, plays next to the destroyed UNIS Towers in Sarajevo’s financial centre in June 1997.

  • Nusret, aged 12, performs subsequent to the destroyed UNIS Towers in Sarajevo’s monetary centre in June 1997. Picture by Chris Leslie.

Tragically, his youngster was considered one of six infants killed when a hearth swept by the orphanage in 2007. Right now, Nusret is off medicine and now not begging or homeless on the streets. An area mosque has offered him with month-to-month hire and he now spends his time on the mosque praying and doing odd jobs. After years of wrestle, he has lastly discovered “house”.

Old lady begging, Sarajevo, August 1997.

Muhamd and a Praktica, 1998.

Basketball court, 1997.

Sarajevo in June 1997, and as it’s right this moment.
  • Sarajevo in June 1997. Click on or faucet the picture to see the way it seems to be right this moment. Photographs by Chris Leslie.

This venture was supported by Hope and Houses for Kids, a charity working to eradicate orphanages worldwide by discovering secure, loving household and neighborhood bases for kids, and Put up-Battle Analysis Middle, a neighborhood NGO that promotes sustainable peace and the restoration of interethnic relationships in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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