A REMARKABLE insight into the recovery of the Balkans from the bitter Yugoslav wars is being shared in a new book and exhibition.

The photographic journey through the post-conflict towns and cities of the former Yugoslavia is based on a previously unseen 25-year photography archive from the region.

It has been created by Chris Leslie who left Airdrie in 1996 as a 21-year-old to volunteer on a social reconstruction project in a heavily destroyed rural town in Croatia.

He had taken up photography only a few months before but, shocked at the destruction both in the small town of Pakrac and in the city of Sarajevo, he decided to capture the scenes in pictures taken with the vintage Canon 35mm camera he had borrowed for his trip. For the next few years, he returned to the Balkans every summer to provide a creative outlet for children by teaching them photography.

By 2000 he was working as a professional photographer and went back regularly until 2019 to document the aftermath of war and the struggle for peace.

The National:

Many of his photographs witness the rebirth and reconstruction of Sarajevo and he said he hoped they would provide a “crucial moment of reflection” for the viewing public as well as mark a pivotal point in his own life and career.

Leslie warned: “There is nothing complicated about what happened in the Balkans – it is the rise of fascism and we are seeing it again in the US and other places.”

Despite the “fantastic” reconstruction of places like Sarajevo, he said the region was on a “knife-edge” again with the same issues.

He said: “Bosnia was always fractured and there was always talk of war, but the Bosnian Serbs are on a campaign to become independent, create their own army and break away from everything that was set up in the peace agreement.

“What is worrying now is that Russia is backing the Bosnian Serbs.

“The idea of a separate Bosnian Serb army doesn’t seem that bad and maybe that is a democratic right – but the last time the Bosnian Serbs had an army, it led to the Siege of Sarajevo and Srebrenica. These things can’t be repeated. Bosnia is a kind of pawn now and that is what is quite frightening.”

Balkan Journey by Chris Leslie can be seen at SOGO Gallery in Glasgow until February 28

Last copies of the limited-edition photobook are available here – www.balkanjourney.com/the-book