PHOENIX, May 6 - The following letter about a life under the bombs was written by Maja Volk in Belgrade on Apr. 23. But due to a circuitous way in which it traveled, it has reached us only now, May 6. Just as well.
For, Mrs. Volks' message is perhaps even more relevant now that NATO has escalated its bombing campaign, no longer even pretending to distinguish between civilian and military targets.
BELGRADE, Apr. 23 - «Dear colleagues, I thought that you might be interested how is it being a woman in Belgrade these days. I am a 'Yugoslav purebreed' of mixed cultures (one grandfather a Bosnian Serb, another a Slovene; one grandmother a Bosnian Croat, another a Serb from Hungary...).
I did my MA in Paris, 15 years ago, my Ph.D. in Stockholm, 10 years ago. I used to live in Sydney in my maiden days, and I wrote a novel about it 15 years ago. I am a professor of Belgrade university, author of seven books, writer, poet, and what is most important, mother of three little children, ages 9, 8 and 3.
Time has stopped here. Our normal lives stopped to function four weeks ago.
No schools, no kindergartens, no universities, no future plans, no nothing.
My latest book, about mothers and daughters within the complicated macho mentality of the Balkans, was supposed to be printed 4 weeks ago. It was, of course, halted. The film, I was working on for four years, was just about to begin shooting in Montenegro, and of course, there will be no film (it was supposed to be a film about our most successful woman ever, the last queen of Italy, who was a Montenegrin princess, the queen Helen of Savoy).
Those are the banal trifles in comparison with the whole situation, but then, it is just an example how every one is affected with what is going on. We watch our collapse like a TV nightmare, a video game, and I still can not believe my own eyes.
I moved from my home in the first week of bombing, after the NATO struck on the heating plant opposite the building I was living in. Needless to say there is no heating in Belgrade, and it is still quite cold outside. The detonations made me deaf for couple of hours, and I was playing a «LA VITA E BELLA» routine with my scared children, telling them «it was just an earthquake.»
So I am a refugee in my own town, living in my parents tiny flat in the center of the town, with my three kids, my mother-in-law and my husband.
At least, we crossed the bridge.
There is no cooking oil in town, and for milk one should get up very early and queue...but then, we have been queuing for years now, since those sanctions...(at that time I had babies and we had to go to the village once a week and fill up the coca cola bottles with milk, then freeze them and pray to God, there will be electricity...), and the queues for cigarettes are miles long (also see «A Slice of Life in Wartime Serb Capital,» Day 28, Update 1, Item 1, Apr. 20 - at our Web site).
But we still sing and dance every day at noon in the center, on our bridges at night, defending them with our bodies.
I do realize that the next step is to proclaim all of us as military targets, because we might hide soldiers at our homes.
Two days ago, NATO struck a TV station which was owned by the President's daughter. But ironically, that station had no news, just the trashy American films and south American soap operas. So we were devastated because the transmission of CASSANDRA and ESMERALDA was delayed for one day. Is that a military target?
Parts of the cluster bombs went straight through the windows of the people living opposite that skyscraper. A three-year old kid died in her own bathroom, killed through the window with the parts of the cluster bomb.
This is not propaganda, this is merely a mother's voice from the real world.
No, we do not go all to the shelters... I can not imagine myself with three kids in a damp cellar, sitting there all night. And besides, we believed that the civilians will not be targeted.
I do not know what to do anymore... But one thing is certain. This is not a peaceful mission. Three million children go to bed with the sounds of the sirens. This morning the TV Belgrade was hit, and in its basement was the only children's cinema in town, and a youth center.
A friend of mine was devastated when the hospitals released all patients home, because they cannot guarantee their safety. So she is stuck with her mother who cannot move, nor talk, nor live without constant assistance. And she has no money to hire a nurse. She is a film critic of that same blown-up television. Her office was in flame this morning, along with her salary check.
Another friend of mine went two days ago to a funeral of her cousin, a Bosnian refugee who was an engineer at a Pancevo chemical factory. When the poor man saw his work go up in flames, he simply had a heart attack and died.
My neighbor is a chemist, working in a laboratory for the police. She is mother of three asthmatic children, and she can not go to the shelter, either, because the kids might have an attack. She turned pale when she saw from her balcony that two kilometers wide black cloud from the Pancevo chemical plant (also see «Huge Toxic Cloud Unleashed...», Day 26, Update 1, Item 2, Apr. 18 - for TiM's eyewitness report about the same incident).
But God is with us. The wind blew it away from Belgrade, and the clouds are over my city every night for these four weeks, since the bombing begun.
This is not the typical weather here at this time of the year, believe me...
You might and should ask me about the poor refugees running away from Kosovo. You don't know what Kosovo looks like even in normal times...
scattered villages, isolated houses, a civil war going on since the Turkish times.
I saw a documentary last year about this teacher, who walks 20 miles every day, from her home in Djakovica to this remote village, just to teach four children in the last Serbian school there. Their parents say, «we would have sold our houses to the Albanians long time ago, if it weren't for her.» She is 30 now, and is still walking.
Albanians are good people, with lots of children, their natality rate is the highest in Europe, in average, they have six children. And now they are under the bombs, with no electricity, no water, nor food; caught in a crossfire, with the KLA behind them, and the Yugoslav Army in front of them. What would you do in their shoes?
But that is another story... the story of mentalities, drug and weapons chain, the Balkan route of heroine, and so on.
But I won't talk about the things I do not know. Nor do I wish to even think about the radiation after thousands of bombs already thrown on my land, and how my grandchildren will look like if they are ever born.
My brother is in Novi Sad. Do I presume I should swim upstream Danube to see him again? (because all bridges across the Danube have been knocked down by NATO).
There are foreigners in my sky every day and night. They are blowing apart my country, (while)telling me stories about peace and democracy.
I know this: if the money spent so far on the bombs and humanitarian aid was just invested in our country, it would have been a paradise for everyone. But the money keeps rolling on; the old weapons must be tested, and the new ones improved. The macho male pride must be satisfied on both sides.
We are the lab rats, and we are still alive... No one expected that.
Thank you for reading this. Yours truly, Maja Volk,. Ph.D., prof. etc....a mother, daughter, sister, wife and daughter-in-law - from Belgrade.»
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