In the streets of Banja Luka

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#144, August 1, 2002

Second Lt. Andy Love, 4th Platoon commander, 2nd Company of the Welsh Guards, will not accompany his men who are off for the downtown patrol. He says: "I like my guys to do their job on their own. They have the ability for that."
Allegedly, the university is questioning the latest planning proposal made by the Muslim authorities of the nearby mosque grounds where the famous 16th-century Ferhadija once stood. The patrol is responsible for checking this statement.

Even though there has been no fighting during the war in Banja Luka, the six mosques in the town have all been destroyed.
Among them, the Mosque of Ferhart-Pasa, also known as the Ferhadija, was destroyed on May 7, 1993. Only the foundations of the 1579 edifice remain today. Last year, permission was granted to reconstruct it. A cornerstone laying ceremony took place on May 7, 2001, which led to riots. Fundraising has started since February 2002. Recently, the mosque is again in the spotlight with members of the various communities standing firm on their respective views.

Banja Luka - Love says: "The new plans made the mosque too high. The university has put forward a request to the municipality. Why they did this is what we would like to know."
Patrolling downtown
Before departure, the party stops at the interpreter's office to pick up interpreter Biljana Josic.
Upon arrival at the university, the guardsmen report to the porter. Through the interpreter, they are invited to telephone in the afternoon to arrange a meeting. The interpreter sticks to her job, interpreting accurately.
"The boss is really busy with on-going examinations. I have taken his details and we are likely to visit him tomorrow again," explains Gdsm. Gareth Lucas.
Back in the camp, Biljana meets with fellow interpreter Slavica Andric.
The ladies talk about their job, what it implies, and how it is to be conducted. Biljana likes patrolling.
"I personally enjoy going on patrol because I prefer ground work. I also enjoy meeting urban people as well as meeting with people in the villages. The main difference is that people from the villages tend to be keener to talk to SFOR when visiting," she explained.
Biljana explains she holds a university-level geography degree and would like to travel.
Interpreter's dialogue
Slava (short for Slavina) and Biljana agree that patrolling is more relaxing than official meetings such as with the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) for instance. It is not always a piece of cake, so to speak.
Biljana (B): "It depends on who you talk to. Some people do not know how to act. An official knows when to stop so as to enable the interpreter to translate."
Slavica (S): "There is another example. People from the villages who sometimes use their dialect. It brings additional difficulties."
B: "Sometimes there is no sense, but you have to answer to the soldier who wants to know what is going on. The ones I find the most difficult are the politicians."
S: "They are lengthy…"
B: "I try to make it more polite, particularly during Harvest operations. You have to be very careful. Though, if a soldier orders me to interpret word by word, I will do it. I am paid for it."
S: "I say I speak multi-national English."
B: "Sometimes, I make it fun and say: please, speak English."
Interpreters have a job of paramount importance in order to have an accurate understanding and communication with the people of this country. Without them, SFOR would not be unable to perform a big part of its job.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK
SFOR at Work

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Photo: Cpl. Grant Rivalin

Welsh guardsmen with interpreter Biljana Josic enjoy a walk around the mosque compound.


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Photo: Cpl. Grant Rivalin

Foundations of the former mosque.


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Photo: Capt. Benoit Guilloux

Interpreter Slavica Andric (l.) and Biljana Josic after their job.

Ethnicity representation has drastically changed in Banja Luka with the war. According to a 1991 census, Bosniacs dropped from 28,558 to ca. 6,000 after the war, whereas the number of Bosnian-Serbs increased from 106,826 to ca. 194,000. Bosnian-Croats numbered 29,026 and represented ca. 7,500 after the war. The census also stated that 31,282 members listed as ‘others’ dropped to 427. The population of the town has risen slightly from 195,692 as per the census to 207,927 after the war. The trend is similar nowadays. (Data courtesy of UNHCR)