RANDOM TRAVEL JOURNAL ENTRIES
2, Saturday: Dubrovnik, Croatia
the bus station where we have come to buy tickets for the onward
journey to Sarajevo, we sit in the adjoining cafe with espresso,
trying to decide whether to leave tomorrow or Monday. The indecision
turns toward hiring a cab to take us out to some nearby villages
for random hat making along the roads. We end up hiring one Rudi
Kapetanic, who takes us up to a few hill settlements where we make
hats for some small children playing in bombed-out buildings. When
we get back in the car Rudi tells us they were Muslims, but he says
nothing negative about this fact. Rudi is a Croat who fought against
the Serbs near his house on the narrow river channel leading into
the harbor. He drives us over to his house to show us the rocket
damage. He tells us this part of the tour is free of charge. He
genuinely seems to want to talk about what happened.
October 1, 1991, out of the blue, the Serbs attacked Dubrovnik.
On Oct. 18, Rudi’s own house was bombed. He shows us all the
damage that is still visible. The government has provided a new
roof and windows, but the rest will be up to him. He thinks it will
take another year to get the house ready to live in again.
seems to harbor no ill will toward Bosnians, and has nothing bad
to say about the Serbs either. He tells us there are even two Serbs
out of an original thirty still driving cabs in Dubrovnik. Rudi
has too many plans to dwell on the past. He has scored big with
a brand new Mercedes Benz tax-free for fighting in the war. Seems
only fair. His old car was destroyed because of it.
at the cab stand, he shows the other drivers some balloons and suddenly
they all want hats for themselves. One of them insists on buying
us a beer afterwards to show his appreciation, even though he speaks
no English. So, we sit smiling and drinking back in the station
café where the day had started.
town itself has an empty spirit. A tourist town 100%, pulled into
a war, can’t relate to itself without the odious, yet missing,
pieces of the pie — people like US.
7, Thursday: Near Sarajevo, Bosnia
Ljubinici and Ljesebo in the district of Ilijas where the women
and children of Srebrenica (and the few men who survived) have been
placed briefly pending more permanent settlement.
a chance meeting in a park, we’ve been invited by Sean Moffatt
of the American Refugee Committee to accompany him and his colleagues
on a field trip to survey the displaced people from the July 1995
attack on Srebrenica. In two days that month six thousand men were
lined up and shot after they had been ordered to remove their shoes.
Sean tells of one man who made it out by lying in the killing field
after the shooting and playing dead for two days before running
away. The women were put in camps until the Dayton Accords in 96.
After that they were moved to an abandoned Serb village 20K outside
Sarajevo in the municipality of Ilijas. The goal of the Dutch government-funded
project of the ARC is to ask each family how many members were lost,
how much livestock they had before the war, their skills, the numbers
and ages of their children, whether they would like a sheep or a
goat for reparation, etc, etc. The next phase of the project will
be to start handicraft projects for the women with knitting skills
(give them wool to knit sweaters in their homes and sell them at
market) or failing knitting skills, provide greenhouses and training
for year-round growing.
says they will never return to Srebrenica even though some of them
may want to think so. More trouble will come when the Serbs try
to return to Ilijas to what were their own houses. Sean thinks the
women will come out screaming rapist! Murderer! Who can blame them?
There are an awful lot of two year-olds here without fathers. When
I ask Sanjin about this, he just says, "Well, you know what
happened there, don’t you?" Nobody will really answer
the question directly. I suppose it doesn’t help anyone around
here to have anything like that mentioned overtly. Of course some
of the young women just can’t seem to look us in the eye at
all. We can’t imagine what they’ve been through. But
others are a testament to human resiliency. They couldn’t
be more hospitable and full of humor. Too many coffees and cokes
makes for a buzzy afternoon, but we just can’t refuse the
11, Monday: Sarajevo
in old Sarajevo, there was a thirty-two year old cafe owner, who
saw us out on the square and asked us to come sit with him after
everyone else had gotten a hat. He sat at a table by the window
with a balloon hat on his own head, drinking strong coffee and telling
us how he'd deserted the army during the war when, as he put it,
his "psycholog went wrong." After his desertion, he hadn't
even thought to run away in shame, but had come straight back to
his old neighborhood because his elderly father could no longer
run the family cafe. His own personal duty during the war, he discovered,
was not to carry a gun and fight, but to open up shop every morning
and create the feeling of a normal city life with his customers,
even as the bombs dropped all around them. He said his balloon hat
reminded him of that duty we all have to share any joy we feel,
even for a moment, especially in the worst of circumstances.