In these grim days, heavy like a leaden sky, I find escape in writing; that is
my flight from this insanity, that's my escape from rude reality. This is in some
way the diary of what is happening, my point of view of everything that is going
on. Everything started on March 24, 1999. I say "everything", but what
I actually have in mind is this madness and insanity. This is not a war, this
is the dirtiest thing one could invent and then do. There are many madmen who
freely walk on this planet, but unfortunately, there are so many who rule it.
We live in a bleak time, in which the shells instead of kisses are being counted;
this is the time in which the song of birds is overcome by the sound of planes
and missiles. A strange time; instead of violets, we smell gunpowder.
Everything started on March
24, 1999, if I remember correctly. The first missile was dropped, and our whole
world was distressed, all of Yugoslavia. The first missile - the first victims.
And how many more will there be? For how long is all this going to last? I am
afraid that all those predictions that say that it will last for only a few days
are nonsense. I take all that with a grain of salt. I don't believe that something
like this can happen on the threshold of the 21st Century, on the threshold of
the new millennium. I don't even trust the announcer on the radio.
The first sirens were heard
in Pec. Awful. I don't have other words for it. Suddenly general panic ensued.
The women and children run to the shelter hastily. I have to admit, I, myself,
am in a panic; I feel afraid. I spend that night in the basement of a building
of my mother's friend. The town was completely darkened. The silence was upset
only by the vibration of the planes. Red light flashed in the sky from time to
time, lasting a few seconds, and then it became dark again. The planes flew overhead,
sowing misery, death, devastation. The speaker on the radio broadcast says: "Last
night, the fascistic powers bombed the heart of Serbia, the heart of Yugoslavia.
There are many casualties." It is cold in the basement. I shuddered at all
those sights. Countless numbers of children, a pregnant woman with a baby. Babies.
Coldness and dampness. I am wrapped in the blanket which an old woman gave me.
From time to time, someone reports that they are flying over Pec. At the same
time, houses are burnt. Pec is aflame everywhere. Perhaps the houses are burnt
in order to distract the planes? Dawn arrived. I've made up my mind not to go
into the shelter, to the basement ever again. If this is fated [God's will] let
me perish in my own house.
New news, the electricity
will be cut off. A curfew has been put into effect from 7AM 'till 7PM, and that
applies to the whole province. Because of the increased fright among people, railway
and bus transportation has been stopped. The schools are closed. The pupils are
dismissed. With a short "good luck" and "so long" the children
are dispersing from the school yard. Many of them turn around as if they wanted
to see their school once again. Because who knows, maybe even tomorrow in its
place it will be ashes. I couldn't help crying.
That day I was promoted,
I put on a white uniform and became a nurse. I will show all my knowledge and
skills. Many nurses from the children's department have been transferred to the
city hospital. There are many wounded soldiers, and we need reinforcement. I work
in the dispensary from 7AM 'till 1 PM. The events in Pec are being talked about
for hours. And everything would be somehow all right, if the sirens were not heard,
and quite soon the black bombers. And then the fear and panic settles in. I thought
that what the children are most afraid of are injections, but I was wrong. They
are much more afraid of planes. Children and their mothers cry. Do those from
above (planes) know what they are doing? Can children's cries reach them? Do they
have hearts? Cowards, I can't find other words for them. From the height they
drop death and then leave arrogantly. The news of the new casualties reaches us
with the speed of the sound. Bloody battles are being fought at the border. The
most difficult one is on the border of Kosara. The ambulance sirens are heard
daily. There are many wounded; many are not alive. Many of my fellow citizens
are gone, many of them from my generation. It is only the third day. And how many
more days, and how much more blood?
March 25, 26, 28, 1999
It is a dreadful scene.
It is appalling to look at the neighbors-since-yesterday leaving. They are leaving,
and they don't know where to and how. For some of them I have no pity. They [Albanians]
asked NATO to bring them freedom and democracy. The sound of automatic fire pulls
me back from sleepiness. The glass breaks. Shattered glass flies in all directions.
We are withdrawing into our "shelter". I've been thinking, while looking
at the columns of people, why one asks for more in life. Who wants more … (loses
what he already has). Memories are rushing back, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984. Disturbances
in Kosovo, demonstrations. I was in middle school. I was fearful, and dreaded
going and coming home from school. We were, of course, escorted by militia. There
were fights going in the school and street everyday. How and where have gone all
these years in constant fear! On Graduation Eve the militia was protecting us.
In the hotel, only Shiptar (in Serbian this is a derogatory term for something
or someone Albanian) music was heard. Even that night, they succeeded in spoiling
our event. During the first fight in which I took part, we gave a good account
of ourselves. And every fight and commotion was on the national basis. We "Skinje",
as we were called by them, were a stumbling block or a thorn in the eye. Why?
We were only where we had a right to be. We did not harm anyone or insult them.
Nevertheless, they saw in us our Serbian blood. Those days passed. In 1984, I
attended the university in hopes that everything would be different. Alas. Even
there we were deprived of carefree attention to our studies and camaraderie. Again
columns of demonstrators; the town was in a total state of chaos. The night silence
was fractured by the sounds of cans, pots, and pans being beaten. All that was
a sign of protest. At each gathering of the demonstrators, there was a reason
given, but the hidden one was "Kosovo - Republic". Today, I observe
them but in another role: heads bowed, endless lines, few of them carrying a bag
or a suitcase. The most essential items can be put in a simple sack. The people
are fleeing from the attack of the swarming black bombers. They wanted NATO to
come and now they flee… the Army has taken over. From some unutterable fear, blood
seems to freeze in the veins. They are going through houses. They search to see
if anyone has hidden himself there. I heard many details about Pec. Much of the
place has changed, disappeared. The town has completely changed its appearance.
Many houses were burnt down and only ashes remain. There is no longer a "narrow
street," now it is "ash alley." Kapesnica Street has become "Burning
Pipe." No sleep tonight. Houses are on fire around us. Tonight we are passing
the test for firefighters. If we save the house, we pass the test with highest
grade. If only those others would stop circling their over flights. Their roar
shatters my eardrums. I am in water up to my knees. But I am not cold, or maybe
I do not feel the cold. If only the dawn would break… the sun will rise if there
is a God.
Today's news of the wounding
of Ivan has moved all of Pec. Children were playing and one friend injured the
other friend. He was taken to Nis. One does not know for whom to be sorry, for
little Ivan whose life is in danger, or for Stefan faced with facts of the horrible
truth. Does this have to happen now when on all sides people are dying? Now both
families are confronted with such horror. On the morning news announcement: "As
a result of wounding by shell fragment from the enemy's bombs, a boy from Pec
lies in critical condition" in the hospital in Nis. The following news spread
through the city: "In the houses of many prominent Shiptars (Albanians) were
found entire plans and lists of the Serbs to be killed." (According to the
report), all this was planned for the 27th of March. It was planned for their
great holiday so that instead of sheep (which are ordinarily slaughtered), the
Serbs would be sacrificed. The authorities found 3000 knives, 500 axes, 3200 baseball
bats, and not to mention quantities of sniper guns, bombs, snipers … Neighbors
who until yesterday were our friends, were put in charge of our street. All this
which was planned was reported to police by a Shiptar who had a conscience. For
that reason people began to move elsewhere. Each house where guns were found no
longer exists. A surprising fact: at the houses of the same people "who would
not trample on an ant," chain saws and thousands of butcher knives were found.
The people are revolted, angry and out of their minds. People have lost their
humanity. Of myself, I would not wish to write - I have turned gray-haired, like
an old woman. Now in town there are no hairdressers or photographers (as it comes
to my mind), in town there are not any of those things. The town has changed its
characteristic looks. Cafes, stores, post offices do not function. Bread, milk,
meat, fruit … there is nothing available. But "the heavenly people"
[nebeski narod - a common way Serbs describe themselves] are managing; barter
still exists (two bulbs of garlic for two eggs, oil for flour, potatoes for lard…).
Today I succeeded in obtaining two loaves of bread. There were a thousand people
in the line, but I succeeded. I will try to bake some bread myself since I have
flour… I will make an attempt - come what may. I can tell you that bread makes
my tongue beat my brains out. And I make "NATO" pie from stale bread.
Today at the clinic I gave injections and I had one wound to bandage. Now I am
entirely dedicated to this, since all the nurses were taken to the hospital. At
the same time I am a receptionist for a doctor and I work in the center for injections.
I have asked the chief of Dispensary II to pay me compensation for my dedication
Today they opened the meat
shop "Brka." I have asked them to put aside bones which I will give
to the dogs in the neighborhood. These animals have been abandoned by their owners.
I am sorry for them. I am afraid they would go rabid because of hunger. There
would be even greater horrors. If someone could see me carrying a big bag of bones
through the streets. Oh the irony of life! While others are carrying [looting]
furniture units, refrigerators, satellite antennas, television sets… I am carrying
bones. The people have rejected God, turned their backs on Him, and are busy looking.
They say these are patriots who are breaking into the houses of Shiptars (Albanians),
and a traitor is he who does not do that. Let them call me a traitor, but I will
not stain my hands. I fear for the future of children whose parents teach them
how to steal, how to loot, and to set houses on fire. What will come out of those
kind of persons in the future? What recollections will they have of their childhood?
They do not play soccer or roller-skate. Their play consists of breaking into
homes and taking all they can carry, and then, with a liter of gasoline, destroying
Tonight, I am alone in the
house. At midnight, they called us on the telephone to tell us that my aunt's
house was burning. My family left. I am alone. Not very pleasant. Despite the
fact that we have been alerted, I am afraid. I sit in the dark, I light my candle
and try to conquer my fears by writing. All at once, the silence is broken by
the sound of the planes. Bomb blasts are heard. Crying, I run out of the house.
I have my diary in my hand and my dog. But in the yard it is more fearful. Black
night. I have never been more afraid in my life. I am crouching in one corner
of my bed. The telephone rings at 1:32 AM. Who is calling now? I sense it is not
good news. Something is happening. I have no strength to pick up the phone. After
a few moments, I answer. I hear my mother's voice. She tells me to not be afraid.
They are on the street … extinguishing a fire. Lock yourself in. They bombed the
barracks. I feel relieved. I go to sleep. At 2 o'clock, I am awakened again by
the sound of the planes, then a bomb blast, then another. The window panes are
shuddering. The atmosphere is horrible. There is no longer any sleep. At 3:15
am, explosions again. That means it is exactly as I heard it would be: they are
taking action every hour. First rumors that Pec will not be targeted because of
its position proved to be wrong. Because this night they bombed us three to four
times. Finally the long-awaited dawn. Finally I sink into a sleep.
With the morning's first
rays of light, the first bad news. In Kosara (Kosara mountain, along the border
with Albania, was scene of fierce battles between Serb forces and KLA guerrillas)
many are wounded and many are dead, but they did not permit the entry of terrorists
on our territory. In Radovci, Salipur (reference to Vidomir Salipur, a commander
in the militia unit, Lightening. He died in a KLA ambush in early April) was killed.
He was known as "big shot". He spread fear among Shiptars (Albanians).
The story goes that mothers would put their children to sleep singing to them
"Sleep, sleep, so that Salipur does not come." (This is my free translation.)
Vojvodic was killed today. It is too dangerous to recover him. They say the battle
for his body will last for many days. Nothing intelligent comes to my mind anymore.
The only questions which arise are who is next, how many more young men, how many
A deep silence covers the
town. Black flags are waving throughout the town. There are no other colors but
black. How many more mothers will be dressed in black? On all sides, houses are
being set on fire. As an expression of revolt, several houses are set on fire
to avenge one soldier. They say 5,000 houses should be destroyed. Naturally, tonight
there is no sleep. We are waiting, but we do not know what for. We are waiting
and praying to God that our house is not set on fire. Where would we four go,
to whose home could we move? And how would the night be in a strange house? I
cannot do that. I do not want what is not mine. I am ashamed of what I see before
me. A crazy time is upon us. The thief is not ashamed of his deeds. On the contrary,
people of conscience are ashamed. Often in these situations one hears: "What
are you looking at? Are you sorry for Shiptars' property? Maybe you're a spy…?!"
Maybe because I am taking a tranquilizer, or because of everyday spectacles of
this kind, I have become so inured that I don't hear or see anything. I know that
this is the best solution for this time. At night, when they are tired of their
looting or when they are planning further "operations", silence falls
across the city. I retreat to my shelter and I let the tears flow… Does the same
merit apply to those who defend their country from evildoers and those who plunder?
Judging from current events, I am afraid that the latter will have much more merit.
If they were to give the medals for looting, 95 citizens of Pec (unknown reference)
would be awarded.
If only my parents had been
willing to go away from here, believe me, I would have been gone too. This is
the second Vukovar (a town in eastern Croatia pounded to rubble by Serbian forces
in 1991). I've heard in the dispensary that they set to fire Beba's (a psuedonym)
house. I couldn't believe it. I am crying, but I know I cannot help it. I do not
dare go there to see it with my own eyes. Who would have minded? I called the
colleague who is her neighbor. His enigmatic answer made me even more suspicious.
I came back home crushed by grief. If there is God, and yes He exists, everyone
will be punished in due course. It has been relatively peaceful in my neighborhood
today, so I'll spend the rest of the day trying to put things in order in the
house, during the daylight, because they cut off the electricity around 7-8 PM.
The scene I witnessed a few days ago still upsets me. A house was on fire in the
neighborhood, the roof was about to crash, and the "mother," if we could
call her that, was instructing her son how to get into the house and take out
the armchair. "My son, take the armchair, it will be such a pity to let it
burn." After a few minutes a wailing: "Woe is me! Woe is me! My lovely
armchair is gone." That night I spit on that woman and gave myself an oath
that I would never allow myself to witness those scenes. And I haven't crossed
the threshold of the gate ever since. Today the sky burst. Even God is crying
watching all this. Is it possible that yesterday's friends shoot each other because
of someone else's apartment, someone else's belongings? Isn't it one of God's
commandments not to steal and not to do evil? The clouds have burst. It's leaking
all over the place. The tiles on the roof have been disrupted, because of the
detonations. It is of no importance, at least I can sleep peacefully tonight,
and there will not be fires. In this outpouring, nothing can be set on fire.
I've mastered cooking to
perfection. How to prepare lunch for several people out of a few potatoes, a little
bit of onion, a small chunk of meat, and beans. One chops everything, sauté everything
together, adds spaghetti, and the meal turns out to be superb. For days I cannot
find anything in the stores, let alone fruit. I feel like eating apples. The other
day I bought two pounds of lemon (that's how much one is permitted) and I ate
them plain, without sugar. I take vitamins. I am scared because I am loosing my
hair, and my breast hurts horribly. I've been told just now that a house in the
neighborhood is ablaze. (I cannot either see or hear anything from my room). We
call fire emergency for the tenth time. First you dial 92, and leave a message
who is calling and why. After that you dial 93, and tell them that the police
department has been informed. By the time they check the record of your call and
arrive, most often without water, the neighbors will have finished half of the
job and there will be little left of the house. Everything is so trivial. It is
uncanny: while they are setting on fire the houses during the night, the planes
are droning as if they were anchored up there in the sky, waiting. Is this a year
of Satan, 1999? Have those people I come across come from hell to spread evil?
If it hadn't been for this war, I wouldn't have ever realized that people can
be such beasts. Today, I counted how many families have stayed clear before God.
And I know you will laugh at this, but there are about ten Montenegrin families.
The rest… lucky are the people who are not here to see their "honest"
friends in the real light. The worst robbers swear and give oaths they would never
do something like that.
My street was quiet again
today. I say "today," but in a few hours everything can change. I take
the opportunity to jot down something in these rare moments of peace. Maybe you've
noticed that I rarely record the dates. That is because the days are so much alike,
the same as two peas in a pod. Only when something major occurs do I mark the
date. The days are flying. I like the mornings the best; I get up with the first
sunlight; around 5:30 am. Those are the rare, quiet moments. The whole city smells
of fire. I haven't gone to the other parts of the city and I don't know how it
is there, but in my neighborhood all sorts of things are happening. The other
night we were between four fires, completely surrounded. We keep an eye on the
next-door-neighbor's house. It hasn't been robbed and burnt as yet. The other
neighbors do not show understanding, but everyone behaves as he or she likes.
We ran out of the batteries for the radio, so we can hardly hear anything. When
we have electricity, we can catch something, but from 8 PM. to 7 AM - nothing
at all. I am dying for clean air, clean water, sound sleep, I am dying for a normal
life. Sometimes I analyze myself: I've changed, I've become in some way serious,
I look at the world with different eyes. I see everything as black. I wasn't like
that, my nature was optimistic. And now? I begin to cry in a second, my hands
are shivering, I often cannot move my left hand. But it will pass, thanks to 5
mg of Bensedine; otherwise, who knows what would happen! I am aggravated when
I hear what's happening: a car passes by and machine-gun fire kills passers-by;
no one knows why. At one point several terrorists were in town: then they were
after them. Then they retreat into shells. One can't live because of the automatic
In every step, danger lies
in ambush, in every step death lurks. Thank God, life is so dear to me that I
don't take chances. Most of the time I am at home. Sometimes I go to the corner
of the street. Today we have survived another "horrible scene". My late
uncle's brother dropped by at my mother's place with the same old stories, how
he is in a kind of hurry about real estate property, how he wants to call on people
and take his brother from his tomb. We have forgotten about Shiptars and NATO,
that is how badly we are disturbed by his visit. If I ever shoot somebody, it
will be him. First of all, young men and children are dying, and all he cares
about is possessions, or maybe he is afraid that we can take them away with us.
He is such a scoundrel. The news on [Serbian] TV comes every 55 minutes. The same
pictures, the same maps, the same information, only the number of casualties increases.
I moved from my "shelter" into another room, because my TV is still
working. Now the announcement says that the transmitter was bombed. Maybe we will
not have TV programs. That will be so good. When I recall the first days and the
movies about the Second World War: Kozara, Neretva, Sutjeska, … I feel like puking
(During the Nato air strikes Belgrade television broadcast old Yugoslav films
glorifying the fight against Nazi Germany's occupation of the Balkans during the
Second World War. The locations were scenes of major battles in which the Communist
Partisans survived against all odds.) I couldn't distinguish the bursts of fire.
They were shooting near the house and partisans are shooting in the movies. One
loses one's mind. I've begun reading a book but I have no concentration. I give
Just as we set out to the
cemetery, the airplanes began cruising. Since any kind of gathering is forbidden
, we give up. Today, I bought a box of cigarettes for 100 dinars [around eight
dollars]. I am delighted. As there are no vegetables, we cook nettles which I
adore. I'll make it as I do spinach, and it will go well with mashed potatoes.
Nettles - as if it were 1941. My late grandmother used to tell me a story about
how she had fed eight children with a handful of polenta and nettles. History
I said to myself a thousand
times: Damned Shiptars (Albanians). They made us all unhappy. They don't give
a damn thing, they are safe. They asked for NATO and they saved themselves. Those
from above - they do not give up. The word is that the Americans and British bomb
Novi Sad and Serbia, the Germans bomb Pristina and Mitrovica, and the French bomb
Pec. And because the French "like" us, we are not being hit as much.
I don't believe this.
Today, Ranka went to Belgrade
with her son-in-law and her sister to visit Ivan. The child is recovering from
his wounds. They left around 9 AM, but I heard in the early afternoon that Ivan's
condition had gotten worse, because the hospital was bombed. Because of the stress,
all his stretches were torn. And the next morning, I learned that he died.
The peasants brought their
goods to sell on the sidewalks in front of the Police building. We were able to
buy some cheese, spinach, and some onions. I was laughing out of despair. We talked
about strawberries, cherries - but these are only abstract nouns. I was pleasantly
surprised when I realized that the pastry shop was open. It goes without saying:
we bought some cakes and "boza". One can also order a cheese pie, but
the line is too long. The burek is made for the army, and only what is left is
given to the citizens. I am looking at the map of Yugoslavia. The story goes that
Kosovo will be partitioned. There are three options, and I prefer the second one.
The first option: Metohija goes to Shiptars, Kosovo to Serbs; the second one:
Decani, Pec, Istok, and Klina will belong to Montenegro; Podujevo, Pristina, Mitrovica
to Serbs. And with the vertical line cut through the territory all the villages
(such as Djakovica, Orahovac, Prizren) will be given to the Shiptars. In the village
near Pec, four young men were killed. I don't know them by their last names. When
someone explained who they were, I felt very sorry. One boy was so young that
I couldn't believe he was in the army. He had just stepped into life. Again the
wave of funerals. And that is what happens week after week. There is a break of
a day or two, and then it starts again. We heard two explosions this morning.
It seemed they came from the direction of Montenegro. They targeted Savine Vode
right at the time when the bus was passing by. There was an army check point in
Savine Vode. They targeted the army. Many people are dead, many wounded (reference
to a Nato air attack on a bridge in northern Kosovo in which a passenger bus was
struck. More than 30 people, including women and children, were killed. Nato commanders
said they did not intentionally target the bus). Only the sirens are heard in
the town. People with cars go to Savine Vode to take wounded to the hospital.
No one can utter a word. First news: 17 dead. We don't know who they are. The
speaker pleads on the radio: "All citizens are asked to, regardless of their
blood group, come and give blood." Many lives are in danger. Panic envelops
the city. I am afraid, recalling that I could have been on that bus. Fortunately,
Jovo (a pseudonym), didn't leave. Her uncle went instead of her. And I - I didn't
feel like traveling that day. That must be fate. I hope that the wounded will
survive. Seven funerals in one day in Pec. Many other dead passengers were from
Djakovica. Two families were burned in their cars. One woman from Decani was wounded.
We'll go to the hospital to visit her. Her life is not in danger. The piece of
shell went through her ribs. I feel sorry for all these people, especially for
Dedic. Ever since his childhood, he was always unhappy. We went to the same school.
He was a great pal. The funerals are tomorrow. One has to endure all this. Nothing
but funerals. The smell of incense spreads through the city