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 6
Valjevo - Photo Album Sept. 14, 1999 (2 images)
Valjevo - Meetings, Mini-Tour, Lecture, Interviews
VALJEVO, Sept. 14 - Valjevo, Stage 6 of our "Tour de Serbia," was the last stop on an exhausting, though highly informative day. Our hosts from the local Rotary Club, Messrs. Voja Jovanovic and Vigor Majic, first took us to visit the site of the bombed out "Krusik" factory. The sun had already set by then, which is why the photo of one of the destroyed buildings was of sub-par good quality.
For the same reason - darkness - we could not film an even more interesting aspect of the bombing. Just back of where the TiM editor stood when he took the picture of the "Krusik" factory was the site where several small homes were destroyed, and many apartment buildings damaged in NATO's attack on the plant. "As usual in these matters, it's the poorest citizens who suffered the most," Mr. Majic commented. "The people who lived in these homes were among the poorest in Valjevo."
But Valjevo is anything but poor when it comes to political activism and the number of media outlets which it generates. We were stunned to learn that a town of mere 80,000 residents has four TV and eight radio stations. And all of them were covering the TiM editor's evening speech, held in a beautiful auditorium of "Valjevska Banka" in the city center, which holds about 250 people. As the visit to Valjevo was organized by the leaders of the local Rotary Club, invitations to the lecture were sent to all Rotarians. The meeting was open to the public at large, though, as evident by the extensive media presence.
Just before the introductions, an older gentleman dressed in a business suit, entered the auditorium, holding hands of two tiny children, probably five years or younger, each dressed in traditional Serbian folk costume. They would have warmed the cockles of anyone's heart. All three smiled at the TiM editor and his wife as they walked by and took their seats in the front row.
But the TiM editor's Valjevo lecture also produced more than the average amount of controversy within the audience. One elderly man who sat in the front row and never bothered to remove his hat, even interrupted the speech at one point, protesting the TiM editor's criticism of the pro-western Serbian opposition. After some hisses and boos from the rest of the audience who protested his boorish behavior, the man quieted down and the lecture proceeded to its conclusion. But when the Q&A ensued, the old man was back at it, trying to deliver his own rebuttal speech, instead of posing a question. It was only after three or four stern warnings by Mr. Majic, who acted as the moderator during the Q&A, that the old man finally gave up.
But another (also elderly) man then got up and asked who the TiM editor really was. "Are you a communist? Do you work for some communist country?" he asked. The question produced a chuckle on the TiM editor's face. "The reason for my smile is that all my life, I have fought against communism, and for the rights and freedoms which such an oppressive system denied ordinary people," the TiM editor replied. "Following my participation in the 1968 student uprising against Tito's communist government, for example, I had spent 20 years in exile from Serbia before returning for the first time in 1989 for a short visit. As for the rest of my life, it is an open book. If you are really interested, you should check out my bio which is published at our Web site, among other things. Do you have any other questions like that?"
The second questioner did not. But the first grumpy old man did. If not a question, then a comment. "Don't have the money for that (the Internet)," he interrupted the proceedings again. His remark was followed by a renewed chorus of protests and hisses from the rest of the audience against his rude behavior.
Of course, the man was rude. Would a well mannered person sit at an evening lecture with his hat on? Of course, his behavior was boorish. Would a polished person interrupt a public speaker in mid sentence? Of course, not.
Yet this was a classic example of grass roots freedoms at work. THAT had been missing from Serbia for 45 years under communism. THAT is what we fought for in 1968. Which is why the TiM editor kind of enjoyed the fracas, and only smiled back at the grumpy old man.
How CNN Reports (i.e., Creates) the News
Following the conclusion of the public portion of the meeting, the TiM editor gave some individual interviews to the local TV and radio stations. After one of them, one young female reporter shared her own Kosovo story with the TiM editor. "When I was reporting from Kosovo, we were all a part of a large media pool," she said. "So I had a chance to observe how CNN, for example, works. It doesn't. It creates the news. I saw with my own eyes a CNN reporter in Pristina literally read the news from the teleprompter which its Atlanta editors had written."
Will the Serb Army Return to Kosovo?
Another female reporter who worked for a local radio station, asked the TiM editor after she finished taping the interview, if the Serb army would really return to Kosovo.
"Well, Gen. Pavkovic said that he would," the TiM editor replied, referring to the Serb general's recent interview (see S99-142, KFOR "Peacefarce" 36, Item 1, Aug. 29).
"But do you think that KFOR would give him permission to do so?"
"Do you ask your enemies for permission? Especially the ones who have already violated nearly every term of the armistice agreement they had signed."
The young woman seemed stunned by the answer. And looked worried by it...
Sabac - "Zorka" Factory
Since the various Valjevo post-lecture activities had not wound down until after 10PM, we hit the (very bumpy) road from Valjevo to Sremska Mitrovica at about 10:30PM. It was close to midnight when we reached Sabac, a Serbian town on the river Sava which is a home to a huge chemical factory, "Zorka."
"Was the factory bombed during the war?" we asked our driver.
"No, it wasn't," he replied.
"That's good. Because it would have been an ecological disaster if it had been."
"Maybe not? Surely you know how many toxic chemicals are stored in those tanks," the TiM editor said, pointing to the large moonlit silhouettes which we were passing on the road.
"They were all empty. And the toxins were hidden."
"They were all empty? But where can on earth can you hide such a large amount of chemicals without causing an ecological problem yourselves?"
"In the river Sava."
"In the river Sava?"
"Yes. All these tanks had been drained into tankers which had been anchored below the water surface."
"Amazing!", the TiM editor thought but didn't say anything. Just as the Nis tobacco factory hid its equipment in the tunnels (see Nis - Meetings, Tours, Lectures, Interviews, Reception, Sept. 13, 1999), the "Zorka" offcials protected their prescious assets. Or as the Yugoslav Army did it in building the tank and MiG-29 "dummies" which the NATO dummies bombed, assuming they were real aircraft (see S99-131, "Peacefarce" 25, Item 3, July 31, and S99-114, "Peacefarce" 8, Item 1, June 24) . The ingenuity which this small nation displayed in trying to reduce the odds against NATO's overwhelming military superiority was truly amazing.
By the time we crossed the bridge over the river Sava it was past midnight. "This is where I was christened," the TiM editor said to his wife, pointing in the direction of Klenak, a small village on the Srem (north) side of the river. No answer. The TiM editor turned around and looked at the back seat of the car. His exhausted wife was fast asleep. Guess she'll have to find out about this trivial tid-bit from our "Tour de Serbia" like everyone else - by reading about it at our Web page.
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"