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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Learned a Lot About the Serbians from this Book


When I was vacationing in Europe before, the people that the Western Europeans would always warn me not to socialize with were the Eastern Europeans - the Serbs, the Romanians, the Albanians and the poor gypsies - mainly because they said they were the ones who were bringing crime to their cities.
Sadly, I never did meet one and I felt the distrust, which may have some validity in it, was greatly misplaced, because stereotyping a group of people as this or that just closes your mind to a lot of possibilities. Well, of course, you'd have to use your common sense and if you feel someone is doing something illegal, then better not to be with those people.
This brings us to this remarkable portrait of the Serbian people by the Norwegian writer Asne Seierstad. It's non-fiction and its like my favorite TV show before, The Probe Team, only done in book form. So you have these stories of Serbian characters and how they managed to survive during their country's civil war.
Interestingly, in light of the attacks last weekend in Paris, you could say that these people suffered the same fate but in a much larger, genocide-scale of suffering, since the battle was largely ethnic cleansing, between Orthodox Christians and Muslims who can't seem to live together in peace, so they had to chop chop the former Yugoslavia into so many tiny countries, and horrifyingly, each other!
The 90s was the decade of ethnic cleansing, from here in Yugoslavia to Rwanda, and I wonder, how would you know if your neighbor was of a different race? What if a person intermarried? Would you kill the wife and not the husband? What about the children? Would you chop them into two?
It's really madness and like Germany during Hitler's time, the Yugoslavians allowed a leader to lead them to hate each other. Before this event, they even hosted the 1984 Winter Olympic Games so I thought they were a stable, progressive country but under that veil was this deep mistrust of each other and the consequences were catastrophic.
Veering away a little bit from the discussion and moving it to tennis, I'm just glad Novak Djokovic, Marin Cilic, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic - who would've played for the same country if their respective countries did not break up - were still babies at that time because the truth is, they would've been killed in all that senseless lynching and the world would indeed be a poorer place because of it.
Right now though, based on what I see on FB, these countries are relatively more stable since I see friends posting pictures of vacationing in Croatia or Slovenia. I really hope it stays this way and their days of senseless ethnic cleansing are behind them.

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