been up to the region in northwestern Bosnia called the
Krajina. I visited Banja Luka, Kozarac, and Prijedor, all in
the Republika Srpska. This report will mostly be about Banja
While I was still in
Sarajevo, I was talking with my friend Dževad. He is from
Kozarac and is a concentration camp survivor. We were talking
about justice in the face of war crimes, and denial of the
history of the recent war, which is an important mechanism in
the obstruction of justice. Dževad asked, "How can it be
possible that people in Banja Luka [capital of the Republika
Srpska] do not know about the concentration camps and the war
crimes that took place nearby, in Kozarac and Prijedor?
I have been visiting Banja Luka since early 1999. I used to feel
nervous there; I remember seeing, during that first visit,
graffiti that read, "I hate Bosnia." I visited the empty lot
where the Ferhadija mosque, one of the most beautiful in all
Bosnia-Herzegovina, had stood. It was dynamited and demolished
one night in May, 1993. There was no warring in Banja Luka; this
was just another step in the cultural and ethnic homogenization
of the city, during which some 50,000 non-Serbs (Muslims and
Croats) were expelled. In the course of the war, fifteen other
Banja Luka mosques were demolished as well.
Reconstruction of Ferhadija mosque,
With time I became less nervous visiting the city, as the
post-war tension subsided and a new kind of "normal" was
established. Some Muslims returned to Banja Luka, and some local
Serbs started to mobilize gradually and protest the corrupt and
authoritarian regime of RS President (and previously Prime
Minister) Milorad Dodik. For some of my earlier writing on these
The hateful graffiti becomes just part of the scenery in a
strange city. It is still there, although it is hard to tell how
much of this is old, post-war material, and how much is new.
Graffiti is everywhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and local
authorities don't trouble themselves too much about it.
(Graffiti is practically an institution - in Stolac I even saw
one that read, "Društvo anonimnih pisaca" - Society of
Pro-Šešelj graffiti in bus in Banja
Practically the first thing I saw coming into Banja Luka, on the
bus, was an inscription: "Serbia is waiting for Šešelj."
Vojislav Šešelj is a self-styled "Chetnik" (extreme Serb
nationalist) who is currently on trial at The Hague. I think
Serbia will have to wait a long time for Šešelj. But I don't see
why they have to wait, as Šešelj's former confederate and fellow
Chetnik duke ("vojvoda"), Tomislav Nikolić, was recently
elected president of Serbia.
And if I ask why someone in the RS is so concerned about Serbia,
a foreign country, well, here's another common inscription that
provides the answer: "RS to Serbia and Bosnia to hell." (That's
a very rough translation of "RS u Srbiji i Bosna na k..u!
- Patriot Boys".) And regarding the makeup of Serbia, the slogan
"Kosovo is Serbia" is also common.
You ignore the graffiti. The people ignore you, if you don't
start an argument.
Banja Luka feels like a city to me, more of a Western one than
Sarajevo. It is flatter than Sarajevo (which is nestled in the
mountains), and, visually, you can't hold its boundaries in the
palm of your hand, as they say in Bosnian. There are big
buildings, including the notorious RS government building built
by Dodik a few years ago with much graft changing hands, and the
new Orthodox church in the center of town. There's next to
nothing of the Ottoman architectural legacy so visible in
Sarajevo; an earthquake in the 1960s took that away and it was
Scandal-ridden Republika Srpska
government building, Banja Luka
Not only is the physical atmosphere forgetful; so is the
cultural atmosphere. You have the sense of a bland city in
Western Europe where things have been peaceful for decades and
life goes on with people establishing their prosperity and
promoting every kind of cultural event. A "festival of
Macedonian culture" was taking place while I was in Banja Luka;
capoeira classes were announced; and a concert of Fado was
promoted as well. Posters at the theater announced the arrival
of the new James Bond movie.
But there was no evidence of the observance of Kurban Bajram,
which was current while I was there; the Muslims who had
returned to Banja Luka were observing that important religious
holiday (associated with the culmination of the hajj, or
pilgrimage to Mecca), on the periphery. In fact, there was
practically no trace, other than the ongoing reconstruction of
the Ferhadija mosque, of the centuries of Ottoman culture that
had so influenced this city.
I'm not saying it's much different for Serbs or Croats in
I had a room near the center of the city, and between meetings I
walked around that area. The imposing new Orthodox cathedral is
finished; across the street stands a park devoted to Partisan
heroes from World War II. I was told that this group of
monuments used to be where the church now stands, that it was
moved, and that, before WWII, there had been a church, then
bombed by the Germans, where the new one stands.
The recently-opened MacDonald's restaurant stood on the main
pedestrian walkway, finer and more tastefully decorated than any
such place you'd see in the US. It seemed to be just about the
most popular place in the center of town. Later I read that
45,000 people had visited it in the week since its opening.
I walked in the open market, a series of stands on a side street
off the center. Among the usual scarves, CDs, tennis shoes, and
cigarettes I saw a book titled, Falsification at Srebrenica.
And there were t-shirts bearing a photo of General Ratko Mladic
(now on trial at The Hague), with an inscription honoring his
bravery. Another t-shirt showed a photo of World War II Chetnik
General Draža Mihajlović, a royalist who started out resisting
the German forces but ended up collaborating with them in the
fighting against Tito's Partisans, and along the way killing a
lot of Muslims in eastern Bosnia. He was executed after WWII by
the Partisans. In the last year or so there has been a movement
in Serbia officially to rehabilitate his reputation. Apparently
that has already taken place, at least unofficially, in the
Republika Srpska. You can buy this t-shirt in practically any
town in that entity.
There used to be a lovely park in Banja Luka, a full square
block in size, a couple of blocks off of the main drag. Picin
Park was a favored place for young people to meet and relax.
Kids played there, romped with their pets, and teenagers sat on
the benches and played guitar. Nearby stood a tall,
two-hundred-year-old tree, the "Old Oak" (stari hrast),
as everyone called it. It was a symbol of the old Banja Luka -
and for that matter, it was symbolic that it is now a dead tree,
its water sources having been cut off by nearby construction in
This spring, somehow, a developer named Milo Radišić received
the permits to demolish the park and to build a complex
containing businesses and residences. Without public notice, in
May barriers went up around the park and the demolition began.
Then something new in the 17-year postwar history of Banja Luka
took place. Citizens organized, gathered at the Old Oak, and
demonstrated against the park's demolition. They chanted slogans
- "Park je naš!" (The park is ours) - and marched through
At the first demonstration, in late May, a thousand people took
part. The demonstrations then continued every day for several
months, with participants continuing to number at least several
hundred. This was the most militant and sustained protest ever
to take place in Banja Luka after the war, and it broke the ice.
Activists from a dozen local organizations gathered six thousand
signatures on a petition against the construction project and
delivered them to the city government. Nearly fifty thousand
dissatisfied people joined a Facebook page against the project.
The petition called upon the city government to halt the
destruction of the park and requested that the mayor of Banja
Luka speak with representatives of the protestors. It also asked
for evidence about the procedure that led to the sale of the
park land, and for documentation of the official decision-making
process that led to that sale.
The petition was not answered. Meanwhile, the local
pro-government media tried to smear the activists, some of whom
were called to the police station for "informational
conversations" (informativni razgovor) - this is the same
phrase that was used during the Tito era for interrogations,
which were never thought of as a pleasant experience.
The citizens kept marching. They acquired the name "šetači," the
walkers. They marched from the Old Oak to City Hall and down to
the main square, Trg Krajine (Krajina Square). They lit candles
in front of City Hall, in mourning for the now destroyed park.
The protests continued regularly throughout the summer. They
evolved and adapted to respond to other issues that arose. It
was not for long that the activism concerned just a park - it
grew into a public expression of discontent about widespread
unemployment - to the tune of 150,000 in the RS - and about the
pervasive government corruption both at the city and entity
level. One analyst, Damir Miljević, said that the protests
reflected the fact that "among the citizens there was a growing
consciousness that the government had transformed into a regime
which, without any responsibility towards those whom it
represents, favors the interests of a small group around it to
the detriment of the interests of the citizens."
Journalist Gordana Katana wrote that in its disrespect for human
and civil rights, the Republika Srpska has come to resemble some
reactionary Latin American or Asian regimes, and that in that
sense, "citizens have the right more or less to vote freely, and
even to think...on condition that they do this behind closed
doors and that they keep their thoughts to themselves, if those
thoughts do not correspond with the opinions of the government.
"...The good and obedient citizens of the RS thus kept
themselves quiet for seventeen full years while in front of
their eyes the factories in which they worked disappeared, while
the war profiteers and other tycoons took off with everything
that was of any value, and while the politicians, in the name of
the people, took on debts of billions of marks as they built
themselves palaces and bought expensive cars, helicopters, and
During the summer there were other protests as well, related but
not organized by the same people. Some hundreds of workers came
from smaller cities in late June to protest unemployment, saying
that they were the "victims of criminal privatization in the
RS." And in late August the "walkers" marched from the Old Oak
to the main union hall, in solidarity with unemployed workers.
They carried a banner that read, "Aren't 160,000 unemployed a
reason to protest?"
Going into September, organizers of the protests issued a
statement that declared that their actions were not simply about
a park, but, "Here we are protecting reason, dignity, and the
right to a better life. The declaration announced "a revolt
against injustice" in the hopes that "all who feel injustice by
the regime know that we are their allies."
The declaration read, in part, "With solidarity in our
differences and in our anti-fascist orientation, we have joined
in a united struggle against force and the control of our lives,
against the self-serving politicians, and for a just society.
"We live in a party-run dictatorship of a criminal oligarchy,
and we are the many who resist against that!
"...When fear disappears, tyrants, dictators, autocrats, and
false authorities fall. The government has shown that it is
afraid of the 'walkers' and we assert that there is a reason: we
are Change because we are the voice of each citizen whose rights
have been curtailed.
"We come in a time when the ruling oligarchy confirms that we,
ordinary people, are the biggest losers in the war and in the
transition. That oligarchy puts profit above people under the
veil of the national interest; personal interest above justice;
and terror replaces equal rights.
"We call for a society arranged according to the citizens'
needs, without regard to racial, class, national, birth, sexual,
or religious belonging, and for a fairer society for all."
That sounds good to me. It sounds like it's not just about a
park. And it reminds me that people everywhere know what their
rights are. It's just a matter of choosing to fight for them.
You can find the full declaration
Activism in Banja Luka
I talked to Dražen, a Banja Luka graduate student, activist, and
member of the organization UNSA Geto. UNSA stands for
Udruženje Nezavisnih Stvaralaca i Aktivista, or Association
of Independent Creators and Activists. The introduction to this
group in one web page reads,
"The Association of Independent Creators and Activists "GETO" is
a new organization that was formulated out of a special movement
developed from activists within the "mother" organization UNS
GETO, The Association of Independent Creators. The mother
organization was founded in early 1999 as a grassroots movement
established by the young people, feeling pushed in to a "ghetto"
because their opinions were too progressive and unaccepted.
During the ten years of its work, this organization was the
start for many new organizations just like ours.
"The Association of Independent Creators and Activists, GETO is
focused on activism and creativity. The feeling of being pushed
is unfortunately still present in our society, so the need of
being more active and engaged in society is the reason of our
existence. By our constant work we have an opportunity to see
that changes are possible-and this is our mission. We are
developed and centered on the vision that a healthy democratic
society is possible with the involvement of all people." (see
Referring to Geto's participation in the Park je naš movement,
Dražen said, "Our work on the Park issue for five months
constituted a good experience. We created a network of
activists. We lack theory, but the movement has provided
practice. There are parallels with the Occupy movement.
"They have destroyed the park, they work at night. The investor
in Picin Park is Mile Radišić; he was a member of the City
Council. At one point he was arrested for criminal speculation,
but he was released. That case has not been resolved. Radišić is
pals with Dodik."
Radišić is one of those operators known in Bosnia as a
"controversial businessman," which is a euphemism for a gangster
who wears a suit. He was arrested in the spring of 2010 and
charged with creating a criminal organization with the intention
of buying the capital holdings of a state-owned company at an
unrealistically reduced price. Radišić arranged a deal to lower
the price with the RS development bank responsible for managing
the state-owned holdings.
There's a lot more to this story, but it will take me down a
long winding path away from the story of activism, with no
return. Suffice it to say that this kind of criminal, crony
arrangement between "controversial businessmen," operators in
the state-run development banks, and top politicians, is central
to the post-war story of dysfunction in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's
the same among all three ethno-nationalist infrastructures.
Dražen told me, "The brand of capitalism that exists here is a
kind of ethno-capitalism. There is a re-feudalization going on."
But the "ethno-" part of that phrase is a bit misleading, as
these infrastructures cooperate perfectly well in plundering the
socially-created wealth from the post-WWII era. As one activist
said to me a couple of years ago, "These days, nationalism is
only for the little people. The big politicians are just
criminals; corruption is their real work."
In other words, nationalist fervor is dust in the eyes of the
ordinary folks, distracting them from the rip-off. In Banja Luka,
Radišić gets a special deal with the help of Dodik, steals a
park, and then the people who protest it are called "anti-Serb."
Look for the next series of protests, the next activist project,
to take place around the old fortress called Kastel, by the
Vrbas River that flows through the middle of Banja Luka. This
ancient fortress, surrounded by thick stone walls, has long been
another lovely, central place for people to gather and eat,
drink, lounge, and listen to occasional concerts. Now, Dražen
says, this cultural monument is in deteriorating condition. And
there is a new construction project pending, within the walls of
the fortress, that will cover part of the grounds with concrete
and install a structure that will ruin the architectural harmony
of the place. Geto and other organizations are planning a
campaign to resist this.
Kastel fortress, Banja Luka
Geto is primarily concerned with "culture and community,
cultural intervention," as Dražen puts it: "We don't want to be
the government. We want to make change happen. People are aware
of the problems in this city, but they are not inclined to be
active and take risks. Instead, there is a lot of nostalgia, and
it is bez veze (irrelevant). People do not have the
courage to think differently."
Dražen says, "The ethnicities aren't allowed to communicate with
each other, and this makes everything harder for us, and easier
for the leaders. The solution is to make space for the different
groups to work together. We work locally, but there has to be a
space for all, in our cultural and artistic work." And Geto
works with other grassroots organizations in many parts of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, in both entities.
Wanting to know about local people's relationship to the
war-time history of Banja Luka, I asked Dražen, "Can you talk
about the question of memory and memorialization in Banja Luka?"
He responded, "It is a horror. The most active people are
abroad. Here there is very little going on. Most of the Croats
and Bosniaks were expelled, and even some Serbs who did not
agree with what was going on. There was some terror. Some of the
Serbs helped the Croats and Bosniaks, though.
"This is an unspoken story of urbicide and culturocide, and
zaborav (forgetting, amnesia). And it is as if Banja Luka
simply did not exist before Dodik and, of course, Radovan
Karadzic. Here, only Serb culture is cultivated. There are
financial benefits for the children of Serb soldiers, but no
such thing for the children of [Croat and Bosniak] returnees. We
need an open dialogue about this.
Q: What do people here know about Prijedor and what happened in
A: "Nothing.my professor took me to the Omarska camp. It is a
horror, what happened in Prijedor and in Kozarac. But as far as
a healthy historical understanding here is concerned, it is
ludilo (insanity) here. And the issue of the Park is part of
the problem of memory.
"It is difficult for people here to know what's going on. In
Germany there was de-Nazification. I am pessimistic. Everything
that was done here during the war is being justified: the
terror, the crimes, the plunder have all been justified."
For more about Geto, you can check the
I met with Dražana from the grassroots organization Oštra
Nula (Sharp Nothing), which I wrote about in 2010 (see
again). Oštra Nula describes
itself as "an association of students, workers, and
intellectuals who work to awaken the consciousness of the
citizens about their human, civil, political, economic, social,
and cultural rights. Through our activities, we endeavor to
discover together a legal route through which we can move
towards a resolution to the problems and to let other citizens
know that they are a part of the situation in which we find
ourselves, and which we can work together to change. (See
I asked Dražana where the name Oštra Nula came from. She said,
"In the media there is the idea that the youth are passive, that
they are an 'ordinary nothing.' Well, we may be 'nothing,' but
we are a 'sharp nothing.' We started out in our activities with
using some rough language. This came out of the blue for people.
Now, after these three years, people understand what we are. A
few people have become involved, but we need more in order to
come around to that pobudjenje - waking up.
"We have been doing some street actions, performances regarding
unemployment, low pay, problems in agriculture. Diplomas,
education, aren't as important as having membership in a party.
"We did actions on Mayday and March 8th (women's
day), and are planning something for November 9th,
the international day against fascism and anti-Semitism. We are
trying to bring these issues into the sphere of public life. We
are trying to bring in different themes other than nationalism,
to get people to think of something else. There is now more
consciousness regarding human rights. But we have seen no change
among the citizens.
"On February 5th and March 19th of 2011
there were protests about the fact that the people who were
disabled in the war were not getting their pensions. They
stopped the traffic. Then Dodik threatened that he would
discontinue the pensions altogether. Oštra Nula brought people
out to support these demonstrations.
Then there was a witch-hunt. We were accused of being paid by
the SDP. They spread vicious lies about us. This scared people
The neo-fascists, the street thugs, say that "anti-fascism"
means we love the gays and the lesbians.
Q: What is anti-fascism?
A: "We are trying to initiate a thought process. This was
obstructed, the government said that we did not like Serbs. We
have to do this work to connect anti-fascism with other
concepts. We start with street actions. At first people didn't
understand what we were doing, but now we have been getting a
better response on Facebook regarding issues of gay rights."
Q: Is this work dangerous?
A: "Yes, and the work on anti-fascism is dangerous as well.
There are people who oppose our anti-fascism work and they are
violent. Someone painted over some hate graffiti here, and we
were accused of doing it. They threatened us.
"I can't believe that now, more than fifty years after World War
II, it is considered 'great' to be a neo-Nazi. Every little
stupidity comes to be seen as the truth. This is the mistake in
our society. There is great manipulation and no punishment. It
has been allowed to become normal to beat someone because they
"It is hard for us to do anything, because of the war and
because these are very sensitive issues. This is not fascism
now, but it is a dictatorship of sorts.
"Here we have the 99% and the 1%, not just in the RS, but in all
of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is a reserve of fascism, and it is
okay with the government. No one touches these people.
"My father was born in 1924 and he was a Partisan. During the
recent war, they refused to give him his pension. He and some of
the other Partisans have tried to preserve the tradition of the
anti-fascist struggle. We can't forget what happened then,
because the same problems have not been resolved. Many people
lost their whole family in the last war, and they can't do or
say anything about it."
Q: Is it possible that people in Banja Luka don't know what
happened in Prijedor?
A: "People don't know, and they don't want to know. This bothers
me because it leaves a big ingredient out. When someone talks
about Srebrenica, then they start talking about the Serb
victims, and all discussion stops.
"In Banja Luka, people are not ready to talk about these things.
It is hard for us to do something about this - it is dangerous
"There is no film, for example, that shows all three sides of
what happened in the war. We don't have people who will speak
openly about all the facts. These are big problems because there
are many people who don't think the way the government says they
should think, but they don't have an alternative narrative to
help them express themselves, to open the path to an alternative
solution. To be a support to the solution. It is a tense
situation. There needs to be a new paradigm, although I don't
like that word.
"Talking about what happened would be a step towards
reconciliation. But it might not ever be able to happen. The
system uses the story of victimization to preserve itself.
"People are not experiencing their own identity except as part
of an ethnic group. I had that experience when I was younger,
and there was a moment when I had to realize that the ethnic
identity was not primary. It was easier for me to make the
change, because of my parents. Now I am so sorry to see that
many young people hate."
Speaking of the atmosphere in the city, Dražana said, "There
have been big changes in Banja Luka in the last ten years.
Before, there were more cultural events, more shows, more
creativity. Now it seems sterile. There is a bigger problem with
culture, the need to create, to nurture, not just to identify
with Serbia or Bosnia.you see people crossing themselves
whenever they pass a church - you know they aren't from here,
that's not a Banja Luka custom. Now we are a real palanka
(an overgrown village).
"With the 'Park je naš' movement we have made waves. We
have shown the politicians that people are not indifferent to
what's going on. The struggle with Picin Park was like a
foundation, it showed people that you can go out in the streets.
"We are collaborating with the 'anti-fa' groups in Prijedor and
elsewhere around Bosnia-Herzegovina. The basic idea for November
9th is to display photos.there are the heroes of the
anti-fascist war, the monuments. A lot have been damaged in
Mostar. Anti-fascism is not in the consciousness as it was, but
it still exists. There is selective memory, that is a problem.
There is not a culture of memory here."
We brainstormed ideas about what to do for the November 9th
event. I suggested having a display that simply defines fascism
- one simple definition, or several points that list the
attributes of it. I asked Dražana if it would be good for Oštra
Nula to collaborate with Roma and Muslim organizations in Banja
Luka. She answered that it could be good, but that it could also
be counter-effective in that it could encourage that much more
of a backlash in the dominant population of the city.
We talked about the meaning of "grassroots action" and struggled
to find the word in Bosnian for "grassroots." This semantic
question has not been solved; there's no equivalent word. But,
comparing grassroots action to established non-governmental
organizations, Dražana said, "There is a problem with the NGOs,
with activists who have gotten a decent income that way. If they
have gotten something for themselves, that doesn't mean that
they have accomplished anything."
"Maybe it is a mistake that people from the NGOs have not gone
into politics," she continued. "There is no humanist element at
this time in politics."
I responded, "But everyone knows that all the politicians are
Dražana said, "Yes, but what is honest about staying with the
NGOs and not working for change?"
I spotted a stenciled inscription on one wall not far from the
center of town, in Cyrillic: "Stop SNSD Terror - Thieves!" [SNSD
- the party of President Dodik]
Stenciled graffiti opposing Dodik's
party, Banja Luka
Revolt and Memory
I think it is fair to ask, "What is the importance of a park and
cultural matters when there has been genocide committed in your
vicinity? What about the responsibility of the Banja Luka Serbs
to disavow the atrocities committed by their rulers, which made
possible the creation of the Republika Srpska and the ongoing
plunder and impoverishment of the ordinary people?" It is
understandable to be outraged that the mass of Banja Luka
citizens have no awareness - or they deny and avoid the history
- of the recent war.
But I find it quite natural that, amidst the near-universal
economic and cultural impoverishment, and in an atmosphere of
enforced amnesia and physical danger, people will choose to
remain ignorant. And in that context, I find it quite positive
that there are people who do not deny the past and who are
willing to take risks to foster the awakening. In that sense,
the things that are taking place in Banja Luka are as positive
as anything else happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina today.
Dražen shared with me an article titled "Revolt from memory,
against forgetting," by Banja Luka activist Srđan Šušnica. I
can't resist sharing a rough translation of part of it here:
"One asks if this revolt of Banja Lukans for Picin Park, besides
the context of defense of green spaces and the subtextual call
for a change of the regime of the criminal and corrupt political
oligarchy in Banja Luka and in the RS, perhaps there is a third
context. A context of memory and forgetting? Doesn't the message
of the 'walkers'.say that the citizens are also revolting
against forgetting, against the total disintegration of this
city and its symbols?! .What are we revolting about? For defense
of the park? Well, there's no park there anymore! All that's
left is the memory of the park, memory of one more destroyed
public space and city symbol that had a place in the lives and
memories of generations of Banja Lukans. Are we revolting
because the ethno-political elite of this city stole our
memories and enforced amnesia?
"Just as yesterday they did away with the Ferhadija mosque, the
clock tower.and tomorrow with Kastel, the river, and who knows
what else? are the citizens also, in part, revolting because the
ethno-political elite, in place of the ethnic and urban
'incorrect' mementos of old Banja Luka, they have imposed a new,
'correct' symbolic narrative of some 'new" or 'neo-Belgradian'
Banja Luka? The 'walkers' are, out of spite, recalling that
which the elite wish to force us to forget. The citizens are
remembering a park, a stadium, the old names of the streets and
schools.a clock tower, a time, people, neighbors, a different
order, and different values.
"In Banja Luka the ethno-political elite long ago imposed the
postulate that says that which we do not all remember in an
identical way and which does not bind us into one
ethno-religious whole, must be forgotten. It must not be
written; it must be demolished, torched, ignored, or, best,
marginalized. It must cease to be part of the cultural memory
and part of the cultural continuum of this "new Dayton" city,
Banja Luka. However, that with which they most often wish to
bind us into a monolith, that is, ethnicity and religion, is too
impoverished a thing upon which to construct a cultural memory
nor even to prevent the disintegration of any community.That is
why the political and cultural practice which constructs
collective memory mainly on amnesia and ultra-selective,
ethno-religious and politically-correct memory cannot be
There's much more to this excellent article, but I can't impose
that on you this far into an already-long posting. You can find
the entire article (in Bosnia-Croatian-Serbian)
It seems that everywhere I stay, as you may have already
noticed, my landlady speaks for at least some significant part
of the local population. In Banja Luka my host was a friendly,
engaging older woman, originally from central Serbia, who had
married and moved to Banja Luka long ago, in the 1960s. She
shared breakfast me. She sat on the couch crocheting and
watching tennis matches. In the evening she watched the
broadcast, from Federation TV, of the massive ceremonies in
Mecca upon the culmination of the hajj. Her son-in-law is
Muslim. And she said to me, "It was good when we had Yugoslavia,
where no one cared who was what religion. But now, I wouldn't
want to live in Sarajevo, where there are all those women with
She continued, "What happened in Srebrenica was a tragedy, it's
true. But before that, the Muslims killed three thousand Serbian
soldiers in the villages around there.
"Kosovo is the cradle of the Serbian civilization. It's Serbian.
Why do they want to take it away? How can America take Kosovo
away from Serbia? They're building a monument to Clinton there
now, because he, like, helped them.
"The Albanians were not endangered in Kosovo, the Serbs were
endangered. There was one Serbian woman, they threw her down a
well, and then they threw poisonous snakes into the well.
"In Jasenovac [a World War II Croatian concentration camp for
Jews, Serbs, Roma, and Partisans] was the only concentration
camp for children. One million Serbs died there. [The documented
figure for Serbs killed there is actually around fifty thousand,
according to the
US Holocaust Museum. (Thanks, Andras Riedlmayer.)]
"In the recent war, all were guilty: Serbs, Muslims, Croats. But
it was imposed on us from outside.
"And after the war, it's not true that no one returned to Banja
Luka. They all got their houses or apartments back, and now they
live in Holland, and collect rent on these residences. Then they
come here for one month out of the year, in the summer on
Propaganda Bakery, Banja Luka
Policeman Runs Amuck
On the night of October 21st, a Banja Luka policeman
was arrested on suspicion of committing three crimes. Shortly
after midnight, the off-duty cop insulted and physically
attacked another police official and then took off. About a half
hour later, he broke a window on the balcony of a private
residence. Soon afterwards he drove his car into the fence of
another house, and struck the owner of that house. This
policeman was temporarily suspended from duty pending an
Crims in Charge
Late election results show that yet another convicted war
criminal has been elected. Blagoje Simić will take a position on
the municipal council of Bosanski Šamac, the same town where
during the war he terrorized the Muslim population. Simić was
released from a British prison in 2011 after having finished
two-thirds of a fifteen-year sentence for "assisting and
supporting the criminal persecution, that is, the illegal
arrests and imprisoning of the Bosniaks and the Croats, keeping
them in inhumane conditions, forcing them to labour and forcing
them to move out of Šamac and Odžak between April 1992 and the
end of 1993."
Before the war some 2,200 Bosniaks and over 14,000 Croats lived
in Šamac. A few hundred returned.
Meanwhile, it took some time, but on November 2nd
Dodik's party called for the annulment of the Srebrenica
elections based on "electoral engineering."
A friend of mine lives near the Drina river in a middling-small
town. He has a college education and supports a wife and child.
He had decent employment for a time, but has recently found it
necessary to work in a shop. He told me, "I have never done
anything illegal, but I am in a difficult situation, and I have
to look after my family. The river, the border with Serbia, is
right there. People are smuggling across that river all the
time. I could get in a rowboat and smuggle too. Other people do
it and they come in here with a big wad of 100-mark notes. Are
they any smarter than me? I'm going to wait another year and if
things don't get better, I'm going to go that route."
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