Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"From Enemy Territory" by Mladen Vuksanovic [4]

Recollections of Jadranka Vuksanovic
Vuksanovic's wife Jadranka left for the city on April 29th for what was supposed to be a two-day trip to visit their daughter and bring their son his papers so that he could leave the city. As noted already, those plans didn't work out as the bridge in Brcko--the last way out of the city--was destroyed the next day. In the end, Jadranka's two-day stay turned into a stay of over two weeks. This brief section is her "recollections" of that stay. Although written as a diary, with almost daily entries, it's not clear whether she actually kept this diary live or wrote it upon returning to Pale at the request of her husband. At any rate, if it is the latter she must have done so almost immediately; this section certainly has the feel for mundane day-to-day details that a more polished memoir might lack.

Mladen Vuksanovic's diary is written entirely from Pale and the perspective of being behind the Bosnian Serb lines; the terror being inflicted on Sarajevo can only be surmised. Therefore, the decision to insert Jadranka's recollections in the heart of the text is more than a desire to share his wife's experiences or to keep her "with him" in the narrative. Her experience of being jumpy from incoming sniper fire, hiding from bombardment in basements, growing quickly all-too used to the experience of hearing exploding ordnance all serve as a sharp contrast to the creeping horror that his diary recounts. This is more elemental stuff--underscored by the degree to which her account becomes a record of the efforts taken to acquire bread. Some days, the only "news" she has is "bought bread."

She also notes the sadistic nature of the bombing, which occurs at irregular frequencies seemingly designed to taunt the residents of Sarajevo; sometimes at predictable intervals, otherwise oddly quiet when one has grown to expect shelling. She witnesses an ambush of retreating soldiers. She sees an incident which might have been a settling of an old feud with the war as an excuse. And there is the surreal experience of being able to come and go because of her Serb surname--at the end, she is able to leave the city and rides back into Pale with her daughter (the son was left behind, waiting for the Jewish Community to arrange for a excavation) on a truck loaded with young Serb soldiers. Another reminder of how fratricidal and bizarrely intimate the war was.

They return to Pale on May 16. Now that his wife's narrative has rejoined his, Mladen Vuksanovic picks up from there


Owen said...

Was the attack on retreating soldiers Jadranka observed the Dobrovoljacka incident? Did dhe have any interesting comment?

"excavation" - was that meant to be "evacuation"?

Kirk Johnson said...

I don't really know the answer to the first question, Owen--sorry.

As for the second--yes, that's a typo. Thanks for catching it!