Monthly Archives: June 2008

THE CULTURE OF DENIAL

But Visegrad is still home to the Ivo Andric library, the finest collection of his books in the world. The librarian, Stojka Mijatovic, offered us a volume, a gift. “We have taken so many books from Muslim houses we hardly know what to do with them,” she said.

The Bridge on the Drina, the famous book by Ivo Andric was recently translated into portuguese. There was an older translation, but it had been sold out long ago, so it was possible to get it only in libraries, and even so, in the Lisbon public library the book was in such a shape that it readers were not allowed to take it home.
This translation has the merit of having been made directly to portuguese, unlike what usually happens with most books written in foreign languages spoken not widely known in Portugal.

Despite the merit of the publishing house in promoting universal literature by providing their readers with good quality direct translations, there is something wrong about this portuguese edition. On its cover, one

can see a photo of an old bridge, and those acquainted with ottoman architecture will recognize its style. However, this bridge is not THE bridge on the Drina, and it is unlikely that the small river that passes beneath it is the Drina. This reveals the lack of zeal with which the publishing house produces its covers, but it also has a reflex on the perception that the reader will have on the content of the book itself, as it is probable that most of its readers never heard about the Drinabefore, and it is highly probable that even if they did, they don’t have a mental image of it, and even less of the bridge itself (here is a picture of the real bridge)

Much more disturbing was the description I was given of the book’s launching event, held last year at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon, not long before Christmas.
I didn’t go, so I am relying on the description given to me by a girl who was there. It may not be wise to talk about events that we didn’t witness ourselves, but there are ways to valuate the credibility of our sources. In this case, her description was made in the presence of other participants in the event. who did not denie her version. On the contrary, their uneasy silence was a very clear, albeit tacit, confirmation of the version that I will now reproduce.
The event was a success. Lots of people attended it, and the book got a reasonable media attention. The translator, a serb living in Portugal, was very proud of his deed, because it seems that translating Ivo Andric is a very hard task and the portuguese language is not an easy language either. Two more persons spoke at the event: the serbian ambassador in Lisbon, and a portuguese Professor of Literature.
The serbian ambassador spoke of Andric as if he had been a serbian citizen, thus ‘nationalizing’ Yugoslavia only Nobel Prize.
Nobody mentioned that Visegrad, the town where the bridge stands, was ‘ethnically cleansed’ in 1992 and is now a ethnically pure serbian town. This ‘small’ detail was unworthy mentioning in such a pleasant event about a book that describes inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia under ottoman and austrian rule. Nowadays there are no inter-ethnic relations to describe in Visegrad anymore and the bridge itself, damaged during the war is on UNESCO’s black list of endangered world heritage cultural monuments.
The brige was also nationalised, that is serbianized, as the Grand Vizir who ordered its construction was an orthodox christian taken by force by the ottomans to join the janissaries. Thus it became a serbian bridge, not an ottoman bridge, despite the fact that its architectonic style and construction technique leave no room for doubth.

The girl was shocked. When the event occurred, she had recently returned from Mostar, where she had been working as a volunteer (I didn’t ask what she was doing, I never ask anything, I just listen). She wanted to lean more about BiH, and that was the reason she decided to attend the book’s launching event. But Bosnia itself was hardly mentioned. As she told me, she felt she was too isolated there to say anything, and anyway she wouldn’t know what to say in such a surrealist environment where, apparently, only herself seemed to be shocked.

It was denial in its purest form.

Here is a description of what happened in Visegrad in 1992. Sensible souls should take a deep breath before reading it, but still read it. If you get easily impressed, don’t read it all, this small excerpt will probably be enough:

“””(…) But the bloodiest arena was the bridge itself. The structure is visible from almost every balcony and window in Visegrad, which climbs both sides of the valley. Its cobblestones are a stage at the foot of an amphitheatre; the executions were intended to be as public as possible. (…) At the end of June a Visegrad police inspector, Milan Josipovic, received a macabre complaint from downriver, from the management of Bajina Basta hydro-electric plant across the Serbian border. The plant director said could whoever was responsible please slow the flow of corpses down the Drina? They were clogging up the culverts in his dam at such a rate that he could not assemble sufficient staff to remove them. (…)”””

(Blood Trail of Butchery at the Bridge, by Ed Vulliani, published originally in the Gardian in March 11, 1996).

Photo: The Drina in a rainy day. My picture, taken in October 2007.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Art, Bosnia, Culture of denial, Genocide, Nationalism, Portugal, Uncategorized, Violence

SREBRENICA: Former translator whose family was handed to the serbs by the UN Duch Bat sues the Dutch State

Yesterday I received this email, with the mention that it would be important to pass this message as much as possible. I already sent it to all my like-minded friends, but as the portuguese journalists who work on issues dealing with former Yugoslavia are all ( and I really mean all) so morally corrupted or/and stupid (morally corrupted because they have no problem to abuse their position as journalists in order to promote their anti-imperialistic anti-american ideologies and stupid because from their reports I was easily able to conclude that they were totally manipulated by their translators and sources) I didn’t bother send it to those whose contact I have. So for now the least I can do is to reproduce it here, so that from the 10 to 40 entries the blog registrers eache day, it may happen that someone will find it enlightemning and worth to support.

Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker / Society for Threatened Peoples
P.O.Box 2024, D-37010 Göttingen
Tel.: +49-551-49906-0 / Fax: +49-551-58028 / www.gfbv.de / info@gfbv.de

PRESS RELEASE

The Hague / Göttingen, 13 June 2008

First civil court action by Srebrenica survivors against the Dutch State on 16.6.2008 at The Hague
Evicted from UN protection: Dutch Blue Helmets delivered helpless Bosnian refugees into the hands of Serb murderers

At Srebrenica in 1995 Dutch soldiers in UN blue helmets refused to protect Bosnian refugees who sought shelter in the UN forces’ compound and instead handed them over to be murdered by Serb forces even though only a few metres away other inhabitants of what was supposed to be a UN “safe area” were being raped and killed. The family of one of their Bosnian interpreters were refused asylum, along with other UN employees known personally to the soldiers. This Monday in The Hague survivors of the genocidal atrocities perpetrated at Srebrenica will seek to hold the Dutch State accountable for these grave failings in two civil court cases due to be heard before the District Court at Prins Clauslaan 60 at 10 a.m.

Alongside a group of survivors from Srebrenica, Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) / Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) will be demonstrating its solidarity with the relatives in a vigil in front of the Court
building. The fate of the plaintiffs’ relatives was one shared by thousands of Srebrenica’s other inhabitants.

One of the actions is being brought by the UN interpreter Hasan Nuhanovic, whose efforts have long been supported by GfbV/STP. “The tragic fate of Hasan’s parents and his younger brother, cold-bloodedly evicted from a UN office, turned over to the Serb forces and then murdered, has completely devastated his life”,

according to GfbV/STP General-Secretary Tilman Zülch. “His thoughts are constantly revolving around the horrors of Srebrenica and the responsibility UN forces bear for the death of his helpless family.”

Fadila Memisevic, Director of GfbV/STP’s Bosnian Section, believes “Hasan Nuhanovic has found meaning for his life in his search for the truth and his campaign for justice. He has our fullest support in his campaign”.

Nuhanovic researched and documented the terrible events at Srebrenica in meticulous detail over more than 500 pages before taking his case to law, alongside a similar action brought by the family of the murdered
electrician Rizo Mustafic.

A few days after the enclave fell to the Serb forces on 11 July 1995 the Dutch Blue Helmets were ordered by their government to leave Srebrenica, abandoning the defenceless Bosnians entrusted to their protection. The names of 8373 former inhabitants of the UN safe area who were murdered by the triumphant Serb forces and buried in mass graves are known. One of them, Hasan Nuhanovic’s father, was recently identified from remains discovered in one of those mass graves. The fate of Hasan’s mother and his brother remains unknown. Many of the mass graves were subsequently destroyed by Serb troops using bulldozers to conceal all evidence of the crime. The victims’ remains were taken away and reburied elsewhere.

The Tragedy of the Nuhanovic Family:
Hasan Nuhanovic spent the night of 12-13 July 1995 with his parents and brother in an improvised office in the UNPROFOR support base at Potocari, on the outskirts of Srebrenica, taking orders from the Dutch officer Andre de Haan. De Haan, who was in the same room along with a doctor and a
nurse, had been a guest of the family on a number of occasions and was fond of his mother’s cooking. Even so, when news was received that nine men had been killed outside the UNPROFOR base no-one came forward to help the family about to be separated from one another, Nuhanovic remembers in the account he gives in his book “Under the UN Flag”. The next morning, between 5 and 6 a.m., de Haan said to him, “Hasan, tell your mother, your br

other and your father that they must leave the base, now.”

Jasna Causevic, South-Eastern Europe Officer

Further reading:

Previous Press Release informing about this trial;

Were Men and Boys the only victims of the Srebrenica Genocide? published on Srebrenica Genocide Blog (warning, this post has some very shocking images, don’t avoid looking at them because they are real, just prepare yourself to feel very unconfortable)

6 Comments

Filed under Genocide, Justice, Srebrenica, Violence

On Saint Anthony’s day, Ireland says no to Lisbon

Today is Lisbon’s public Holiday, as we celebrate our favorite saint, native born Saint Anthony of Lisbon, a.k.a. Saint Anthony of Padova.

Today the news tell me that the irish voters rejected the new EU Treaty

This thing of having the name of my city on the new EU Treaty may be flattering, but is also a little upsetting, when the slogans against the EU Treaty are “NO TO LISBON”.

When the irish catholics were persecuted, irish priests and nuns were offered a safe haven in Lisbon, where dominican irish founded the church of Corpo Santo, and the Convent of Bom Sucesso, that became also the first institution that offered school education for girls in Portugal. 

This school still exists, and is still run by irish nuns. I studied there (I didn’t really studied there, I just attended the classes and pretended to study), and although I don’t agree with people putting their children in private shools, I have to say I am very grateful to those nuns, who were much more progressive than the portuguese catholics, and, with only one or two exceptions, genuinelly kind. 

So, the see irish slogans saying NO TO LISBON hurts my feelings, as I consider my citizenship as a Lisbon much more important than my nationality. I would have no problem with a slogan saying NO TO PORTUGAL but is puzzles me how can anyone say no to Lisbon…

1 Comment

Filed under EU, Ireland, Portugal, Uncategorized

THE VRAČAR PACK

I am above all a cat person, but i love dogs too, and dogs have a big advantage comparing to cats: its much easier to take their picture. They also have a big advantage comparing to people: I don’t need to ask for their tacit or explicit consent to take their picture. So I take plenty of pictures of dogs.

Every time I return to Belgrade, one of my first thoughts is whether I will be able to meet once again the lovely stray dogs that live in the garden near Saint Sava Temple. I got used to their presence there, and now I feel emotionally attached to them. My favorite is the white dog with black spots on his eyes. He is also the most difficult to portray, so I call him the elusive dog, because of the fact that he is so shy.

When I was in Belgrade last October, I noticed that there was this dog that looked sad and ill. I was afraid he would not resist the Winter, so it made me really happy to see him once again when I returned some months later. All the dogs were still there, and the sad sick dog looked much better.

Cities are not only made of people and buildings. The stray cats and dogs, the gardens, the trees, the birds, they are citizens too. In the case of Belgrade, they are an essential part of its charm and one of the reasons why I feel so much at home there. Now that I am preparing myself to go back once again, my anxiety starts to rise: will the Vračar dogs be waiting for me? I could call a friend and ask, but I prefer not to know, I hate to get bad news on the phone, and in case there is no bad news to be told, I don’t want to waist the surprise effect of finding all the dogs where they belong.

8 Comments

Filed under Belgrade, Hope, Serbia

CHILDREN’S DAY: the right to have fun as a basic Human Right

These children, and some others, have provided me with some of the most rewarding memories of my trips to ex-Yugoslavia.

I have chosen these two pictures because it is quite obvious that they are having fun. Having fun is one of the basic rights of every child, as stated in the Principle n.7 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1959.

Comments Off on CHILDREN’S DAY: the right to have fun as a basic Human Right

Filed under Children, Freedom, Hope