Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adventures in Serbia

The Serbs are incredibly friendly and hospitable. We experienced this particularly when we camped in the stunning mountains of Western Serbia. We stayed in the pear orchards of an older man who makes his own booze from the pears. He didn’t speak English but still he greeted us with a smile and shots of rakia. We were lucky enough to be there at the same time as his children and grandchildren who all spoke English. We spent our evenings chatting with them about life in our two countries. We talked about the Yugoslavian war in which more than 130,000 people were killed. The ethnic cleansing of Bosnians by Serbs that occurred is considered genocide. Later, during the Kosovo War, America, as a part of NATO, was involved in bombing Serbia even though NATO did not have UN approval. Our hosts were very open with us about the religious and political conflicts that still exist among the former Yugoslavian countries. At the same time, they talked about treating people as individuals despite their religion. They were curious about how Americans manage (or don’t) to live in peace despite our diversity.

The view from our campsite


Theron in Tara National Park

While we were in the mountains, we drove through the winding, poorly marked roads of Tara National Park. Theron’s knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet from his high school Russian classes came in incredibly useful. The lakes in this area were beautiful and we went for a swim. We also tried to find a medieval village down a remote road but we were unsuccessful. “Medieval village” has become a code word for any place with think might be non-existent (or hard to find). It’s a frequently used word lately.

The only well marked sign in Tara National Park

While we were in Serbia, we visited the cities of Novi Sad and Niš. Novi Sad has a great vibe in its beautiful town center with countless outdoor cafes. They also have a beautiful park along the Danube. Niš has some incredible historical sites. There are 4th century Roman ruins with mosaics comparable to those in Rome. There is a tower built of the skulls of Serbian soldiers by the Turks to celebrate a victory in 1809. Many of the skulls disappeared when family members recognized their fathers, brothers, and sons.

Evening in Novi Sad

In Niš, we also visited a World War II concentration camp run by Nazis during the Axis occupation of Serbia. In this camp, 12,000 Serbians were murdered over four years. The Germans instituted a policy in which one hundred Serbs were killed for every German who died, and fifty were killed for every wounded soldier. It was the site of the first successful escape from a concentration camp, involving over 100 prisoners. The guide told us that the tall concrete walls surrounding the camp were built after the escape. One of the strangest aspects of this camp is that there is a school built right next to it, since it is in the heart of a living city. I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be a student there, with the reminder of these horrors outside of the classroom window every day.

Crveni Krst Concentration Camp

This week in Serbia has made me spend a lot of time thinking about war and brutality, particularly after just serving two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I really believe that international peace is built by individual relationships. It is about having conversations with strangers, just like we did with our Serbian hosts. Only with these experiences will we breakdown stereotypes, learn to value our differences and, more importantly, recognize our similarities.

7 comments:

  1. Most of the people killed in the war were military and militants. In Bosnia, the Muslims exaggerated their numbers and counted military as civilians. They had the largest number of forces (200,000) and they and the 40,000-troop invasion to Bosnia by Croat army (which was allowed into Bosnia by the Muslim President, a radical Islamist and ex-con, named Alija Izetbegovic) were ethnically cleansing and killing Serbs from the get-go.

    The western media blocked news of all the killing, torture, decapitation and mutilation the Bosnian Muslims and Croats were doing to Serbs.

    The "genocide" claim is a new-fangled definition and is used politically to attack Serbs. The U.S., Britain and German, among others, were backing non-Serb separatists and funneling weapons to them even while the country was supposedly under a UN arms embargo.

    The west did lie about the Serbs and has a whole bunch of blood on its hands. It is guilty of murder and ethnically cleansing Serbian people and stealing their lands for their pet separatist peoples. All for their agenda to break up the former Yugoslavia into little ethnically pure or divided statelets to be easier to control by them.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective. There are always multiple points of view on the same event. I'm interested in learning more about this conflict. Do you have any books to recommend?

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    2. watch this also

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdSJwIIEfyE

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    3. God and Croats (Bog I Hrvati), documentary, English subtitles - Vatican's role in Holocaust
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U0C0G-fzug

      warning, scenes in this documentary can harm you if you have weak heart or stomach!

      hope I was a little helpfull, and let me know if you need more, I`ll help as much and as best I can!

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  2. Do you know wich people sufferd largest ethnic clensing since WW2? They were Serbs from Croatia, on 4 of august in 1995 Croatian military operation "Storm" took place and killed over 2000 Serbs and expeld over 250,000 from their homes. But you dodn`t hear that in the West because Serbs have to be bad guys...

    If you want to learn about this conflict this may give you a starting point:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUuhSGnLvv8
    http://www.zcommunications.org/the-politics-of-the-srebrenica-massacre-by-edward-herman

    and if you want to go deeply into this then you should learn about WW2 on Balkans, and WW1... but the roots of conflicts are even more deeper, a coulpe centuries deep...

    If you want to know why war started in Croatia then you have to read about concetration camp Jasenovac in Croatia were over 700,000 Serbs were killed by Ustase regime loyal to Hittler, about SS divisions made of Bosnian Muslim, Albanians from Albania and Kosovo and Metohija, and of course Croatia and their leader Ante Pavelic, and Vatican role in those 4 years of WW2 on Balkans, and also recently Vatican and German role in the events in 1991-1999...

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    1. Thanks for the information. As my friend Jovanka said, "No one got out of the area unaffected in some way."

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  3. All the facts in this war were twisted. Now we see that ( especially here in Holland ) propaganda did a good job and Serbs were accused for something that Albanians, Croats and Bosnian muslims did together with Vatican, Germany, USA and UK..reasons many. But everything is documented and truth is slowly coming on surface. We have to see Toni Blair, Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright as war criminals who are guilty of War in Yugoslavia where on their behalf bombs were dropped on schools, hospitals and innocent people and CHILDREN were killed. Serbs were main victoms in this war !

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