THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO: One quarter of a century of lies, silence and denial

Tomislav Marković
Autor 12.6.2019. u 11:49

THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO: One quarter of a century of lies, silence and denial

14.011 human beings had died during the siege, 7.808 of whom died in the first year, 3.392 the year after, and 1.601 children had found themselves amongst the fallen. Around 50.000 people had suffered both critical and minor injuries. Fascists had fired around 64.490 shells, on average 329 every day, on Sarajevo; their record, however, was set on July 22, 1993, with 3.777 shells fired that day. So say the statistics of death and destruction, that it was an effect of undisciplined Serb nationalism and its’ killer Phalanges led by Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić; standing behind them was the archduke of the „wholesome“ Serbdom, Slobodan Milošević.

Written by: Tomislav Marković.

Twenty seven years have passed since the beginning of the Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted 44 months, three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad. The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina was under fire by criminals from nearby hills for 1.425 days. The Yugoslav People’s Army, which had suddenly transformed into the Serb Republic’s Army (known by its’ Serbo-Croatian acronym, VRS), joined by countless Serb paramilitary formations, had been killing the city and its’ inhabitants for four long-lasting years, with the logicistical, financial, media and any other type of aid coming from Belgrade.

According to the information received from the Explorer-Documentation Center (known by its’ Serbo-Croatian acronym, IDC), 14.011 human beings had died during the siege, 7.808 of whom died in the first year, 3.392 the year after, and 1.601 children had found themselves amongst the fallen. Around 50.000 people had suffered both critical and minor injuries. Fascists had fired around 64.490 shells, on average 329 every day, on Sarajevo; their record, however, was set on July 22, 1993, with 3.777 shells fired that day. So say the statistics of death and destruction, that it was an effect of undisciplined Serb nationalism and its’ killer Phalanges led by Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić; standing behind them was the archduke of the „wholesome“ Serbdom, Slobodan Milošević. Behind the archduke, however, stood both the intellectual and spiritual authorities, such as the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Association of Writers of Serbia, and countless other  evil free shooters. This is what our pyramid of evil looks like, known by its’ growls and the order of Mladić titled „Raspameti!“ (literally meaning „lose your mind“).

Countless books have been written about the Siege of Sarajevo, as well as many films; thousands of witness testimonies of the horror that Sarajevo natives had been exposed to exist; court rulings for Stanislav Galić, Dragomir Milošević and Radovan Karadžić have been done; the whole world knows what had beeen happening in Sarajevo during the Bosnian and Herzegovinian aggression. The whole world, that is, except for Serbia. One quarter of a century has passed, whereas little has changed in Serbia over the question of the Siege of Sarajevo.

The senseless war propaganda

After taking control of the government at the Eighth Plenary Session, Milošević had all of the media editors replaced by his own men whose main goal was to go straight into the insane nationalist propaganda, a key motive to these narratives being the infamous „endangerment of  Serbdom“, a dogma of Serbs still being endangered in any place they live, that injustice had struck upon them, and as such they had a right to vengeance. Those lies had nothing to do with reality or the thoughtful mind, however, it had spread its’ roots in the heads of the majority of Serbia’s population. It turned out that a lot of people, instead of possessing a type of „gray matter“ in their skulls, possessed a „kokarda“ (a Serb nationalist type of hat), the four „S“ letters or some other type of insignia straight out of the nationalist cliche warehouse.

During the Bosnian War, as well as the Siege of Sarajevo itself, Serb media fired wartime propaganda at its’ consumers like a machine gun, repeating lies day after day, a thousand, then ten thousand, and finally a hundred thousand times – till they became the sole type of truth one could, and had to, believe in. The propaganda machine had clearly let itself run loose, let their imagination do the evil job, and had often crossed the limits of fiction. They were dead serious when calling the bloody Markale massacres scened events, and every victim of the massacres a puppet, therefore creating some of the craziest conspiracy theories and putting the blame on Sarajevo’s defenders as well.

The state television, located in Belgrade, during its’ daily news (Dnevnik) section, had broadcasted an „event“ claiming that the lead singer of the cult band Indexi, Davorin Popović, was in charge of a brothel with underage Serb girls. Afterwards, he was charged with throwing Serb children to lions at the Sarajevo Zoo. It’s one of the craziest made-up stories of these darkened minds which Serbdom had hit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of people in Serbia still believing this nonsense is still considerably large. If all the people who had been presenting this horrible lie as pure truth decided to voluntarily throw themselves into the jaws of the lions at the Belgrade Zoo as a sign of remorse, I’m afraid that the kings of the jungle would have enough food for a few lifetimes.

A local history of dishonor

The whole point of the Serb view of the Siege of Sarajevo had been stated by Dragoš Kalajić, a renowned yet crooked intellectual, luckily, deceased, back in March 1994., stating that: „When I saw Sarajevo up in smoke and flames, I must admit, I felt joy!“. Walking the necrophiliac line were countless other Serb writers and intellectuals. For instance, Momo Kapor, a Sarajevo native himself, used to praise his friend Radovan Karadžić, a poet and a mass murderer, like a religious person. He would visit Serb positions around Sarajevo, watching his birthplace as one with its’ murderers, watching the march of destruction grow. In an interview for NIN, he stated that „It’s a great misfortune, yet a great privilege as well to look at the city you were born in through binoculars, yet cannot enter it.“ A really inspired quote, one sentence being just enough for an honorary seat in the Common History of Dishonor, or a Belgrade street for that matter. The only difference being, the latter is just temporary, whereas the former is permanent.

Serb writers had been working a lot on falsifying the truth about the Siege of Sarajevo, the key difference between them and their journalist contemporaries being the use of stylistic figurines making all of that poppycock resemble actual literature. They wrote novels about the sieges with a specific type of vision stating that only Serbs had been under sieges throughout history, starting from centuries prior, and at that moment, even the last Bosnian War; or even novels which, at the very beginning, mention the Serb shelling of Sarajevo, but forget that fact pretty soon to develop a story of how our people have always been the good ones, and how the others have always been evil.

Not coming to terms with the crime

However, not all writers nor intellectuals had betrayed their conscience and sold it to Dobrica Ćosić and Slobodan Milošević for 30 silver pieces; there had been, and always will be, some honorable exceptions. One of them is the great Serbian poet Miodrag Stanisavljević, the first in Serbia to write about Omarska, Serb crimes and the shameful war on their neighbors. This is his anthology poem, titled „Serbs Piss On Sarajevo“, talking about the siege, published in the „Republika“ newspaper in May 1994,

„Serbs piss on Sarajevo

comparing

the parabolas of urine

with the parabolas of shells.

Why, I ask one of the ,

are you tearing down that city?

That city is a historical mistake

and must be wiped off

– he told me, slapping the cannon’s bottom

And as he repeats „Serb land, Serb land“

My face is spat on

-not by him

But the awkward union of the likeminded“

Thanks to this kind of poetry and satirical columns such as „Umor u glavi“ (translated to „Murder In The Head“ or „A Tired Head“), Stanisavljević had been practically wiped out of Serbian literature, because there is no place for traitors caring for humanity and truth in that poisonous garden. He is not the only one, as there were many more who wrote and spoke like him, from Radomir Konstantinović to Bogdan Bogdanović, from Petar Luković to Stojan Cerović and many, many others. They used to attend anti-war gatherings, around the Belgrade circle and what was once called The Second Sebia. As Radomir Konstantinović once wrote, it was that type of Serbia, which doesn’t come to terms with its’ crimes. However, not coming to terms with the crime was a thing of a very small minority at the time, and still is to this day. Most people were seeing the war from a tribal perspective, consuming wartime propaganda as a regular daily meal; while a few distinct individuals who kept humanity in them were protesting the murders of Sarajevo and Bosnia, most of them – as people used to, and still say – stood „by their people“, only that position was – close to the executioner. As Bogdan Bogdanović stated in a 1993 interview, „And Belgrade quietly watched Sarajevo burn, burn like a torch, looking at it every night, looking at the people getting killed, the Serb artillery  fire at Sarajevo’s children. Belgrade was somewhere by the side, like it was going on on the Moon, in a movie, it was under some kind of anestethic, totally drawn back.“ Belgrade stands by its’ position even today, barely touching the crime scene.

A month in Sarajevo

I had spent the October of 2011 in Sarajevo, at a writers’ residence. I had known a lot of Sarajevans from before, I had a lot of friends in that city, and during my stay I had met new friends; that October had been spent by constant hangouts. The Bosnian War was not something unknown to me; I had posted dozens of reports and hundreds of texts on e-newspapers about the Serb aggression on Bosnia, I had read countless testimonies made by people who had survived the camps or the siege, whenever I would meet a friend from Bosnia we would have always talked about the inevitable topic of the war. However, I had never heard such a great concentration of war stories before that very residence. During that month, when I had been sitting with my Sarajevan friends, war would constantly peek out as a conversation topic, between two drinks, between two cigarette smokes, in a coffee shop, in a park, during a walk, at a restaurant, everywhere. War was not, of course, the only topic of conversation, not even a dominant one at that; it was far from it, just another topic in a row, and to them just a regular topic, like any other. We were talking about literature, politics, life, and a few memories of wartime could slide into the conversation. A normal thing.

Everyone had his own war story, somewhat different from the others, being in his/hers’ own type of war. Somebody was a child during the siege, hit by a shell, still carrying shell fragments in his head to this day;  someone was a Bosnian officer, got wounded, went through hell; somebody’s closest ones had perished during the war, somebody had his house burned down, somebody was a refugee, someone survived a massacre and scenes similar to ones depicted in „The Pit“ (Jama) by Ivan Goran Kovačić… Everybody went through some kind of horror. I realized that a slope was standing between me and my Bosnian friends, a border which will never be crossed. They had been through countless horrors, I had not; I cannot even begin to imagine what it was like for them. Neither empathy nor imagination can help there.

After that, October had passed, and my time to return to Belgrade had come. One early morning I had jumped onto a bus, and in just a couple of hours I had reached the border with the country that had planned all of that hell for my friends. I had crossed the border, entering the country which had started the machinery of destruction and evil. The country where not even a regular story of the Bosnian aggression exists, not even personal, individual and exceptional human stories. What was reality for Sarajevans and Bosnians for years, what was, through their stories, a lesser thing, my reality for a month – it simply did not exist in Serbia. There were only lies, silence and denial.

The yawn after the war

Most of the poems I had published in the book „Čovek Zeva Posle Rata“ (The Man Yawns After The War), as well as a big part of my satirical texts which I had packed up into a collection under the working title „Velika Srbija Za Male Ljude“ (Greater Serbia For Little People) were born from that damn, sick, perverted reality which suddenly spread its’ wings to me in horrid . A paraphrased comment of Dušan Vasiljev came to my mind as the diagnosis of the condition Serbia has been in for decades. Yawning over human suffering, a horrible lack of interest over our close ones to whom we had been evil, a head stuck in bloody sand – that is the picture of Serbia’s moral condition now and here. I know that writing does not do much, but that „box of lead letters“ by Krleža is the only weapon I currently possess. „If you cannot do much, you can do a little“, said „St“ of the band Goribor.

When today’s people start talking about why Serbia is stuck in a pot, why it only jumps over one place and doesn’t seem to go anywhere, why do we not feel better – it does not even deserva an answer. How can a country which had been killing Sarajevo and the whole of Bosnia, a country which had been tearing down Vukovar and Dubrovnik, which had been commiting massacres all over Kosovo and banished hundreds of thousands of people, feel great? A country not even capable of admitting what it had done, much less sincerely asking for forgiveness? Incapable of remorse, Serbia, who had been murdered by her sons – like Brecht’s Germany in the past – sits among the nations as an eyesore, or a terror at that. The evil spirit who had been murdering Sarajevo is still alive and well. Academics, politicians, writers, intellectuals and all other defenders of the knife still keep him in their hearts, and regularily feed him hate and resentment to give him away to generations to come.

 

 

Tomislav Marković
Autor 12.6.2019. u 11:49

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