Wednesday, January 08, 2014

"From Enemy Territory" by Mladen Vuksanovic [6]

16 May to 15 July 1992 [pp. 124-165]

Although Pale, as a town inhabited by people living in houses and walking on streets past shops and cafes, will continue to exist, the Pale that Vuksanovic knows, the once-tolerant place inhabited by Serbs and Muslims is dying right before his eyes. In the final pages of his diary, he records the final death throes of what used to be his home. 

Cease fire agreements and the takeover of the airport by the United Nations briefly give hope, but within a few days he writes 

"It's the easiest thing to recognize fools here--they're the ones who believe in the latest cease-fire agreement."

There is no longer any question about any future for Vuksanovic and his wife in Pale; the madness is spreading into every nook and cranny. More and more hungry Serbs from elsewhere in Bosnia show up to take possession of abandoned homes, and increasingly they are not waiting for these homes to be vacant. Nationalist former friends show up late at night bearing weapons and vague threats; they stay and drink the Vuksanovics' booze while railing against "jihadists", "ustashe", and disloyal Serbs--Serbs like Vuksanovic, who recognizes that his last name and his ethnicity won't protect him much longer.

A friend comes to stay in the house, hiding for days on end. Other Muslims come on the night before they are to leave. A Serb official and a Muslim collaborator come to the house to "assure" them that they could have slept in their own house that night, as it is known they are leaving the next day. The threat is implied.

It probably was not necessary--the last Muslims of Pale, except for one elderly woman and one other woman who is married to a Serb man. The rest sell what they cannot carry, and queue up for buses taking them away. More and more Serbs show up to take their homes; some of them move into Vuksanovic's mothers' home. The new owners take everything that the former occupants left which they do not want out in the yards and streets and burn it all. The air is choked with the fires.

Vuksanovic and his wife get passes to leave, and one for the friend staying with them as well. They get the good news that their son has also received his papers at the same time. In the meantime, a Serb refugee family from Zenica has shown up to take their house; Mladen and his wife show them around, explain how the heater works and which plants are planted in what part of the garden. The house his parents built and the garden his mother created are about to be turned over to strangers. A Serb family takes in the last two puppies. His home is now his past.

The final couple of entries summarize their successful trip out of Pale and out of Bosnia; first to Serbia and Belgrade where the friend they sheltered is reunited with his wife. Then on through Hungary, Slovenia, and finally Croatia. Istria, their final destination, is just ahead. And here the diary ends.

There is a short afterword which I will review next; I'll give my final thoughts on the book in that post as well.

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