Sunday, November 27, 2011

U Beogradu (Part 2)

Right across the street from the building of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, where we met Minister Đelić, stands the ruins of the Yugoslav Ministry of Defense headquarters.

This building and other targets in Belgrade and all around Serbia were bombed in NATO's 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia (at this point consisting of only Serbia and Montenegro) during the Kosovo War. Here in Novi Sad, all three bridges across the Danube were destroyed. For seventy-eight days, civilians lived in fear of a bomb straying from its target toward residential areas. Sometimes these fears were sadly justified.

The Yugoslav Ministry of Defense building still stands. It's completely uninhabitable, but it remains, in effect, a monument to the suffering during the bombing. No plaques commemorate it, no signs mark it, but driving down Nemanjina Street, a major thoroughfare in Belgrade, you can't avoid it.

No one has blamed me for the war that happened when I was six years old. Everyone's been able to separate politics from real people. To apologize for the '90s would be utterly ridiculous.

But how are you supposed to feel when you see ruins from bombs that had your flag printed on them? 

1 comment:

  1. Tearing down, fixing and rebuilding all the other bombed buildings in Belgrade was a priority and was done extremely fast. It was important for the emotional state of the citizens, and important in order to move on and start working on building a better future.

    But these two buildings remain. The official excuse is that fixing them would be prohibitively expensive (you've seen them - old-style monumental stone architecture). But unofficially, they are a monument.

    They are also a reminder for the foreigners coming into Belgrade, a little bit of that Serbian key characteristic: spite.

    If you are coming to Belgrade from the airport, from the train station, or the bus station, you almost have to pass between these two buildings. And they are almost saying "Look what you did to us". But once you pass them, you see the wonderfully re-built Belgrade, which is almost saying "But who cares, you cannot destroy us all".