By Tamara Skrozza
When I accidentally stumbled upon the list of items found near the dead bodies in a mass grave in Batajnica 16 years ago, I thought for a moment that it was the biggest thing that could happen to a journalist, that it was a „case“ that could change the minds of people, one which would cause an earthquake.
Because that list – which the weekly magazine „Vreme“ released in its entirety in July 2003 in issue no. 653 – included a number of things which clearly indicated that Kosovo Albanians killed in 1999, then transported to the Belgrade pashalic, were not „just“ members of armed formations or some kind of war prisoners but that they were also „ordinary“ civilians.
Namely, along with the bodies, the following objects were found and neatly filed with the court: several nail clippers, two pacifiers, a couple of bottle openers, marbles, several pieces of gold jewelry and watches, as well as pens, rosary beads, cigarette holders and combs. Mirrors, two packs of Ranital, Bic razors, several khoja records, pocketknives, a transistor with batteries, a phone book, penknives, buttons, shoehorns, a pack with eight tablets of Saridon, a screwdriver, a calculator, a box of Diklofan tablets, a flashlight, a box of Analgin, business cards, and amulets were also found. There was also „a history exam paper.“
When my, now deceased, friend Zivojin Zika Celic – a director, remembered first of all by the popular „Slagalica“ quiz, a truly outstanding man and an incredibly talented filmmaker – made a film about his brother Ivan, who went missing in Pristina, I was also convinced that the world will shift. He disappeared in June 1999 while returning home from work, where his wife and four children were waiting for him. After his body parts were found in 2003 in the Dragodan mass grave and it was confirmed that he was kidnapped and killed, with his hands tied with wire – Zika and the third Celic brother went to pick up his remains, bringing a suit belonging to their murdered brother which they just laid over the coffin.
During the time of Ivan’s disappearance, a group of armed men barged into the apartment where Zika and his wife lived and held guns to their heads. They were forced to leave their home – literally without anything, except the clothes they were wearing – along with their underage son and a girl who was still in her mother’s belly. They barely made it out alive.
However, the silence was also present at the time. No one, on either side of the border, was particularly shaken because of the film, or because of the story, or because of the thousands of similar stories that were happening at the same time in the same place, but also somewhat earlier – throughout the former Yugoslavia. The names and fates of the missing and those who somehow survived are known only to their loved ones, as well as to those who feel at this or that moment that it is politically lucrative for them to use numbers or human-interest stories.
Contrary to that silence, which always follows any similar text, film or series, any research that results in specific numbers of victims on any side of the former state, an unprecedented reaction is created if anyone, on either side, dares to place the truth before the people, thus compelling them to look at each other and, at least for decency’s sake, bow their heads before what their compatriots did to other people.
I was also bitterly insulted by all kinds of people on various portals, on all grounds, because I posted reliable numbers here two weeks ago and said that both the Serbian and Albanian sides relentlessly lied when it comes to what was happening immediately before, during and immediately after the bombing of 1999.
This is not, of course, that peculiar. Threats, insults, lies, spins, and even curses are commonplace in the media world, not only in Serbia and Kosovo, but the entire Balkans. Journalists who write about such things know in advance what awaits them after these articles, they (as one experienced colleague likes to say) „prepare their nerves“ in advance, but they are also always surprised by the severity of the reaction, the degree of linguistic aggression, the level of hatred.
It was me who was surprised this time.
It is interesting that there were victims in all battlefields who, in the meantime, became symbols, symbols that are being talked about and in whose honor monuments were erected, while when it comes to the same symbols on the „other side“ the silence is almost absolute. How come everyone is convinced that they were the ones who were really honest and humane, while „those others“ were bloodthirsty killers? How come, if you dare to say anything, it bothers everyone, but they are not bothered by the mass killers who live there, among them – because, on all sides of the former Yugoslavia, even in Serbia and Kosovo, people who have slaughtered, shot, hanged, raped, tortured, extracted internal organs, tied up, starved, struck, and burned down houses live peaceful lives, without any problems? You drink coffee and say friendly hellos to killers (undiscovered or untried) while you literally spew hatred for journalists who are doing their job? Where does such hypocrisy and self-denial come from?
It seems that we are, at a national level, at all levels, like those people to whom nature has not bestowed beauty and who think only the best of their aesthetic status. These people either look in the mirror or they don’t, or they see a reflection in it that does not reflect reality. But, my darlings, this will not go on forever. Because, sooner or later – you have to face the fact that you have gained a lot of weight, that you are old, doomed, untended. In this case – that „your people“ were victimizers „of others“, just as „these others“ were victimizers „of your people.“
The truth is hard to swallow but good days will not come without it. Whatever we formally call ourselves, whatever status we have, and however „brave“ we are on social networks.
Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.