La Vita e’ Bella

NATO bombings in Serbia/Kosovo
The Diary published by Granta

La vita e’ bella

Even though I wrote this years ago, even though I am not a futurist or a pessimist, I did not expect this kind of development of events: after all this time, after such an experience, history does not, unfortunately, walk with big steps as Zoran Djindjic, our killed president, hoped…

On 24 March, 1999, NATO begin air strikes on Yugoslavia.

26 March 1999, 5.p.m.

I hope we all survive this war, the bombs: the Serbs , the Albanians, the bad and the good guys, those who took up the arms, those who deserted, refugees going around the Kosovo woods and Belgrade’s refugees going around the streets with their children in arms, looking for non existing shelters, when the alarm for bombing sets off. I hope that NATO pilots don’t leave behind wives and children whom I saw crying on CNN as their husbands were taking off for military targets in Serbia. I hope we all survive but not this world as it is. I hope we manage to break it down: call it democracy call it dictatorship. When USA congressman estimates 20 000 civilian deaths as a low price for the peace in Kosovo, or president Clinton says he wants a non harassing Europe for American schoolgirls, or Serbian president Milutinovic says that we will fight to the very last drop of our blood, I always have a feeling they are talking about my blood, not theirs.

And they all become not only my enemies, but beasts, werewolves, switching from economic policy and democratic human rights to amounts of blood necessary for it (as fuel). Today is the second aftermath day: I went to the green and black market in my neighborhood, it has livened up again, adapted to new conditions, new necessities: no bread from the state, but a lot of grain on the market, no information from the official TV, so small talk among frightened population of who is winning. Teenagers are betting on the corners: whose planes have been shot down, ours or theirs, who lies best, who hides best victims, who exposes best victories, or again victims. As if it were a football game of equals.

The city is silent and paralyzed, but still working, rubbish is taken away, we have water, we have electricity… But where are the people, in houses, in beds, in shelters… I hear several personal stories of nervous breakdowns among my friends, male and female. Those who were in a nervous breakdown for the past year, since the war in Kosovo started, who were very few, now feel better: real danger is less frightening than fantasies of danger. I couldn’t cope with the invisible war as I can cope with concrete needs: bread, water, medicines… And also: very important, I can view an end, finally we in Belgrade got what all rest of Yugoslavia had: war on our territory. I receive 10-20 emails per day from friends or people whom I only met once: they think of us, me and my family and want to give me moral support. I feel like giving them moral support, I need only material support at this moment, my moral is made out of my needs.

(more after the jump…)

People are gathering at homes, to wait for the bombs together: people who hardly know each other, who pretended or truly didn’t know what was going on in Kosovo or that NATO did mean it all the time. We sit together and share things we have: solidarity and tenderness brings the best parts out of Serbian people: there it is, I knew I liked something about my people…

My German friend phones me, she says, I didn’t leave the country, I didn’t take out my children, even my new born grandchildren, I am fed up with everything, I want to lead my personal life. My feminist friend asks me to have a workshop with our group of conscience raising, my other friend wants us to go to Pancevo, the bombed city at outskirts of Belgrade, to give a reading of my novel. But there is no petrol, we must buy bicycles.

We phone each other all the time, seeking and giving information: I realized children are best at it, they prefer to be active than passive in emergency situations: we grown ups harass them with our fears and they are too young to lie or construct as grown ups: they deal with facts and news. Mostly we are well informed, with children networks, some foreign satellite programs and local TV stations.

I think of the Albanians in Kosovo, of my friends and their fears, I think they must be worse off then us: fear springs up at that thought, it means that it is not the end yet. I have no dreams, I sleep heavily afraid to wake up, but happy that there is no true tragedy yet, we are all still alive, looking every second at each other for proof. And yes, the weather, it is beautiful, we all enjoy and fear it: the better the weather, the heavier bombings, but the better the weather, probably more precise bombings. I wish I only knew do we need good or bad weather to stay alive?

And finally, I saw Benigni’s film “La vita e’ bella,” the night before the first bombs fell. The day after it started happening to us too. Maybe, I shouldn’t have seen it, but now it is too late: and I realize, in every war game led by Big Men the safest place is that of a victim.

PS. At this moment the alarm is interrupting my writing…the alarm is my censor and my timing. I switch on CNN to see why the alarm is in Belgrade, they say they do not know. Local TV will say it after it all is over.

About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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1 Response to La Vita e’ Bella

  1. Robert B. says:

    Thank you for your writings on the Kosovo Air War, as it is referred to here in the USA. I can only begin to imagine what enduring something like that must be like. I am curious to know how you view the US today.

    Also, if you have not heard, I read somewhere a few years ago, that this 1999 conflict was the first in history to occur between two countries that both had McDonalds restaurants. For some reason, that seems interesting and meaningful to me, but I’m not sure how to explain why.

    Good wishes, and, again, thank you.

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