First Wednesdays to hold talks on journalism in the siege of Sarajevo, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire


MANCHESTER and RUTLAND -- During the siege of Sarajevo, Bosnian journalist Kemal Kurspahic was the editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper, Oslobodejenje.

His paper was the source for news during the siege of Sarajevo in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He said he, his paper and reporters found themselves on the front line of the war.

On the first Wednesday in April, at the Rutland Free Library, he will speak on "Finding Truth in a War Zone."

First Wednesdays is a wide-ranging series of talks that runs in nine locations around Vermont from October to May, said Sylvia Plumb, communications director for the Vermont Council for the Humanities, which is sponsoring the lecture series.

"I will talk about the role of media in war and peace," Kurspahic said. "How the media can be a force for good and bad in this world."

Because of the shelling, gunfire and intense violence under which they worked, Kurspahic's paper eventually moved into a bomb shelter designed for a nuclear attack, underneath the 10-story office building that initially housed the paper. Kurs pahic said in that underground bunker, he and his staff published the newspaper with very few resources for three and a half years.

"We were targeted daily with fire during the siege," he said. "In order to protect my staff ... we organized work for seven-day shifts. If you came in on Monday afternoon, you were inside until the next Monday."

Even with the threats to their safety and the lack of essential materials, like news print and electricity, Kurspahic said, he and his reporters had to publish the news because the people were counting on them.

He admires and was grateful for the foreign journalists who came to Bosnia to cover the war, particularly those who helped uncover some of the atrocities, like concentration camps, in the country. However, he said, it was difficult in some cases to have foreign journalists in his home country.

"It was an entirely different experience," he said. "My foreign colleagues would come here and get to go home ... We were in our own city under siege."

Kurspahic said the experience helped him realize the importance of media in peace-building.

"[A free and unrestricted media] is an essential part of any peace effort and that is not universally understood or universally supported," he said.

While Kurspahic's talk is under way, in Manchester, Dart mouth Un i versity professor Anne lise Orleck will give the talk, "100 Years Since Tri angle: The Fire That Seared a Nation's Conscience." Orleck, a professor of history born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., teaches U.S. Political His tory, 20th Century Women's History, the History of Women and American Radicalism Left and Right and Jewish history.

She will discuss the fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village, one of the deadliest industrial accidents in New York City history, which kill ed 146 workers in 1911. Most of them were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. Orleck will also analyze the legal changes that followed the tragedy.

Peter Gilbert, executive director of the council, said the council is always looking for compelling topics.

"The world and the world of humanities is so broad," he said. "We intentionally do not have a theme [for First Wednesdays], and the reason is variety." If you go ...

What: Bosnian journalist Kemal Kurspahic to speak on ‘Finding Truth in a War Zone'

When: Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m.

Where: Rutland Free library,
10 Court St., Rutland

What: Dartmouth University professor Annelise Orleck. ‘100 Years since Triangle: The Fire That Seared a Nation's Conscience'

Where: First Congregational Church, 3624 Main St., Manchester

When: Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m.

Admission: Both events are free and open to the public.



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