Nadja and Hasan were stunned by our sudden announcement. Nadja laughed and curled up close to Hasan, her face aglow with romance. She and Ana chattered excitedly about weddings, while Hasan was full of advice about how to handle a real “Bosnian” woman. Now and then Ana would roll her eyes at the comments, though we knew he had only the best intentions.
Ana and I had come to ask an important favor. According to Bosnian tradition I would ask Hasan, my best friend in Sarajevo, to be my Kum. It was an honored position, usually reserved for family or close kin. Hasan was the closest thing to either of those that I had in Sarajevo. He smiled modestly and agreed. If not for the candlelight I swear we might have seen him blush.
From the street Ana and I watched a battle on Trebevich, near the old Olympic bobsled track. Shells exploded with blinding flashes among tall straight pines, illuminating the silhouettes of bunkers and trenches in treacherous snapshots. Muzzle flashes from dueling machine guns spat fire, throwing bright orange and blue tracers against one another. This is what I would face when I escaped the city in two days. It seemed strange that the safest thing would be to leave Ana behind in Sarajevo until we could find a safer way to get her out.
The nextmorning I took advantage of a light morning fog and jogged the open ground to the Holiday Inn. Fahira was just arriving as well. She thanked god for the fog and swept a bit of moisture from the sleeve of her coat.
She’d heard from a friend in the government that a Bosnian promise to withdraw from the demilitarized zone on Igman never materialized. Overnight Bosnian soldiers traded fire with French peacekeepers. UNPROFOR threatened air strikes to enforce the DMZ. I wondered what it meant for my chances of getting over the mountain, but Johnson at the embassy assured me that the Clinton administration would never allow US pilots to do anything that would benefit the Serbs or cause the collapse of Sarajevo.
The document for the marriage bureau was finished, and retyped on paper bearing the seal of the United States Government. There were no changes. Either Johnson hadn’t noticed or had simply ignored the extra line I’d inserted. He stamped and signed the marriage and citizenship document making it quite official. Ana was waiting anxiously for me at Opshtina. She practically ripped the paper from my hand.
“That’s it?” she remarked, turning it over several times.
“That’s it.” I said, hoping that it would suffice.
Ana went in alone, leaving me to pace the narrow hallway. She reappeared several agonizing minutes later, sighed heavily and shook her head.
“They approved the letter,” she said without emotion.
“But that’s great!” I exclaimed.
“We have much to do, and very little time to do it.”
By law, because I was a foreigner, every document needed to be translated into English. We had the names of three translators, but the lady at Opshtina had no idea if they were still in the city, or if they were even alive. As if that wasn’t enough, we had just four hours to get the documents back by the one o’clock deadline.
We came up empty for the first two names on the list. No one could be found at the first address and the second address simply did not exist. Instead, we discovered an alley and three rather confused old men sharing a bottle of liquor. It was already almost noon. Even if we were lucky enough to find the third person on the list there was an excellent chance we would miss the deadline and our last chance to be married.