Culture Supplement

"What are you doing here? Are you dressing up? Go to Kosovo! Barabbas"

"Republika" Square, Belgrade

"Republika" Square, Belgrade

I wasn't the only one feeling confused. Sasha, one day on the boulevard near our house, faced Ivan Markovic, the then spokesperson of the government or who at that time was holding a similar position in the nomenclature of power. He was with his wife and was posing in a store window. She "started" to scream at him: "What are you doing here? Are you dressing up? Go to Kosovo! Baraba! Even she herself did not remember what she screamed at him. He started to run away from Gvozdichev, near the "Lipovog Lada" flower garden, while she was following him all the time and talking to him from behind

How can you make the distant memory fresher? I live suffocated by  the "stains" that have left in my memory various events. The significance of these events cannot be determined by the size of these spots.

The anniversary of my birth seems to have increased my desire to continue writing the story I have been neglecting. What I have written about myself appears to me as a testimony that today takes on a completely different meaning. This is because I continued to live surrounded by the same people and in the same space. Today I see how much people have changed, even the space we live in. During March, April and May of 1999, some municipal work continued without interruption. On the boulevard, clothing stores were emptied and transformed into several new facilities, the reason for which adjustments will only be revealed in the years to come. This erasure of municipal enterprise was certainly not accidental. At the height of mobilization and war hysteria, business empires spread, working in Bambiland in Pozharevac (34) in Belgrade, Niš and Novi-Sad. We moved towards an unknown direction, which opened the successful life stories of Mishkovic, Karic, Peconi, Beka (35). The miracle of skill in these times!

Stefan is six to seven years younger than Ivan. We know him since he was two or three years old. He lives with his mother in our neighborhood. Stefan was afraid that he would not be taken into the army, even though he had not yet even passed the recruitment stage. Almost every night we go to Stefani's, as my mother is either at work or on the road. Stefani lowered the shutters and opened all the windows. It keeps them that way without interruption, regardless of whether it is in standby mode or not. (He keeps the windows open in order not to break the glass if the bomb explosion happens in the vicinity of the neighborhood.) In one of the two-story houses near us, between the windows, a large tape remained plastered for many years after the bombing. adhesive used for packaging, in the shape of a large "X". Someone who hated the look of it thought not to remove it or maybe simply: "Let it be there, whatever happens".

One afternoon, right at the end of April when the day is getting longer, I went to him with my cousin to take him out. Although very reluctant, he agreed to come with us on this expedition. Objective: reconnaissance and reconnaissance tour around the General Headquarters building (36), or what is left of it.

We headed down the hill, through the direction of the Red Cross. From "Filip Filipovic" street, which now has a new name - or the old one has been preserved, we reached "Maksim Gorki" and then we went down a few blocks further, via South Boulevard, where a house has been demolished, as it appears in error because the air defense has fired at some Tomahawk (37). I no longer believe in the heroic deeds of our military, nor in the endurance, nor even in the slow decay of our patrol missiles, but it was abundantly clear that the house on Maksim Gorki Street was not some kind of military objective. The whole scene was of course completely unreal. It seemed as if the house had collapsed on itself. Just as if he had slipped down the slope. A rather strange world had gathered around to watch the excavators clear the rubble. We continued the direction parallel to "Filip Filipoviqi", we went to "Nebojšina" street and from there to "Pasteur", zig-zag directly to "Nemanjine". A heavily damaged canyon rose before us. Stephen was delighted with the size and precision of the water fall. It all strikes me as a disgusting theatrical performance, in which liars and cowards compete with each other to make the best impression. Cars rarely pass by "Knez Milosh". It's starting to get dark and the whole landscape slowly started to fill with a pale mist. We arrived at the police building, which I have always felt quite disgusted with. I remember the experience of constant calls and giving testimonies. (Year '99 in "Knez Milosh"). I was about twenty years old, I was studying at the Faculty of Philosophy and I belonged to that core of so-called "special" students. This was enough to grab me by the neck and bother me constantly. My closest friends have also entered there, whose passports have been confiscated or they have been thrown in prison on the pretext of verbal misdemeanors. Who could ever forget these? This government, which even now uses the former Secret Service. How much cruelty, crimes and lies have lived in their catacombs! (Obviously, I feel sorry for those who were persecuted because they caught them, but maybe because of the same building and especially the symbol of the building, in general I don't feel sorry at all.) Burning burns. Not a single sound is heard, not even an engine noise or a warning whistle. Personal experience is always something that cannot be generalized, but something must somehow begin to emerge from it. The same happened with the inventory of our lives. I now felt the despair that had just begun to weigh on me from everywhere.

The bombardment will remain long imprinted not only on me, but also on many other generations that will come after. He will be talked about as a nation, as an indelible mark more than Jasenovac (38) or the German bombings of April 1941, 39 (XNUMX). Newspapers, moreover, at that time were full of historical comparisons and analogies. The worst bombings, as a rule, are those of the Allies. This "Allied" is especially emphasized as something important. The Germans are slowly becoming gentlemen of class, who know what is right, and who have the courage to personally fight for their cause alone. This was not the case for the current masters of the world – mainly represented by the Americans. I have been absorbed in these thoughts which I seem to have been arguing or discussing with myself on the road. I saw how an entire nation has slowly become obsessed with the idea that it is innocently sacrificed and that it is a forever marked victim. Terrible! How terrible and indelible to see how much is done to invent new stereotypes and nonsense without even a chance to stop them.

I wasn't the only one who felt confused. Sasha (40), one day on the boulevard near our house, faced Ivan Markovic, then government spokesman or who at that time was holding a similar position in the nomenclature of power. He was with his wife and was posing in a store window. She "started" to scream at him: "What are you doing here? Are you dressing up? Go to Kosovo! Baraba! (41)... Even she herself did not remember what she screamed at him. He started running away from Gvozdichev's side, near the "Lipovog Lada" flower garden, while she was following him all the time and talking to him from behind. Then Stefani also appeared at the window, whom Sasha called and asked for a gun. The poor fellow had no weapon, except, perhaps, a serrated bread-knife. When enough time passed to forget the incident, together we laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation.

Meanwhile, concerts of disobedience were held in "Republika" square as an expression of the "spontaneous" challenge of the popular will. To go to work I had to pass near "Republika" square. Fortunately, the "concerts" were moved later, sometime after noon. I faced an open stage one day and a bunch of people in costumes walking around. I remember the other morning I came across an uncle, actually very vital, dressed in classic Serbian peasant clothes, with all the original shajkaca and opings, as he was dancing right in front of the main entrance of the National Theatre. I said: what are you doing here uncle, are you playing a movie?

Better go and take care of your grandchildren and family than what you fool is doing here! He disappeared on the other side.

To be continued in the next issue of the Culture Supplement

Translated from the original: Ben Andoni. Published with permission of the author.

Velimir Ćurgus (1948, Novi-Sad – November 11, 2018, Belgrade). Journalist and well-known personality of Serbian journalism. Director of "Ebart Consulting" since 2002. He was editor of the cultural column in "Politika" newspaper from 1988 to 1996. Before that, he worked as an editor and publisher for eight years at the Serbian Youth Research and Publishing Center in Belgrade. He is one of the founders of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia and the author of about ten books of prose and essays on the topic of culture and cultural politics. His essays and books have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, Japanese and several other minor languages. He is the author of several books on media relations, politics and culture, and also the drafter of several projects in the field of media and culture research. Velimir Ćurgus received the International Essay Prize at "Lettre International", in Weimar, in 2000. He was a member of the Serbian Center - PEN since 1987. But Ćurgus was also a painter, especially in the type of combined technique on paper. Five exhibitions are associated with his name. He was also the author of two short film scripts.

(34) Bambipark or Bambiland is an amusement park for children in Pozarevac. It was built in 2000, in the area of ​​the fair center. It was originally called "Bambiland" and then "silver washed" turning into "Bambipark". It was built with funds from the budget of the municipality of Pozarevac and the company "Bambi", then a socially owned enterprise, and was inaugurated as part of the presidential election campaign of Slobodan Milosević. Afterwards, it was managed by Marko Milosević, Slobo's son, as a private property.

(35) Well-known Slavic business figures who became very rich especially during the war...

(36) The General Headquarters Building (Serb. Zgrada Generalštaba) is a building that formerly housed the Ministry of Defense of Yugoslavia, responsible for protecting the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from internal and external military threats.  Considered a masterpiece of post-war architecture, it was bombed and severely damaged during NATO bombing in 1999. Today, only a small undamaged part of the building is still used by the Ministry of Defense of Serbia.

(37) The Tomahawk missile is a long-range, all-weather, land-based, sea-launched missile primarily used by the United States Navy and the Royal Navy and launched from land, ships, and submarines in operations the attack.

(38) In Jasenovac, hundreds of thousands of victims were executed during the Second World War in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp, which was set up in this place, on the banks of the Sava River, by the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and administered by fascist Ustaše forces. Today, there is a monument in the shape of a flower, which is known by this name or more clearly "Stone Flower" (Kameni Cvijet).

(39) Operation Reagues (German: Unternehmen Strafgericht), also known as Operation Punishment, was the April 6, 1941 German bombing of Belgrade, the capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in retaliation for the coup that overthrew the government that had signed the Tripartite Pact. The bombing occurred in the early days of the German-led Axis occupation of Yugoslavia during World War II.

(40) Author's wife, Natasha.

(41) Barabbas – is a Hebrew word that dates back to Christ and has the meaning of nicknames for thieves, swindlers or crooks. In the Bible (New Testament, Gospel of Mark), Pontius Pilate asked the people to choose who they wanted to release on the cross: Jesus Christ or a robber, trash, a rapist and a murderer named Barabbas.