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<nettime> Syndicate Fw: A Diary from Belgrade (7-21 April 1999)
Lipa on Thu, 22 Apr 1999 01:42:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Syndicate Fw: A Diary from Belgrade (7-21 April 1999)


April 7th, 1999
Running to shelter with food, running out of the shelter to buy food. It
is spring, who cares.  Phoning friends and relatives, exchanging needs,
goods, fears, information: who where when was hit, who is next. Never a
why.  I donít watch news anymore, I hate them all, all sides, all truths.  
They seem too true for me, I have no distance. Yugoslavia is crumbling,
what a pity for all those bridges.  Bridges always send good messages:
people building, crossing bridges... Victims? I donít know, what a pity
for all those wasted innocent lives because only few people couldnít find
proper words... Is this my future, running into and out of a shelter, as a
rat?  The schools are closed, children have serious grown up eyes and
lives: in and out of the shelters.  Is this our future?


April 8th, 1999
Last night we sat on the terrace waiting...  We heard a few big
detonations.  My right ear became deaf and it hurt, as if travelling in a
plane.  We started to bet, my absolute pitch won me the bet, and of course
my female body as the pain map of world: a government administration
building was hit in downtown Belgrade, only half a mile away from us.
Nobody really knows why that building and not the general headquarters as
was expected. Nobody tells us either anything: call it civil or military
target. Anyway , good, we are done with that, weíve been waiting for that
for days, we from downtown Belgrade.  We started laughing with relief when
we heard there was no collateral damage, as NATO calls the dead, by the
Criminal Aggression, as TV Serbia calls the NATO.  My fatherís voice was
trembling, he heard nothing, he saw nothing, he is already deaf and old to
move: but he kept saying: ęwhat can we do now, nothing, can we?  I thought
it was the frying pan falling in the kitchen but then it was bombs, what
can we do now?Ľ Last night the daily rock and folk concert moved to the
bridge, the bridge over Sava that brings together, new and old Belgrade.  
We are all split families between new and old Belgrade, we dare not cross
the bridge in order to stay with your part of the family, in case the
bridges are struck down. Yesterday a football game was held between Greek
and Yugoslav teams: it was a big national event, people were crying,
singing, kissing, and the players hardly played the game.  I always
thought that the energy of football audiences was wasted, finally they got
a humane cause: to stop the war. A BBC military commentator spoke about
Serbian people as horrible and incredible people who care about nothing
except their own lives.  I was very much hit by his remark, I donít like
to praise or degrade any people ethnically or globally.  I never realized
there is something like British people, even though I spent 12 years in a
British boarding school but after his remark I did.  I wonder what would
British people be like in Albanian or Serbian conditions. So much comes
out of all of us in these border situations, so many discoveries: I
realized that my fear, the enormous fear I deal with every night when the
sirens go on, could be only balanced by some act of heroism.  If I only
knew what to do to stop the war... The Gypsy woman from the basement next
door, my old friend, is rather stable since the bombings started: her only
distress seems to be the fact that we canít buy cigarettes anymore.  She
asks me every time I pass by for a cigarette.  Her speeches now are
balanced and wise, no more foul language, curses, personal offences.  
Instead of going to a lecture of the Alternative Belgrade University, The
reasons of NATO Aggression on Yugoslavia, I listened to her, Mica.  I
didnít like the title of the lecture, whilst she uses big words together
with small ones.  The margin between her Gypsy girl and me white girl now
is minimum, we both live in basements, on too many emotions, with too few
cigarettes and too much beer... A Gypsy boy asked me for a dime, I said I
just gave it to my girl.  He asked me when do we paint our Easter eggs.  
I said, I donít know, I am an atheist, but I will dye my hair for Easter,
it has gone surprisingly white these days.

April 9th, 1999
I remember, shortly before the war, this date was the considered a good
timing to make your baby if you want to have it born the first day of
January 2000.  I remember how silly and ridiculous it was, I remember how
suggestive it was too.  Now, when the day has come nobody in this part of
the world has these plans anymore: amidst the small talk over what will
happen if ground troops enter Yugoslavia women are hoping they are not
pregnant, or wondering what to do with their children if they have to take
up the guns.  Already two of my girlfriends, pacifists, feminists, said
that if it comes to an all against all ground war they will take up guns
instead of staying back home and waiting to be killed, raped, or sent in
exile.  I thought of having a child, but then I remembered another woman
who had just her baby before the air raids started.  She is in the cellar
all the time taking tranquilizers and her baby is sick: she didn't improve
or stop the political situation by having a baby at the wrong time in the
wrong place, on the contrary, she made it visible, the wrong place and
wrong time and wrong deeds. Military logic is entering our everyday
language, I never liked computer games or even field competitive sport:
when competition enters my mind I feel paralyzed, I feel different form
other people not worse or better. We speak about adapting to war
conditions, finding new work, new ways of relaxing, socializing.  My
friend, a university professor, says she will clean houses for old people,
my other friend is working with Gypsy children.  I think of putting up a
school for our loose children who are suddenly without any daily duties or
working habits, being until two weeks ago urban school children fighting
with institutions for their own identities, not prepared for war
catastrophes or survival situations. But the main point today is that,
ground troops or not, we don't care about our personal lives anymore: most
of us don't go to shelter, don't think of leaving the country...  We are
just being here, who cares for how long, we have no decent way out, we are
hostages of our own life without power.

April 10th, 1999
Today I decided to clean the house.  The hairdresser next door opened and
is working his usual hours, notwithstanding the alarm which went off today
even during daylight.  The pilots were probably ęfrustratedĽ last night
for not dropping their bombs.  The NATO briefing will be tense, military
commentators will speculate on the new world order, but we had a peaceful
night: no boom booms, only local aircraft which has a more humane sound,
as planes used to have. Tomorrow is Orthodox Easter: my daughter painted
the eggs.  We are not religious, we never were.  She said, I am bored; I
thought better let her do constructive things than sulk alone in her room
waiting for the alarm.  She is a child of the war, who knows, maybe she is
Godís child too.  She said yesterday, I have a feeling I will be killed
when I am sixteen, so why bother to go to school anymore.  I froze and
just said: you will go to school anyway.

April 11th, 1999
Just a small Easter thought: if somebody is killing, raping,
ethnically-cleansing Albanians, why should I be spared of it?  My friend,
a very decent person, cannot believe it is happening; as far as I am
concerned I believe everything too much. Last night at midnight Belgrade
was on foot, sirens were on but still people were crowding in the
churches, around the churches for the midnight service: the Easter
service.  I was looking at the people: old, simple and poor ragged people,
young and middle-aged snobs and then the fewest, those who really believe.  
All crowding together with the same tragic expression in their face, as in
an staged opera in La Scala. On the other hand, at the same time on the
bridge crossing the Sava, the concert, rock folk whatever, was raging,
people were angry, patriotic, believing in their power instead of Godís. I
couldnít find my place on either side: I don't believe in God but I don't
believe in myself against the world as it is.  I am afraid when the alarm
is on, I don't want my children to risk anything for anybody. So I went to
the video club and took some films to watch.  It was a Mickey Rourke film,
my favorite actor until 18 days ago: he was so foolish, I thought, he knew
nothing of my life anymore, he doesnít love me anymore, so I couldnít pay
him back with adoration.  We don't share the crucial experience of my
life, so Mickey Rourke and I had to split after so many years... I went to
bed early and slept like a log, my fridge emits terrible sounds, worse
than air raids, so I decided to switch it off and clean it today, even
though it is bad omen to clean on Easter, my granny used to say. When I
was five my granny took me for Easter to church, secretly, so that my
parents, communists wouldnít know.  I remember the secrecy, the fear and
excitement on entering the biggest building I ever saw in my life,
smelling of strange odors and glimmering with candles, from roof to the
pavement, all round me.  After the first moment of joy, I remember this
feeling that until today never abandoned me when entering a church: the
feeling of nothingness, powerlessness, invisibility of my little person.  
I started crying like crazy, in a fit, saying to my granny, I will be
burned, I will be punished...  She took me out, much in distress over her
failed mission.  She bought me an ice cream and a toy dog.  Never again
did we speak about Easter or church.  Not until many years later did I
enter a church again, the feeling was pretty the same, but I was stronger,
my mystical crisis was over, not resolved, but over.  And my granny wasnít
alive anymore to give me an answer or comfort.

April 12th, 1999
I couldnít go to sleep last night, finally I took a tranquilizer, there
it goes, I started too.  I postponed all these weeks the use of drugs to
stay normal, but I see that no normal person can stay normal without
drugs, if you want to stay here.  I donít want to go, I donít want to
leave my city, my friends, my streets, my habits, my language.  I donít
believe in Other: I understand those who left, out of fear, out of
needs, I could have been one of them too, but I want to stay.  Friends
from all over the world offer me flats, money, help...  But the only
thing I need from them and from others all over the world is to try to
stop our war.
During the day we live the Serbian war: new identity cards, walk on
bridges, solidarity among hurt people...  During the night we have the
NATO war: detonations, fires, shelters...
Yesterday a journalist was killed in the center of Belgrade, in front of
his house, in the middle of the day.  Is this war too, and whose war is
this now?  Whoís next?
Kids go to discotheques during the day, they make parties during the
day.  They say: who knows, maybe this will be our last bit of fun.
Other factories were destroyed last night, petrol storage, again Pancevo
and Novi Sad, two cities with such peaceful and easygoing people, for
the past few years full of refugees from Croatia and Bosnia.  I have
friends in both towns, one of them emailed me: yes we will go on with
work for our international summer schools, they are more important than
ever.  But at this moment we have dead people here although we, at the
peace movement are still all alive...  He is much better than me, I doní
t want to go on with international summer schools, I donít want to fake
normal life: we will need years to get out of this mess, out of
destruction, fear and anger, and I will take my time...
Last night an old man next door was taken to the hospital, during the
intensive air raids.  He was tied to a chair and carried out of his
flat; he politely said, Good night.  I guess it was some kind of nervous
breakdown: alone, all these weeks, he couldnít take it anymore.  Better
a crowded hospital.
An old woman I know stopped eating: she is a prewar communist. One of
the few honest people I know, nevertheless not less dogmatic.  I can
imagine the questions and answers that find no sense in her head; her
body reacted.

April 13th, 1999
The old man next door who said good night died: good night ladies, good
night my sweet ladies.
Today I watched TV: the woman with a scarred face from the train hit by
NATO bomb answered the question: what do you think of this NATO
aggression.  ęI just went to visit my relatives for EasterĽ.
I refuse to give interviews and opinions on what is going on.  I am just
like the woman with the scarred face, a political idiot, where idiot
stands for what it meant in ancient Greece: a person who to whom
information in denied: at that time most of men and all of women.
Today, all of us, all over the world.
Humanitarian aid is a big business.  There will be a lot of opportunity
to do business for the next 20 years at this scene of the crime.  I hope
I wonít be here to witness anybody's sense of guilt.
My young friend from Pancevo writes to me, they are hit nearly every
night because of the factories: we are still alive, the same as I write
to my friends abroad... He goes on; I am lobbying against military logic
all over the world.  Think positively.  Obviously I am not thinking
positively, but somebody must think negatively, too. Usually women do it.
I saw the buses of relatives and doctors leave from the center of
Belgrade to the place where the train was hit on the bridge: nobody was
crying or being emotional.  I looked at myself passing a window; I have
changed, too.  I don't cry anymore, I sleep during the raids, I work
during the day, I laugh.  When you get used to it, there are fewer
chances to end it, you simply forget how and why...

April 14th, 1999
A very strong detonation, from nowhere woke me up: that will be my day,
just a way to calm down. Instead of writing, cooking and who knows
maybe reading, it will be just compulsive movements to calm down the
pain in my stomach.
I look at the photo of my cousin who died only few months ago of AIDS:
finally after three weeks, tears come back to my eyes.  The new moment
is that I am happy her agony wasnít longer: poor, sick and spoiled as
she was she would have suffered even more this barbarian historical
moment.
A true crack in the time: we are going back to forties, old men from
World War II are commanding young people who know nothing about war
except to die.  Somebody spoke today about dangerous dreams of the
forties: destruction and reconstruction.  I remember how my Italian
communist friend speaking about revival fashion said: the forties are my
time, the age of reconstruction, starting from nothing, making your life
new...

April 15th, 1999
In the middle of the night the windows started to rattle violently as in
a horror movie and the sky was full of fire: my daughter woke up and
screamed and clung to me.  She is bigger than I am now but she had all
of a sudden the body of a baby.  I was so tired emotionally that I could
hardly open my eyes.  She was afraid but she didnít want to move from
her bed, go to the shelter...  She asked me, what is this now, why all
this noise.  I said it is our army darling, donít be afraid.  It was the
first time since the war started that I made a difference between the
weapons and it was only to calm her not because I believe in it.
Yesterday there were more than 1000 people attending the funeral of the
killed journalist with three bullets in the back of his head: a signed,
professional murder.  Stories about his death are even worse than this
cold blooded killing The more stories I hear the less I am convinced
there is any story to it: he was a brave, intelligent, powerful, good
looking man: I guess that is enough...
Horrible, horrible pictures of refugees killed by bombs in the convoy in
Kosovo.  Horrible NATO definition of collateral damage to the targeted
military convoy.  I saw some soldiers here in Belgrade: they were young,
very worried, awkwardly carrying the big guns.  I can imagine them in a
convoy, during the night, in the woods in Kosovo: all these city boys
could be my sons...

April 16th, 99
I started this diary, my war diary, on March 17th, 1998, more than a
year ago when the conflicts in Kosovo began.  The title of my diary:
Normality; a Moral Opera by a Political Idiot.  I can hardly remember my
life before I started thinking in this way.  I can hardly remember my
life before the bombing of Yugoslavia started on March 24th.  But I
insist; I don't want to go back, only ahead.  At literally any price.  I
cannot pretend that I don't know the things I saw in the past few weeks,
years...
Last night panic struck my household: the noises and lights of the
Yugoslav artillery covered the sky over Belgrade as in a military parade
whilst literally 300 NATO planes were flying over the city, again as in
a military parade.  Children started screaming, out of fear and joy,
like at a circus.  I ushered them in a great hurry to our local shelter:
I drank wine quickly to stop my hands and knees trembling and then we
went back home where, as the children say, they feel best.  We slept
like logs.
My friend says who is a University professor of chemistry and has
traveled a lot said: I don't know any place in the world that has such
wonderful microcosms and such a terrible macrocosm, as Belgrade,
Yugoslavia.  My other friend said; I hope the war spares Belgrade and
its atmosphere, we saved it already once in '92, unarming the uniformed
violent people from all over ex Yugoslavia with this easygoing Belgrade
atmosphere.  Yesterday we went shopping: the shops are full and the
prices are going down, especially clothes.  People have no money to buy
anything anymore; those who have some keep it for the future hardships.
We called it the last shopping.  I always hated shopping for clothes but
yesterday I enjoyed it, maybe because I believed it is the last.
We heard on radio that kids will not have to pass a state exam for
entering high school: the joy among them is enormous.  It was a wrong
and hard exam but these kids are happy without any exams, any school,
anything anymore.  They say, don't you see now that going to school was
useless: other things matter, like power, money...  They don't connect
knowledge with power and money, not after this war.
People from abroad ask me, how are Serbian people taking the death of
the bombed refugees?  What a question!  The same as all other civilian
deaths, too many which have occurred in this "humanitarian bombing".  It
never occurred to me to think of dead civilians as Albanian or Serb.
But obviously people from NATO countries feel differently.  And maybe
they should: it is their bombs, their tax money, as citizens from
democratic countries usually say.  They can also choose their victims.
Another anniversary, April 16th is the Easter day when Belgrade was
bombed by the allies in order to be liberated at the end of the war.
Letís not abuse the parallels to feel better, to feel worse.  In those
days a thousand people were killed in Belgrade, a maternity hospital was
hit, not mine, the second biggest in the region and 15 new born babies
were hit.  In our war today the babies were in the cellar and the
hospital wasnít hit; let's hope it stays so, let's hope that
ęhumanitarianĽ bombs really bring us peace, and not only the peace after
death.

April 17th,99
An American journalist quoted  a humanitarian Australian worker in
Kosovo who said: Thanks NATO for bombing us,  for destroying our
blankets and medicines. NATO officer replied at the press conference:
sorry but our maps are old.
A woman at the market who is selling me homemade cheese who comes from a
village  says: they are bombing us every day, getting the hell out of
us, everything is destroyed. Can't somebody tell them that itís been two
years now that the army has moved out of our village.
I guess it is old maps again.
Last night Belgrade was spared from bombs: but the weather is terrible
today, it's raining,  gusts of wind are hitting the windows, glass is
trembling and parts of the facade of the old buildings are coming off
and falling with thunder: people don't want to go out because of the
weather, but they go out to see the bombs falling. I donít know why.
A young soldier who survived 4 years of war in Krajina told me: never go
out to watch the bombs fall, it is not good for your nerves and you have
still a long way to go. I follow his advise. I go out in the rain but
never during the bombings.
People are depressed, really and truly: more and more stories I hear
about people not wanting to get out of their beds: no place to run, no
place to hide. They watch cartoons on TV all day long: no news can reach
them or do something good for their lives. Our lives resemble refugee
camp stories I collected some years ago. I am very active, too active:
the other side to the depression; I work and function without pleasure
at all, as a robot, anxious that all jobs must be done: petty jobs or
big jobs, all the same.

April 18th, 99
It is Sunday, but who knows , who cares: we have been living the same
day ever since he war started. Every morning, as in a film a saw
recently with Bill Murray, the same rituals , fixed as if in eternity.
We try to find space in between, to avoid some small unpleasant detail,
but nevertheless, the day will be exactly as it was yesterday as it will
be tomorrow...
Yesterday a marathon was in Belgrade, traditional, under heavy rain...
Public traditional wedding in TV...What else, all those tries, condemned
by some, to make live go on... I think that those who can make it
should, personally I am out of every thing that resembles human life, if
I could choose I would be a cockroach at this point, much safer...
Last night, in Pancevo, few miles away from Belgrade three factories
were hit again: the dangerous one also, as they called it from the first
nights of bombings when I was in the underground station and there was
an acid leak. Some people are evacuating: we in Belgrade had good wind,
we are lucky once more, but the turns of gambler arenít something I
would base my life on, if I had a choice.
In Batajnica, near the airport, a three year old girl has been killed,
by the explosion of window glass of a detonation. She was very spoiled ,
her father  said, she said I want to go to the bathroom, then she said,
I donít want to, and after I let her go in, she never came out. I know
for myself how terrible it is to have spoiled children when the bombs
set off: thy are ashamed of doing things as sticking  tape on the
windows, they are ashamed of us doing  those things,  so humiliating as
survival...

April 19th, 99
My friends last night were talking about our future: in very very
pessimistic tones. They are all educated people, with no savings,
impoverished in the last ten years of economic overturns, with more or
less  strong patriotic feelings, from the  opposition, but definitely
people who for some reason or other do not want to go in exile.
The feeling that is getting stronger among common people here after the
beginning of this recent war is that nobody really wants us anymore
anywhere, maybe not even here. It is a very strange feeling for young or
middle aged people, quite common in old people, but not for those who
are still strong physically. It is more than a depression, it is common
sense which resembles depression. Texts of famous  writers  from all
over the world speak also about us Serbian people , unable to
emancipate, wake up, as accomplices of atrocities, all of Serbs... I won
ít quote those names,  some of them were even my fiends if not people I
admired. I forgive them all,  but I refuse to read them or consider they
even exist, as I did some years ago with our local writers who took the
aggressive course of nationalism: for me they exist no more...they lost
their people, so for whom they are writing now?

April 20th, 99
Instead of going on bridges people should guard the factories of
potential ecological catastrophes, two of them I hear are very
dangerous, and were hit. I hear say that people on bridges are
manipulated by parties, that parties are fighting among them to
manipulate the same crowds, but I saw their faces, and I am one of them.
I donít wear badges, I never wear any public signs, in war or in peace:
I feel manipulated to wear Levi on my jeans, I never buy signed clothes
nor signed thoughts. But I am as manipulated as people on the bridges ,
on the streets, in queues for cigarettes, with patriotic or traitorís
thoughts. I know it and I am ready to offer my body to protect the
dangerous factories or to be a dividing unarmed wall between Serbs and
Albanians in Kosovo. It is a heroic way of being a coward. But  nobody
gives  me, nor people like me any chance.
Some people I know, doing nothing, hearing no news and just fearing the
future, unable to do anything about it , change their political ideas
from left to right in half an hour, during one conversation: educated,
intelligent people. Are they manipulated, are they mad, is that the way
of being bad Serbs as some abroad call us... I have so many senses of
guilt, private and public, but their is a global one that incorporates
both of them when I close my eyes every night in bed: it is a sense of
being exactly what I am, there is something wrong in it, if nothing ,
the  fact that I cannot find anything to love about me, meaning there is
nothing I can pass on.
I watch the movies in a different way since our war started: I notice
that in every exciting film there is  at least one scene of true well
represented violence: the emotional impact of art or industry is based
on this true shock to your nervous system: that is why I cannot watch
movies anymore, but listen to Requiem, by Mozart, because he starts from
the point which claims: death has come to get you, be prepared and be
happy.
Oh, yes, and something about atrocities, about Albanian refugees...
Please, all of you who are reading this understand that I accept all the
blame as much as you want  me to. I know what is going on, even if I
have no proofs but some people saying it, as I am saying all these
things about my life, expecting you to believe me. Now, what is my
cross: NATO bombs, Serbian patriotic death. OK, between compulsive
patriotism and compulsive sense of guilt, I guess there is no way out.
It would take another life to do so.
And between claims that chemical factories have been hit together with a
tobacco factory and claims that it hasnít been so, there is not much
space: we have to breath air, drink water... even if we donít have to
smoke cigarettes but smoke in the air, over water, woods will cover, all
sides, in and without uniforms, good or bad ones...

April 21st, 99
Last night new Belgrade was hit, the building of ex Central Commitee of
the Communist Party, today of new power, new TVs, new parties, new
business firms...
Yesterday the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church was in Belgrade,
guest of all officials, opposition parties and the people were asked to
walk in the streets without party signs, not even flag, but with a
candle in oneís hand. I decided not to go out at all, afraid that the
crack in the time will eat me.
Power and people of power are changing their faces and places: you
cannot recognize them easily anymore, once their were communists and
religious people at least, now they are all everything, taking each
otherís words and places.
Every morning news, more places hit, less things to hear, it seems all
the same, sometimes even the targets are literally the same, if not the
pictures we see, first on local TV then on foreign taken from local. We
are turning to books and chess and cards: long days and nights ahead of
us, without TVs, bridges, roads, visas, but among friends and relatives:
now that is crack in the time, it did get me, and it is the fifties, the
years I was born that now I am living as an adult: my parents are
getting younger and I am getting older, actually now we are not only of
same flesh and blood, but of same age and time.


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