FROM WESTERN AUSTRALIATopic: BALKAN AFFAIRS
ALSO SEE THREE TiM GW BULLETINS FILED
CONTEMPORANEOUSLY DURING THE
"TOUR DE SERBIA:"
"Tour de Serbia" - Part I (Sept. 13)
"Tour de Serbia - Part II (Sept. 15)
"Tour de Serbia - Part III (Sept. 16)
TiM's "TOUR DE SERBIA" - STAGE 2
Meetings, Tours, Lectures, Interviews, Reception...
Nis: "A Serb City with a Big Heart"
NIS, Sept. 13 - The day started with an early morning breakfast with our Nis hosts at the Nis University faculty dining room. It had preceded our 8:00AM reception by the Yugoslav Third Army commander, Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, the chief defender of Kosovo during NATO's war on Serbia. Which was attended by five other Serb generals and two colonels.
Alas, none of our Nis civilian hosts had forewarned us that the Third Army was also laying on a breakfast spread for us. So unfortunately, we had to start out by being "rude" and refusing to eat two breakfasts, half an hour apart.
But the rest of the meeting with the Serb army brass was very jovial and animated. Especially after the TiM editor's wife (a Canadian who does not speak Serbian) heard the world "sedite" (which in Serbian means "sit down"), attempted to sit down by mistake in Gen. Pavkovic's chair. She was quickly shown by the chief of protocol to her proper seat. She "stayed as quiet as a mouse the rest of the time," by her own subsequent statement.
Gen. Pavkovic also gave the TiM editor permission to take pictures of the bombed out Army HQ building in downtown Nis, which is what we did later that day.
The TiM editor asked Gen. Pavkovic at one stage of the conversation why the Yugoslav Army had not produced more tangible proofs of its alleged shoot-downs of NATO aircraft. The general replied that it was because so many of the "hits" had taken place at high altitudes, with NATO pilots and/or aircraft crashing into nearby countries. "For example, I saw one hit myself south of Pristina," Gen. Pavkovic said. "The (NATO) aircraft was in flames and crashed in a nearby hill. We sent out a search party to try to find the wreck. They could not. Because the crash site was evidently on the territory of Macedonia."
At the end of an hour-long meeting which covered a wide range of topics dealing with Kosovo, and which was, in turn, covered extensively by the Serb TV and print media, Gen. Pavkovic presented the TiM editor with books illustrating Nis's resistance to NATO's aggression. In return, the TiM editor pinned the (now famous) TiM "Stop NATO's War!"-button on the Serb general's lapel who stuck out his chest proudly to receive it (see photos Nos. 1-1. through 3.).
After that, Gen. Pavkovic led the TiM editor and his wife through a photo exhibit at the Third Army headquarters, depicting the "Suffering of Nis" (see the photo No. 1-4) - scenes of devastation as a result of NATO's 11-week war against Serbia.
Chamber of Commerce, DIN and Nis Gas Co. Visits
Following the "breakfast" meeting at the Third Army HQ, we went to the Nis Chamber of Commerce,
The TiM editor also visited the Nis Chamber of Commerce, whose vice president, Dragomir Ilic, briefed TiM about the extent of damage to business and property, as well as his personal experiences during the war. Mr. Ilic later accompanied the TiM editor on a tour of some of the destroyed or damaged business enterprises, such as the Nis tobacco factory (Duvanska Industrija Nis - DIN), the second largest tobacco producer in Europe before the NATO bombing on Apr. 4. One result of that NATO strike is that DIN's main competitor, a German tobacco company, has now picked up some of the market share which this Yugoslav producer had held before the war. This pattern is to repeat itself at several other major commercial factories which had nothing to do with the Serb military, and yet which NATO had destroyed during its 79-day bombing campaign (e.g., the "Zastava" auto factory - see the Kragujevac section of this report).
Zoran Arandjelovic, the DIN director general, led us on a tour of several destroyed factory buildings, including his own office (see the photos Nos. 1- 5. through 8.). He also showed us a huge underground shelter where he and many other DIN workers spent much of the war. Mr. Arandjelovic said that despite extensive damage which NATO had caused to the DIN buildings, most of its expensive machinery was saved, having been moved to secure locations (such the local railroad tunnels).
After giving interviews at a destroyed DIN factory site to several TV and radio teams which had followed the TiM editor's tour with their cameras and microphones, Mr. Ilic and the TiM editor visited the bombed out site of "Energogas", a local company which used to produce butane gas for household use (see photos Nos. 1-9. through 12.). Just as DIN, this enterprise had nothing to do with the Serb military. Except perhaps that Serb soldiers also like to barbecue their steaks. And that many smoke.Visit to School "Ratko Vukicevic"
While TiM editor was touring the damaged industrial sites in and around Nis, his wife visited the elementary school, "Ratko Vukicevic." The school principal, Marina Ostojic, took Mrs. Djurdjevic, a former teacher herself, to some classes (see photo No. 1-13.). Mrs. Ostojic was struck by another Kosovo tragedy when her husband was killed there in 1998, while serving in the Yugoslav Army.
Mrs. Stela Jovanovic, the City TV news reporter who escorted Mrs. Djurdjevic to the school, interviewed her there on the topic "what it is like to be married to a high profile Serbian-American these days." The interview aired during prime time news the same day.
Lecture at the University of Nis
The TiM editor's lecture at the University of Nis Forum was scheduled at "high noon." Just before that, the TiM editor had a short private meeting with Dr. Vojislav Mitic, president of EI Nis (Elektronska Industrija Nis), of the most successful information technology enterprises in all of Yugoslavia prior to the country's break up in 1991.
The lecture started a little after noon, with an introduction by the Nis University rector, Dr. Bane Djordjevic. The presentation took place under the beautiful rotunda (see the photos No. 2-1 and 2-2) in the presence of the entire university faculty, a number of other city dignitaries, including Gen. Jovanovic, the DIN director Arandjelovic, the media and a number of students. The Serbian language version of the lecture can be seen at - http://www.truthinmedia.org/Speeches/serbia99-s.html; the English language version at - http://www.truthinmedia.org/Speeches/serbia99-e.html.
Meeting with Mayor, Vice Mayor, Other City of Nis Officials
At the conclusion of the lecture and a short Q&A, the TiM editor and his wife were received at the Nis City Hall by the mayor, Zoran Zivkovic, the vice mayor, Vladimir Domazet, and several other officials of the City Government - all members of the Democratic Party, an opposition party at the federal level, but a coalition winner in local government elections held in 1996. The other partner in the coalition government is the Serbian Renewal Party (also an opposition party at the federal level) whose local leader, Bane Jovanovic, is President of the Nis Executive Council and a member of the federal parliament. The two parties hold 48 of the 70 seats in the Nis City Parliament.
Mayor Zivkovic said that about 4,000 NIS residential dwellings were damaged during the NATO attacks, 122 of which were totally destroyed - the greatest civilian property devastation toll of any Serb city. Nis was attacked by NATO 48 times on 40 days during the 79-day war occasions, with the military alliance firing about 300 projectiles at the city. Some 234 businesses were destroyed or damaged, 21 of them factories. As a result, some 50,000 people are now out of work
Nis was also the first Serb city in which the cluster bombs were used against the civilian population, killing 34 civilians, and injuring over 200 others (see reports and photos in the "NATO's War" section at the TiM Web site). In total, there were 16 such attacks, which dropped an estimated 3,000 cluster bombs on the city's population. Even some animals became NATO victims (see the photo No. 4.).
Mayor Zivkovic said that one of the greatest obstacles which the City now faces in its rebuilding efforts is a lack of funds coming from the federal government, controlled by Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbs, the country's financial gatekeepers. Rather than provide the money to the legally elected local government, notwithstanding the fact it is run by an opposition coalition, Belgrade SPS officials try to bypass them so as to glean full credit for any reconstruction work for themselves. Mayor Zivkovic said the City had secured necessary funds for the reconstruction of the damaged bridge, for example, from a private German donor/investor. "That's when SPS suddenly showed up on the bridge and started to do their own repairs," he said.
This winter, the greatest challenge will be how to keep the Nis citizens warm who depend on the oil-driven city heating plant to heat their homes and apartments. That's about 22,000 homes, or about one-third of the city's population.
At the end of an hour-long meeting, Mayor Zivkovic presented the TiM editor with a plaque commemorating his "visit to the imperial city of Nis" (see photos No. 2-3 and the plaque.). "Imperial city," because the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who legalized Christianity in year 313, and moved the seat of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople (the "New Rome") in year 330, was born in Nis - thus his bust on the City of Nis letterhead. The Mayor also presented TiM with a book on the city's churches and monasteries.
Visits to Orphanage "Dusko Radovic," Medosevac Suburb
After lunch, the City of Nis officials accompanied the TiM editor on a visit to the orphanage "Dusko Radovic" (see photos No. 2-5 and 2-6), as well as to several other Nis neighborhoods devastated by NATO's bombs, such as the Nis suburb, Medosevac one of the most devastated residential neighborhoods in all of Serbia (see photos No. 2-7 through 2-11).
Photos of Yugoslav Army HQ, Speech at Nis Theater
Upon returning to downtown Nis, the TiM editor did take some photos of the bombed out Yugoslav Army HQ, having first informed the duty officer of the Gen. Pavkovic's permission to do so (see photos No. 3-1 through 3-3 and 3-5). By the way, this is typical YU army administrative building, located in the heart of the city, on the edge of a park, and surrounded by residential apartment buildings all around. The photo No. 3-2 showed the damage which the nearby cafe ("Kafana") suffered, along with the residential apartment building behind it. Our Nis hosts said that nearly all apartment buildings in the area suffered extensive "collateral damage" as a result of the bombing. We could see that many were still using plastic sheets in lieu of windows.
The TiM editor's evening speech at the Nis People's Theater, was preceded by an outstanding choral performance by the City Choir in honor of the guests, conducted by Milena Injec, who also leads the Nis symphony orchestra. After each number of traditional or patriotic Serb songs, such as "Tamo Daleko" and "Ladja Francuska" from WW I, the conductor bowed to the TiM editor, who returned the honor in the like manner. The TiM editor speech was followed by about 15 minutes of Q&A with the public.
Some Crowd Reactions
Following the Nis Theater speech, as the TiM editor walked with his entourage toward the next venue of his visit to Nis - the reception at the City Hall, a man approached him offering his hand. "I am a law professor at the University of Nis," the man said. "I heard you speak both at the University earlier today, and here at the theater. And I just want you to know that it was as if I were hearing myself speak. Congratulations!"
The same professor later on told a group of people attending the TiM editor's reception at the Nis City Hall that he had resigned his Democratic Party of Serbia membership that afternoon.
Just as the TiM editor finished turned around from his brief interlude with the Nis
University law professor, another man, dressed in casual leather jacket approached him.
"I just want to shake your hand," he said. The man introduced
himself as a refugee from Kosovo. He said he had managed to escape with nothing else
but his life from Gnjilane, a town in eastern Kosovo which had been chosen for
headquarters of the American sector. This man was accused by some local Albanians of war
crimes. Which was enough for the American troops to try to arrest him - evidently on the
basis of "presumed guilty until proven innocent" - a KFOR "refinement"
to the cornerstone of American justice.
This Kosovo refugee said he had sat in the back of the room during TiM editor's speech. And was trying to gauge the overall crowd reaction. "It was great," he said. "Everybody was unhappy about something you had said," he summed it up. "Which means you must have hit dead center. I've overheard one man saying, for example, 'he is spitting on both Milosevic and the opposition. Fancy that...!'"
Sept. 21: On Tuesday night (Sept. 21), while in Moscow, this writer also talked to a relative of one besieged Serb family in Orahovac (Kosovo). These Serb people are confined to a radius of a few hundred yards around their homes. If they try to leave, they are likely to be killed. So they stay. And pray to God that one day, miraculously or otherwise, someone will liberate them from the misery to which they were confined by the Kosovo "peace farce."
TiM's City Hall Reception
After the Nis theater speech, Mr. and Mrs. Djurdjevic gave a cocktail party at the City Hall for about 100 or prominent Nis citizens or city officials, including the conductor and all members of the City Choir. It was a small way for TiM to thank for the hospitality which these wonderful and brave people showed, who not only survived the savage NATO bombing, but never lost their sense of dignity and human decency in the process. From Sept. 13 forward, the city of Nis remains in the TiM editor's memory as the "Serb City with a Big Heart." All other attributes are of secondary importance (see photos Nos. 3-6 and 3-7).
The TiM editor also presented a modest donation to the President of the City's Executive Council, SPO's Mr. Jovanovic (mentioned earlier in this report), during the City Hall reception. This private donation was intended for repairs to, and the heating of, the newborn babies ward at the Nis hospital (where three people were killed by the May 7 NATO cluster bomb attacks).
Also, check out... Truth in Media Statement on the Kosovo War, "Wither Dayton, Sprout New War?", "On the Brink of Madness", "Tragic Deja Vu's," "Seven U.S. Senators Suggest Ouster of Milosevic", "Biting the Hand That Feeds You", "A Balkan Affairs Potpourri", "Put the U.N. Justice on Trial", "International Justice 'Progresses' from Kidnapping to Murder", "Milosevic: 'A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery'...", "Kosovo Lie Allowed to Stand", "New World Order's Inquisition in Bosnia", "Kosovo Heating Up", "Decani Monastery Under Siege?", "Murder on Wall Street", "Kosovo: 'Bosnia II', Serbia's Aztlan", "What If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot?", "Serb WW II General Exhonerated by British Archives," "Green Interstate - Not Worth American Lives", "An American Hero or Actor of the Year?" (A June '95 TiM story) and/or "Clinton arme secrètement les musulmans bosniaques", "Kocevje: Tito's Greatest Crime?", "Perfidious Albion Strikes Again, Aided by Uncle Sam", "Lift the Sanctions, Now!" (1993)
Or Djurdjevic's WASHINGTON TIMES columns: "Chinese Dragon Wagging Macedonian Tail," "An Ugly Double Standard in Kosovo Conflict?", "NATO's Bullyboys", "Kosovo: Why Are We Involved?", and "Ginning Up Another Crisis"a