by Aida Cerkez)
Workers are rushing to finish the reconstruction of the Sarajevo Library — a landmark destroyed during the Bosnian war — in time for the June ceremonies marking the centenary of the assassination that ignited World War I.
The reconstruction has taken 18 years — nine times longer than the building's original construction 120 years ago by the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ruled over Bosnia then and built it to be the City Hall. Later it was turned into the National Library.
Architects said it took them time to find documents and photos of the details of the building in order to copy the 19th century pseudo-Moorish construction to put the building back exactly the way it was before Serb shelling destroyed it in 1992, along with its almost 2 million books and manuscripts.
The building had no military significance and the library ruin turned into a symbol of what Sarajevans called "urbicide" — a term they used to describe primitive attackers destroying urban cultural achievements.
World leaders who dared to visit Sarajevo during the war had their pictures taken at the library, and in 1994 Zubin Mehta conducted Sarajevo's orchestra and chorus performance of Mozart's Requiem in the remains of the roofless Library's central hall.
The European Union contributed more than half of the project's cost of over 16 million euros, EU Mission spokesman Andy McGuffie said Friday.
"Protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Bosnia-Herzegovina is extremely important for the European Union," he said.
The re-painting of 2,000 square meters of arabesques on walls and ceilings took a whole year.
City authorities plan to have the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform at the library on June 28, marking 100 years since Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand von Habsburg walked out of the building and was shot dead by young Serb Gavrilo Princip.