December 24, 1995
Web posted at: 1:10 p.m. EST (1810 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- The state of war officially has been canceled in Bosnia, and for the first time in four years, Christmas comes during a season of peace.
In Sarajevo, there are Christmas trees outdoors, decorated without fear of shelling or sniping. This Christmas Eve, shops were full and parents were buying gifts for their children. Window shoppers and strollers enjoyed the day as they would in any other city in Europe.
Among them, there is hope. (51K AIFF sound or 51K WAV sound) "It's much better because it's the end of the war. The last few years were awful," said one shopper. The sentiment is reflected on the city's walls. "Peace '95" reads the new graffiti."
Within the walls of one building, a Latin American dance competition among children was held this Christmas weekend. The young dancers were all smiles, a stark contrast to the fact that 17,000 Bosnian children have been killed during the Balkan war. (826K QuickTime movie)
Indeed, Sarajevo has suffered too much to show unbounded joy now. The city is still scarred. There are still sad faces. You don't have to pry too deeply to discover the pain. "Christmas is a joy for me," said a woman named Marija. "But I lost my son in the war and it's very hard. But I thank God it will get better."
Vestiges of Sarajevo's siege remain. Citizens still cannot move freely in and out of the city. "I hope (there) will be peace," one woman said. "But when can I go every place in Bosnia? When?"
Electricity and gas services are still not fully operational. Prices are high on everything. But life is better now -- it's a start. The war-time military curfew will be lifted this Christmas weekend. And for the first time in four years, there are silent nights.
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