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28.09.2018.

Wager by Umorni

Samo moram pitati Umornog je li Valez ili Vaskez? :)

http://umor.blogger.ba/

A sunray on my forearm. A few dried conifer needles tucked between the hairs. The sun makes them transparent. An ant moving about in directions known only to him. A blade of grass in his mouth. And my gaze, still sleepy, observing all of this. My ears detect a silent conversation, without registering its meaning. I don't give a damn, I'll go on sleeping. As I'm closing my eyes, I can feel fatigue weighing me down. Just before dawn, as part of a recon operation, we came near their trenches, moved about for a couple of hours, removed a couple of mines and since the order to attack never came, we returned to our positions. Someone's hand on my forearm, a light squeeze and words: “Wake, up! You really don't want to miss this...”

Opening my eyes again and looking at my forearm, the ant and his blade of grass are now gone. As I lift my upper body to a sitting position, a combat vest falls off my chest. These caring, mother-like gestures are not exactly commonplace around here. Still, one of my comrades was making sure I don't end up with inflamed kidneys. Nice, really nice. It must've been Rale. Looking around I realize that apart from a few faces well known to me, there are several other completely new too me. Different, too. I mean we're not a sight to behold, but we're quite different from these guys. They have beards. Long and differently groomed bears from what I'm used to. They're wearing our uniforms, but from my position I can't see the insignia on the sleeves of their uniform. I ask, silently: “Who are they?” Neno leans over and replies in an equally conspiratorial whisper: “Mujos” [Transl. note: mujahideen, coll. mujos] To my next question as to what are they doing here, he shrugs his shoulders and says: “I have no idea. Đokarto seems to be striking some sort of a deal with them, but I have no idea what's the nature of this deal!” Only a step away from us Đokarto is indeed talking with one of them, with others forming a semicircle. They're listening attentively to the conversation. No smiling faces among them.

I've heard of their lot, but so far I haven't seen them up close and personal. Each and every face is unmistakably ours. That strange peasant-like shape of both head and the body. Most of them are young, ruddy youth. At twenty-five I'm not too far from their age either. I rest my gaze on their leader: bumpy head and a fiery look in his eyes. Different from that of others. Maybe the look in his eyes explains his dominant role. His body speaks of many hours spent in labor, hard physical labor. The visible muscles are lean and sinewy. Rale is holding his automatic rifle on his lap, making it look casual, but holding his finger on the trigger and with the barrel of the gun pointed at them. One of them is doing the same. I can tell that the rest of my comrades are equally clueless about what’s happening, but it’s easy to figure out that they’re not to be messed with. And then again, Đokarto is a serious swindler with con always on his mind.

I've known Đokarto since the first days of the war. Full three and a half years now. Actually, I used to see him in the years before the war in my neighborhood since he's much older than me. He was hanging around with those hard-to-define guys who were neither alkies, nor thieves nor neighborhood's tough guys, and yet a little bit of all of that. From the first days of the war, he had this ring, which apparently he was never going to sell, but given the situation he was forced to do it. No way around it. The ring was old, massive, with a stone on it, but nothing too impressive. A person to whom Đokarto decided to offer it would unmistakably like the ring, and following their brief chat, I and possibly a couple of other guys would get loaded with food and booze supplies. After we've moved on and after it's been established that the ring is no longer on Đokarto's finger, he'd inevitably remember that he'd forgotten something and head back. Upon return the ring is again on his finger and logistics on our backs. Đokarto, the magician. I myself never managed to get anything for free from these villagers, not even a bottle of whey for my jaundiced liver. There were stories in circulation that he still somehow paid for the food and booze, but I knew that he hadn’t had any money in his pockets for years. Some even checked his boots, finding nothing but the foul odor of sweat.

Đokarto and this leader of theirs are headed now in our direction. I see the Islamic inscriptions on his clothes. His face is tanned and uncorrupt. Something tells me there won’t be any problems. But again, it’s hard to tell what’s cooking in Đokarto's mind. “Merhaba, guys”, comes the greeting from him. “Merhaba to you too”, we reply in unison. Đokarto asks him: “Which three do you want?” He points his finger at Neno, Valez and King. Đokarto says: “All right. Let's now agree on the time”. The other guy pauses for a second as if weighing different options and says: “Fifteen minutes”. Đokarto waves his head: “Too little… Really too little time!” “Is half an hour okay?”, the other guy suggests. Đokarto nods in agreement and extends his hand. The mujos' leader does not reciprocate, saying his word is enough of a guarantee. Is it really, and for what, all of us wonder. As he goes back to join his comrades, Đokarto is bringing us into the picture: “Don't ask anything. Neno, you're covering the first company, Valez the second and you King the third company. Go from one dugout to the other and take from each, how shall I put it, Vlach [Transl. note: offensive term for a Serb] his military ID card and bring it back to me... Take ID cards from those whose names can go either way too... And make sure you take all of them, from each and every Vlach!” A few quick questions are thrown at Đokarto, but he waves them off: “No questions, right... Take all such ID cards and tell them they'll have them back in half an hour. This is what you need to tell them. If need be, give them a cigarette or two, promise a pack. Do whatever you need to do, just bring them all... I'm not goofing around and trust me when I say that it'll pay off for all of us!”

The three of them get on their feet unenthusiastically, with Đokarto hurrying them up: “Hey, don't sabotage me here. The stakes are too high!” They head off each in their own direction. They'll need less than half an hour to make a round of ten to fifteen dugouts of each of the three companies. Đokarto is silent while the rest of us shower him with questions. After a short while, he finally starts telling us the story, though reluctantly as if it pains him to share the details: “Yesterday, I was in the village... well, one of the villages. I had one drink too many. The owner just kept sipping and I saw no reason to protest. These guys were passing by the shop, and it so happened that at that moment one of the villagers called me by my name. They started at the sound of my name, asking me for the name again. I repeated it for them loud and clear, and the very next moment they all grabbed their guns. Whoa, I said come on guys, we are in the same army, fighting for the same cause, showing them at the same time my military ID card. They passed it among themselves, visibly shocked and not believing their own eyes. So I asked them: “Haven't you seen a Vlach in the Army [of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina]?” This leader of theirs, whom you'd just met, said: “We did hear that there were some Sarajevans here, with a few Vlachs in their unit.” Since I was quite drunk, I riposted by saying: “A few Vlachs, you say. There are more of us than you!” His brow furrowed as he studied me more closely: “Are you some sort of their commander?” “Yes.” “Commander of what?” “Of an intervention company.” “Okay. Well, I guarantee there are more of us in my unit than your people in the company...”

At this point, Rale was shaking his head: “Have you got no brains at all in that thick head of yours! Couldn't you find someone else to outsmart?!” “That's not all, there's more”, Đokarto chipped in. “Anyway, there are 37 of them in their unit. And I made a bet with him that there're at least ten more of us. Next, we agreed on terms of this wager: a ten kilos lamb, the real thing, perfect for roasting, for the ten men exceeding their number, and for every additional man a liter of plum brandy per Vlach, I mean, per man!!” Rale is looking at him incredulously: “You're a complete idiot. What were you thinking?! There are quite many of you in the unit, but no one ever counted you. As we speak, at least one third of the entire unit is roaming the forest, picking mushrooms, begging for food and brandy in the nearby villages, and some even sneaked away to see their relatives for a couple of days. I also know for a fact that two of these, Vlachs as you call them, are now busy fishing on one of the forest creeks…” “So, all is well if we find them, but what if the number is not sufficient, what do we pay?” “Well, the same, minus the brandy”, Đokarto replied in a less assured voice.

I'd gladly burst out laughing. One of those hysterical laughs. Cramps in the stomach are starting, but something abruptly stops them. This is simply not something to goof about. What a moron, what a combination. A Serb enters into a wager with mujos on the number of Vlachs with brandy as stakes… What will come out of this stupidity?!… “And just how exactly do you mean to pay them a lamb, if we lose the wager, because we drank all our money, you idiot!” “Well, we agreed on the real lamb, not money. If need be, we'll nab one in the village, not much of a problem.” I couldn't but feel that this plan just kept getting better and better!

Valez came back. He hands over a pile of military ID cards to Đokarto who counts them one by one. Twelve altogether. “I told Hasko to do another round immediately to find a couple more... And you owe me three packs of cigarettes. I had no time to bargain.” Đokarto checks his watch, wets his lips with a swipe of his tongue and says: “Ten more minutes”. Rale adds resignedly: “You could've accepted the first option of fifteen minutes. It would've been the same for you. No, it would've been the same for us since you dragged us into this mess.” Neno comes back hurriedly. “This is all I managed to collect”, he says still gasping for breath. Đokarto counts them and a small smile escapes his mouth: “It could work out. There're sixteen here, which makes it 28 so far. We're still nine short from the figure of 37. I think that King has most of them”. I felt like throwing in a jab: “It could... only if he made it on time. He's got two more minutes. Who knows if bros are tolerant on the issue of slight modification to the contract. In the business world, these minor changes are often accepted in passing, of course if they work to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.”

Đokarto is looking in their direction. If up to this point it hasn't been entirely clear to him what he got himself into, just looking at them explained the full extent of the fuck-up. Their gaze is fixed on their watches and none of them are smiling. In fact, they’ve all assumed somber expressions and seem fed up with this nonsense, now that they've had a chance to absorb imbecility of the wager. At this moment, King exits from the thick forest. The thirtieth minute is ticking away. Doing his best to make it look real, Đokarto smiles nonchalantly and shouts: “Run King, run!” King doesn't hear him and is dragging his feet over the clearing. “Run you moron, run!”, all of us are shouting now. Although he doesn't understand the reason behind our shouting, he recognizes the edginess in our voices and runs the rest of the way. Đokarto impatiently snatches the ID cards from him… Next, their leader comes closer: “Bro…, bro…”, he was going to say brother or brothers before biting his tongue. For a second or two, he's at a loss of how to address us, thinking of a suitable term: “Sarajevans, the time is up. We won the wager.” “No way, my watch shows two more minutes”, Đokarto stretches his arm to show him the time. He managed to return the clock when no one was looking. “Besides, that's not the point of the wager. We're all interested in the number, aren't we?” He's looking at us with those fiery eyes. And then without saying a word, he turns and goes back to his people. They're talking in whisper now, which signals danger. Rale is no longer the only one with automatic rifle in his hands. Doing our best not to be noticed, we've all taken our weapons, unlocked them and placed them nonchalantly on our laps. Fuck you Đokarto, fuck you big time! The last thing we needed was to have a shootout with these guys within the radius of ten meters. If the shooting starts, chances of survival for both us and them are below zero.

Đokarto is counting the remaining ones, one by one, eleven altogether. I detect a relief on his face. Valez is smiling as he takes another four out of his pockets. He's now talking to Đokarto in a low voice: “Try these too. You have Zlatan, Goran, Damir, but they have Muslim surnames. And this Jasmin has a Croat surname. Just mix them up with others.” Shuffling the ID cards in his hands, Đokarto turns to them and exclaims: “You decide what you want to do, but I'm starting the reading out loud and the count…” He then proceeded to read from and show each and every individual military ID card in full voice to his befuddled audience: “1. Boris A.; 2. Slaven D., wounded twice in combat; 3. Goran B., 4. Zoran B., these two are brothers …. 37. Viktor G, this one is a Jew, the only one in the Army that I know of … 42. Nenad M, the guy with the moustache, one of those who brought the ID cards, and 43. That would be me, and you saw mine yesterday.”

He turns on his heel and returns to us. He's content as he senses victory. After a couple of minutes, their leader comes over: “We accept this as proof. Come in three hours to K., to Osman’s house. There will be a skinned lamb on spit waiting for you there and brandy too. There'll be an extra bottle from me. We're not going to try it. No grudges, okay? Alahimanet bro..., Sarajevans!” “I have to tell you that you are at least two years late. If you came by at that time, there'd be at least twice as many of these names. Just so that you know“, Đokarto says as they leave. Murmur among us is getting louder now. An entire lamb and 7 liters of brandy for us... how many? I count to eleven. Enough for all of us, even for some uninvited guests… We're chatting amidst the thick smoke of cigarettes. No sign of tension from just a little while ago. We figured out the place for a spit, allowing us all to lean against the trees. Duties have been distributed. Đokarto and I are in charge of small logistics, others will pick up wood from the forest and prepare some mean embers. Valez will try to get a kilo or two of potatoes from that widow of his. And some salad too. Neno is already off to the kitchen to steal some salt and margarine… Hooray for imbecile bets! … Yippee, we're having a party, party, par-ty!!

21.09.2018.

Dokumentarci

Ove mi filmove prikažite u Sa i eto me

ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS

Germany/UK/Australia, 2018

On an isolated island in the Indian Ocean, land crabs migrate in their millions from the jungle to the sea. The same jungle hides a high-security Australian detention centre where thousands of asylum seekers have been locked away indefinitely. Their only connection to the outside world is trauma counsellor Poh Lin Lee.

ON HER SHOULDERS

USA, 2018, 94 min

Mobbed by iPhone cameras and pushy reporters, 23-year-old Nadia Murad leads a harrowing but vital crusade: to find the most influential platforms in the world and speak out on behalf of the embattled Yazidi community who face mass extermination by ISIS militants. Having narrowly escaped with her own life, Nadia must now relentlessly recount on radio shows, at rallies, and even on the floor of the United Nation’s general assembly her ordeal as a Yazidi sex slave and witness to her family’s brutal killings. Though excruciating, she forces herself to revisit these realities again and again. For without her testimony, the genocide happening right in front of the world’s eyes might go completely unnoticed.

THE SILENCE OF OTHERS

Spain, 2018, 96 min

The Silence of Others reveals the urgent and ongoing struggle of victims of Spain’s 40-year dictatorship under General Franco, who continue to seek justice to this day. Filmed over six years, the film follows victims and survivors as they organize the groundbreaking “Argentine Lawsuit” and fight a state-imposed amnesia of crimes against humanity, in a country still divided four decades into democracy.

A JOURNEY TO THE FUMIGATED TOWNS / VIAJE A LOS PUEBLOS FUMIGADOS

A Journey to the Fumigated Towns is the final episode made by Fernando Solanas in a series of 8 films dedicated to the Argentinian’s crisis in the 21st century. Based on testimonies, re-creations, archives and photos, this investigative documentary reveals not only the after-effects of the soya’s model and other GMO’s grain productions with agrochemicals, on the health of the Argentinian people but also the global and environmental consequences.Fernando Solanas unfolds dramatic stories and testimonies from locals, farmers and researchers. As a fearless director and a senator, he is convinced that Eco-agriculture produces food for everyone in a natural and profitable way.

WELCOME TO SODOM

Austria, 2018, 92 min

Agbogbloshie, Accra is the largest electronic waste dump in the world. About 6000 women, men and children live and work here. They call it „Sodom“. Every year about 250.000 tons of sorted out computers, smartphones, air conditions tanks and other devices from a faraway electrified and digitalized world end up here. Illegally. Cleverly interwoven, the destinies of the various protagonists unravel the complex story of this apocalyptic society. Their very personal inner voices allow a deep insight into life and work at this place – and of Sodom itself. And you can be sure - it will most probably be the final destination of the smartphone, the computer you buy today.

THE WALDHEIM'S WALTZ / WALDHEIMS WALTZER

Austria, 2018, 97 min

A film about truth and lies and how a dishonest man can rise to power. Ruth Beckermann documents the process of uncovering former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s wartime past. It shows the swift succession of new allegations by the World Jewish Congress during his Austrian presidential campaign, the denial by the Austrian political class, the outbreak of anti-Semitism and patriotism, which finally led to his election. Created from international archive material and what Beckermann shot at the time, the film shows that history repeats itself time and time again.

14.09.2018.

Landslide architecture by Hybrid

http://bicegore.blogger.ba/arhiva/2007/12/12/1265862

Ciglane is Sarajevo's neighborhood built in the early 1980s at the location that used to be home to an old brick factory. The neighborhood sprang up on a landslide entirely in line with the systemic idealism that had failed to recognize the moment in time when the development of a solid and compact state project turned into building castles in the air. Envisaged as the peak of Sarajevan elitism, the Ciglane project successfully ignored the fact that the bigger they are the harder they fall, or that a dung beetle is not supposed to climb trees because at some point it'll inevitably roll down. In any case, upon its completion Ciglane became Sarajevo's first true snobby neighborhood with its residents ranked in three categories: those at the bottom (privileged grounding with bathroom tiles made of the Chinese porcelain, which was the subject of scandal year after year) – with these slots “rightfully” belonging exclusively to the most deserving cadre of the JNA (Yugoslav National Army), next, those pinned in the hillside who for a decade and a half pretended they knew what it meant to have their back covered, especially if it was Mount Everest behind their back (the higher middle class of non-military orientation) and, finally, those who found themselves on top of the hill, mostly inconsequential left-leaning dummies who simply weren't important enough do get luxurious apartments at the bottom of the Bosnian pyramid, ending up instead in scrappy ones with an unremarkable view of the Roma settlement of Gorica. In 1984, at the time when my family moved into Sarajevo's “Beverly Hills” – all nicely tucked between the military superior and civic inferior complexes – Ciglane was a neighborhood with its borders defined by rose gardens, rooted firmly in its hill, and generally solid in all respects. No one expected that an ordinary group of moles could be undermining such a “firm” multi-culti structure.

How did the crumbling down of Ciglane start? Ciglane started its inevitable inclination toward the black bottom already in the early nineties, when the ground, under the pressure of tones of cement and concrete, started dislodging paving slabs and breaking them in half across the middle in the process. As early as 1991, we were walking on trenches. By this time there was no one to take away all the soil that came out and bring things back to normal, and so, some residents began to complain that they hadn’t paid all that money to have shit swimming in plain sight. Still, Ciglane retained a veneer of cultivation until March 1992 when the officers' majority made Ciglane the only Sarajevo neighborhood that largely boycotted the referendum in the city that was predominantly pro-independence. Here Ciglane's landslide really came to the fore. Only a couple of months later, the canon of the Army of BiH was placed in the tunnel on the east-facing hillside, while the main staff of this joke of the military organization moved into a building on the opposite, west-facing hillside, the building that is now home to the Tax Administration. As a result of this strategic positioning of military objects and assets – and with privileged apartments in lower Ciglane vacant since the officer moles had left for Belgrade long before the 4th of April having done their subversive job excellently – Ciglane's middle class found itself squeezed between a non-stop targeted main staff and a non-stop active cannon, while the small fry on the top were assigned the role of being the target for sustaining direct shelling hits. As bonus points, garbage containers were overflowing with Tito’s framed pictures, ranging from photographs to oils on canvases, while empty premises of Šipad Komerc company became home to a masjid – an adequate price to pay for an architectural miscalculation.

Even then no one thought that Ciglane could sink deeper. Even when Bosniak war profiteers grabbed for themselves the officers' apartments turning them into gold-plated exhibitions of kitsch. Even when turbofolk came roaring out of Ciglane's cafés creating a suitable atmosphere and a shortcut for slick Sarajevo's sugar babes to meet their future gift-givers. Even when its dark streets and alleys became the meeting point of junkies and lunatics. No one thought that it could get worse. Only when the first bomb planted under the car of one of Sarajevo's recognizable mafiosos exploded, and then the second, and then the third, we realized that never again we'll be able to look down upon anyone, even if we lived on top of the hill and had a view of the entire city, even if we were the only neighborhood in the city with a fricking inclined elevator (inclined dick, if you'll pardon my French). We became a certified hellhole with the composition of the population from the Eastern Bosnia and Sandžak in the fifty-fifty ratio. Bullet-proof jeeps drive around the neighborhood, with master Ćelo [Sarajevo mobster who died in 2008], logically, putting up a ramp in the street in which he lives to make room for his vehicles’ fleet. He is, generally, a man you meet daily in the local superxafs, along with two of his bodyguards whose guns brazenly stick out of their pockets and with their hands resting on them, as if it's the worst time of the war. But, this is not the peak of the ecstasy. The ecstasy comes when you look up from the black bottom, and you see Breka.

Breka is the only Sarajevo's neighborhood that aspired to take away the prestigious medal for snobbery from Ciglane and probably the only one that managed to degrade itself even more radically than its much hated rival. I remember how long time ago, we, the unruly youth, used to throw Hepo fire lighting cubes at passers-by on the Fuad Midžić street square, the same one from which Selena fled [reference to the song of Sarajevo’s cult band Zabranjeno Pušenje], which is now home to a mosque that appears to have been fitted there through the eye of a needle. I say that because architecturally it was impossible to fit the mosque that big on so small a square and because needle drop deejays have become masters in mixing the call to prayer, and turning up the volume, leaving everyone with ear pain. There is no more Hepo fire lighting cubes’ crew in Breka’s dark streets. They are either in diaspora, on horse or in the mosque (or all three together?!?), but whatever the case – it's some form of turbofolk.

And so I sit in my apartment in Ciglane. I sit and bleat. My best friend's (now in Canada) apartment, next door to mine, was given as a gift to her housemaid in gratitude for her long years of assistance. I could swear that she's the most moderate and urban person in the whole building. For the sake of my mental health, I'll skip the mention of all ministers, scientists and other illiterates who moved in from 1992 until now. We sank slowly, but efficiently, and it must be said that from the top of the hill, or from a bird in the branch we had a rough landing and ended up with burnt feathers and a broken beak. Even if we manage to chirp, it can only be in the rhythm of the Fatiha prayer. I am amazed at how we deal with the fact that the Merhemić square (used to be the Non-Aligned Movement square) will soon become the construction site for another colossal mosque and that our next-door neighbors are nowadays burying sihir, or black magic, in gardens that were used for planting exotic herbs. In all likelihood, it's only now that we've reached the bottom from where there is no further descent, and me... I am just keeping my mouth shut and watching and waiting for us to join the current trend of tumbling down and finally wake up – under the ground!

03.09.2018.

Apartment at the coast, cottage on the mountain by Aime Sati

http://aimesati.blogger.ba/arhiva/?start=40

That we like to complain is a sure fact. We do it masterly and beautifully like Meša [Selimović]. Seldom is our complaining masterly or beautiful, but it does happen. In our everyday lives, our complaining is clumsy, interrupted and marked by the routine cursing of Alija [Izetbegović]. I don’t know which person is universally represented in curses from the other entity. And by other entity, I mean Republika Srpska, not E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Alien. They probably curse Alija too. If you met a Chetnik in the period 1992-1995, and survived, he or she cursed Alija. Old habits die hard. So, we’ve identified the point of convergence. And it’s not a nice one.

I have to admit, we complain for a good reason. Personally, my complaining is directed at the Neolithic population, Illyrians and Slovenes. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time to populate this area of the average altitude of 500 meters. What probably made the idea even more appealing was 5 percent of flat areas and suitable agricultural land. They probably looked forward to ores, silver and digging. They probably looked forward to a natural shelter of mountains and rocks suitable for building fortifications. I get the logic: you’re at sea when you feel like trading and when in the mood for piracy, and on the mountain when you’re hiding, defending or when it’s really hot. Which was the case most of the time. It probably hadn’t crossed their minds that they were going to leave their descendants with a complex blood structure that doesn't function well in the low altitude conditions and causes various cardiovascular problems.

Problems with blood circulation are secondary to creative violence and the drive for robbery. For a short while, I thought that the problem lied in the territorial limitations preventing the formation of larger towns and the isolation of smaller communities, but then I thought of Luxembourg.

One of our bigger problems is that we’re on the way. If someone is headed from Istanbul to Vienna for dinner or war, we’re on the way. And the same applies if someone is headed in the opposite direction. A good idea of apartment at the coast and cottage on the mountain became a wall fencing us in. Which in turn created a habit not to think too much, just to fight and run for cover.

Too much anguish, rage and sorrow has accummulated in too small a space. We could say past is the past, if past was not the present. Perhaps it's not the most important, but it's important to be honest to oneself. We may wish to have a regular income and suffer because of political orgies. We may strive for a good life, pretty things and cry for all the Apple products that we don't have. We may be afraid of the rain. We may be hungry for or fed up with love. The reality is that none of this is important. Within the radius of 200 kilometers around the chair that I'm sitting in, there are 7,000 dead people – unidentified, abandoned, tortured souls. Most of them would nowadays be strolling around, breaking their fast, spending time in meetings, healing others, getting flustered in the public transport, teaching abroad at some university, pickpocketing, parliamenteering... Many of those who had sealed the fate of the unaccounted for by firing a bullet at the back of their head, rape, beating and mutilation of parts of their bodies are strolling around, spending time in meetings, parliamenteering, enterprising. In doing so they are reinforcing another layer of misfortune, sorrow and rage. It seems to me that we've grown accustomed to it being acceptable, normal even. And so we stroll around, get flustered, eat, love, drive, all the while breathing in the atoms of torture of those who should've been here, but they aren't. No room for prosperity there. Perhaps, we should leave this country, for a couple of decades, for killers to finish off themselves, take down everything, plow the land and then send grandchildren back to build cities, apartments on the coast and cottages on mountains.

23.08.2018.

Battle for Žuč by Shoba

http://blob.blogger.ba/arhiva/2007/07/28/1057286

Isto kao i sa Umornim, mislim da Shobi neće smetati što ovo postam bez njegove dozvole. Mozda ovo nekako i dobaci do njega da popravi prevod...

It was a bright and sunny day. July 21st or 22nd, I don’t remember exactly. By this time the war had been in full swing and tragedies unfolded all the time. The bulk of it had mostly missed me. I didn’t press to be in front, preferring to stay at the back of the column. I have never been particularly brave for that matter, and had it been otherwise I might not have been around anymore. Still, I was in the Army of RBiH with all my heart because I knew we were fighting for the freedom and independence of BiH – my one and only homeland. That day, at 8 a.m., I was off to do a shift on the Žuč hill. On the way there, I stopped by the Tito barracks, the so called Maršalka, where we all gathered, took our food and set off, on foot of course, to the top of Žuč – a journey that takes about one and a half hours. I never liked the path although it passed through some beautiful landscape because when the war descended on us, it became ghost-like and desolate in spite of its natural beauty. In order to get to Žuč, you have to pass through several of Sarajevo's neighborhoods: Pofalići, Buča potok, and a few hamlets as you get closer. Coming there always filled me with some inexplicable courage coupled with a primal fear. It was a site of a lot of combat, and our brigade was actually the only one that moved the front line forward stretching the Sarajevo free territory for about 8 kilometers. Now, imagine if each brigade in Sarajevo did the same. In doing so, we had lost quite a few men. Many have been wounded, but we still managed somehow.

Before we reached the hamlet of Jezera, Chetniks started shelling our positions on Golo brdo. We stopped in our tracks finding shelter in a deserted house. The shelling lasted ten minutes or so and then it stopped as abruptly as it started. We figured out they must have thought they noticed something before changing their mind. Firing shells for no particular purpose wasn’t new to them, and besides it wasn't like their ammunition reserves were going to be exhausted any time soon. We pressed on and passed through the village reaching an area that was right below Golo brdo. There was a house there, where we stayed when we were off duty. Occasionally, we used to play cards in front of the house, until the day when Samir got killed by a flying shrapnel. It's still not clear to me how we were so dumb and ignorant of the danger to goof around in such a place, and even less clear to me is how any of us survived. On that day, we had all stormed into the house following the explosion. Oddly enough, out of all of us Samir was the only one who started to say something. However, he was stopped in the middle of the sentence. Holding on to the sink and with the ground shifting under his feet, he just collapsed. His face turned blue as he gasped for air like a fish out of the water. We started shouting: “Samir, what's wrong?!”... It turned out that a small shrapnel hit him through his back right in the heart. There was no hope of saving him. There wasn't even a single drop of blood. He was only 19...

We entered the house replacing the guys who had waited on us. We watched them as they hurriedly made their way back to the city. Only later I realized how lucky they were because had they stayed for another ten minutes, some of them might not have made it out of there. Because it was right at that time that the offensive started. Before I even had a chance to realize what was going it, shells were raining on us from everywhere. We had no clue anymore wherefrom they were firing them. Amid the rain of shells we ran to the nearest trench and headed to where our cannon was positioned because we knew that reinforcements were going to be needed there. As we made it to the trench, still trying to catch our breath we looked at each other scared out of our wits. There was an unspoken question on our lips: What on earth is this?! Blasts from exploding shells became unbearable. They were scorching the earth all around us. I held on to the tree roots because blasts were so strong that they threw us around the trench. Some started panicking and moaning, and I just kept lighting one cigarette after the other. I had a hand grenade and held it firmly in my hand. Three of us shared one rifle because officially we were artillerymen servicing the cannon. The heavy ploughing with shells didn't show any signs of subsiding. They just kept raining on us, one after the other. Soon we heard screams and passing by our trench were two soldiers who carried a third one who had lost his legs. All hell had broke loose.

After an hour and a half of non-stop shelling, the shooting stopped. Next came a deadly silence... I thought to myself that it was all over and that it was going to calm down slowly. After a couple of minutes, a heavy infantry fire started. “They're coming!”, someone shouted. Bojan ran out with a rifle shooting frantically down the hill. The rest of us just sat there and stared blankly into space. At that moment, soldiers from Golo Brdo ran by the trench shouting at the top of their voice that our line there had been overrun. Most of them had disposed of their rifles and we took over their weapons. I grabbed an AK-47 and having regained some sense of composure I looked down the hill. At that time, M-84 machine gun, the sower of death as we called it, started shooting from close range hitting the ground in front of the trench and right above my head. I grabbed the hand grenade and threw it aiming for the bunker. As it exploded, I lifted the AK-47 and started shooting bursts of fire randomly down the hill. Eventually we withstood the attack on our positions, but Golo brdo above us fell. There was no one manning those positions anymore, which meant that our right flank was completely exposed. The shelling resumed and for the next hour they were shooting like crazy. Then came another infantry attack. We thought that our right flank had been completely deserted, but in fact it turned out that there were still a few of our guys there hiding in the bunkers. Our positions didn't come under a direct attack, but after a while the firing back from our right flank had completely ceased. We no longer harbored illusions that anyone was still alive out there. Thinking of retreat, we saw two wounded men holding on to one another and coming our way through the trench. One had been wounded in the head, the other in the back. There was no use in staying there, and with panic setting in we left our position.

On the Žuč hill, we've always had only offensive lines because commander Šehović wanted us only to move forward. We didn’t have even a meter of defensive or reserve lines. I think this was a grave mistake because we were exposed to the direct cannon fire from hills above Vogošća and from Poljine too. Until then, they mostly fired at our positions from Ilidža and with mortars from Vogošća... We started making our retreat carrying two wounded men who moaned in pain. We did it the best we could under a heavy mortar fire. When we finally made it back to the house, the sight that awaited us inside was another five or six heavily wounded men, along with two of our comrades who had stayed back. It was indescribable. Blood and blood-stained dressings all around, torn shirts and undershirts, screams and moans mixed with prayers. In the meantime, the house had been hit twice, fortunately in the roof or it would have been a site of another massacre. We figured out we had to move the wounded men somehow or otherwise they were all going to die. Since I was the only one with a flak jacket, I ran out of the house and proceeded at full speed to the field medical unit located at the far end of the village. I managed to get there at long last. Opening the door, an even more disturbing sight met my eyes: a bunch of dead and wounded soldiers, and a doctor smoking a cigarette and staring into space. In his state of utter shock, he thought I was an enemy soldier. After I explained the situation to him and said that we had several wounded men, he just nodded and said: “Bring them in!” I asked him if he had any contact with the command. He said that the last thing he heard was that two ambulances had been hit trying to make their way to Žuč.

As I made my way out, I again ran back to the house as fast as I could. Navigating through shell craters that kept multiplying, I stumbled several times and once I think it even saved my life as a couple of shells exploded at close distance. My head was buzzing with the sound of explosions and I was not able to hear anything anymore other than feel the pressure from blasts. I made it back and briefed them on the situation. We agreed to carry the wounded one by one in blankets since we had no stretchers. The two ran out carrying a wounded man while I tried to dress the wounds of a heavily wounded guy. His name was Nenad and he was from Alipašino polje. He kept asking me if his wound looked okay and if he was going to survive. I consoled him saying that everything was going to be all right and that ambulance was going to come any second. The reality was different. He had a big gaping hole in his back, in the area around his kidneys, and he was losing blood rapidly. He started losing consciousness and I gently lifted him to see if he was in the condition to be transported. It seemed to me that he was not going to live much longer unless we took him to the doctor immediately. The other two returned in the meantime and my friend and I placed Nenad in the blanket and started running through the shower of shells. He groaned in agony, but there was no other option – we had to run. We made it to the field doctor who looked at us with glazed eyes as if waiting for his own turn.

Returning to the house we realized there was no point in taking the wounded there because there was no one to help them. Instead, we should consolidate and try to organize some sort of defense in front and inside the house. There were many disposed weapons lying around. I grabbed a machine gun and a bandoleer filled with bullets and lied down in one of the craters next to the house. Being overwhelmed by some strange madness I was beginning to lose the sense of self-preservation. I went into the house a couple of times to check on the situation and at one moment I totally lost it. I felt completely free of any fear, and it was true that there was nothing to lose any more. “I can’t take this anymore! I’m going up to the top to regain our positions. Who’s with me?!”, I shouted. All three shouted back at me in unison: “Are you out of your mind? They’ll kill us all!!” Still feeling incredibly self-confident I exclaimed: “I’m off, who’s going to join me?!” In the next moment they all jumped on me taking me to the ground: “You’re not going anywhere!” They dispossessed me of the machine-gun and pushed me inside the small space under the sink.

I totally lost any sense of time and space crumbled in that small space. I fixed my gaze on the door expecting it to open any time and to see hand grenades being thrown inside. It was not a matter of if it was going to happen, just when. Probably, hours went by with us lying down on the floor waiting for death to knock on the door because it was getting dark. No one wanted to be on duty outside anymore, with all of us being too tense and delirious from the day’s horrors. With the dark setting in, we heard voices and someone slowly approaching the house. We cocked our rifles silently looking at each other. My friend standing next to me could not hold back and he shouted: “Who is it?!” “The shift!”, the voice shouted in reply. “It’s me, Učo!” Učo was the platoon commander. We recognized his voice and we all jumped on our feet. We quickly opened the door that we had barricaded earlier and in came around a dozen men from our company. They were still unaware of the unfolding tragedy.

“Guys, go back to the command in Buča potok. We’ll take it from here”, Učo said. I still could not believe the turn of events. Few moments ago, I thought that death was literally round the corner and instead the salvation came. We didn’t need Učo to repeat his instructions as we got ready to head back to the city. On my way out I grabbed a machine-gun just in case. It was already dark and the shelling had stopped. Leaving the village behind, we met a group of our soldiers headed in the direction of Golo brdo. They quickly asked us about a few details, and we told them what we knew. They were Cile’s soldiers, the reconnaissance-sabotage brigade. At one point during this brief exchange, they thought we were deserting from our positions and they were intent on taking us back. However, we were quite convincing telling them our side of the story, with the machine-gun in my hands playing the part too. In less than quarter of an hour, we heard them engage in combat on top of the hill. Later on we heard that they managed to regain the lost line on Golo brdo. Bad news was that my neighbor, who was a great guy and whom I loved as if he was my own brother, had been killed in the attack. His name was Zlatko. May he rest in peace. We will never forget you, Điđikovac crew.

In the next few days there was heavy fighting in which I no longer participated, but I was close enough in the case of need. We lost the line on the other side of Golo brdo, but they did not manage to push us back further down the hill. We dug trenches below Golo brdo later on, which should have been dug long time ago as reserve positions. This would have probably reduced casualties on our side significantly. Our brigade suffered major losses. Brigade commander Enver Šehović and commander of the brigade’s first company were both killed. Our brigade was never the same again, but we still pressed on as much as we could. I was later transferred to the Centar company that manned the positions in Fočanska street above TAS factory.

I often caught myself looking at Žuč and remembering the hell that happened there in 1993. I still find it hard to believe that I survived it, counting my time as before and after Žuč. Eventually, I survived the war working as a miner/deminer in the last year, which also had its portion of scary moments. Psychologically maimed as many others who survived the horrors of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I moved on... and here I am...

I’m sitting now in my warm apartment in New York, slowly sipping white wine and looking at my boots that I had worn the entire war, the same boots that carried me that day through thick and thin. I never put them on again and I am hoping that they will remain just a memory of the time when death was closer than life.


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