In the year I was born, Sarajevo had showed the world the power of unity.
In 1984, Yugoslavia’s industrial center held the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics and for as long as the event was carried on, the town and its people seemed vibrant and hopeful like the rosy-cheeked teens you would meet at random at her streets, attempting to shed the cold by running off into a restaurant or a café. During those days, all they had to run away from was the freezing winds of winter.
Yugoslavia was traditionally the most diverse country in Europe. That is a well-known fact. Colors flashed before the world’s eyes and tongues dared not to doubt its people’s acceptance of one another. Muslims, Catholics, Czechs, Jews, Germans living together, worshipping together, doing business with one another in a seemingly harmonious manner. It all looked far from perfect but tolerant enough. Maybe, just maybe, some would have said it then, WWII had taught its population lessons they would never forget.
Lessons dealing with intolerance and resentment one should never forget.
Or maybe the war didn’t teach anybody a thing.
Numbers are not enough to illustrate the kind of loss we’re talking about here. The Bosnian War exposed an open sore that is still fresh, like the wound in the flesh of a weak animal never seems to cicatrize. You can see through the decaying muscles and it smells like rotten meat.
I’m not Bosnian and I’m not a Serb. I’m not a Croatian, nor a Slovak. I’m not European. My father was Brazilian and so is my mother. My grandparents were mostly born in Portugal with the exception of one of my paternal grandparents who we believe may have been Dutch. They all looked different from one another. My mother’s mother looked Jewish and her husband looked Gaul. My father’s mother looked Hungarian and her husband looked like a gipsy king.
I do not know of any family members who were originally from Eastern Europe. I have never asked my father about my grandfather’s true origins. I believe our history is grand and worth searching but I really do not mind. History itself is enough.
Mankind is enough for me and the history of one man’s defiance is also my own.
Modern times have seen the type of genocide only monsters were known for committing. Monsters like the vegetarian dictator of Germany, the genocidal warlord of Mongolia or the organized criminals who decided Tutsis should be extinguished from the face of earth. A type of killing spree that could be easily classified as ethnical cleansing. And it is.
Modern eyes have seen eyes thirsty for blood. Blindfolded to what history has proved not to be wrong or right but roundly bad. Modern history has known that history has not a damn thing to teach. “It is going to be a feast”, a general went on to claim. “There will be blood up to your knees”. The monster that allegedly used these words to declare to his battalion that the war was worth it is only now being tried before international justice. At this very moment, after long years of running, Ratko Mladic was finally caught and is now waiting to be judged before the world’s eyes but the world’s eyes no longer see: all I ask is,
Have they ever?
We haven’t learned a thing from the consequences of our ancestors’ actions and we shall continue doing so, ferociously. Eagerly. Like vultures, we cannot seem to link our loathsome appearance with the kind of prey we covet. We ask not what we can do to change it around and meet each other in the middle, we replicate.
We repeat. Like trained monkeys or lousy parrots, we repeat the actions without judging the consequences. We burn in the hell we engineer and we call it home.
Our words are nothing but certified copy and our presence shallow waters. Disease-filled mosquitoes hover about us. A murder of crows fly above us. Vultures sit and wait, a few feet away from us and we don’t get it.
“But we don’t hate. We still don’t hate”, a young Croatian woman who had lost everything had told a journalist amidst tears. Vulkovar in flames in the background. While I write this, an angered and terrifying-looking man screams from across the street: “shut up! Shut the fuck up!”.
From the third floor of my building, a group of Latin folks crying a prayer in unison. ~