Rage unites battered town
 
 Pancevo is the most-bombed settlement in northern Serbia. As residents
 shelter in cellars by night, they share fury at the West
 
 By Maggie O'Kane in Pancevo
 Tuesday April 13, 1999
 The Guardian
 
 At about the same time as Madeleine Albright was rallying the 19
 members of Nato yesterday morning to continue the bombing, a couple
 were sitting in the sun outside the highest apartment block of the
 most bombed town in northern Serbia.
 
 Pancevo is the kind of town that will probably never make it into the
 guide book. Twelve miles north of Belgrade, past the green
 triple-spanned bridge over the Danube, Pancevo has its own little
 river complete with clapped-out cruise boats and overhung with budding
 willow trees. It also has a huge oil production plant. So, for almost
 three weeks, the skies over Pancevo's pretty streets have been busy.
 
 The couple on the bench, Bijlena and Vladimir Korski, live on National
 Army Street and have been there for most of their 30 years.
 
 She is a pharmacist, and when she tries hard she resurrects schoolgirl
 English to say about the war: "It's not so bad, really. We could live
 this way for a long time for all Nato's power this is not really a big
 deal.
 
 "Hopefully after a while they'll just get bored and leave us alone."
 
 Does she blame President Milosevic for the conflict? Would she like to
 see him gone?
 
 "Right now," says Bijlena, "I have only one enemy and that's the
 people who are bombing me and my children."
 
 The Korskis have two children, Milan, aged eight, and Marco, aged
 three. When the bombing started they bought each of them a white
 rabbit, to "try and distract them and make things nice".
 
 At night when they are waiting for the air raid sirens, they replay
 videos: Aladdin, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
 
 "I am," Bijlena says, "full of rage. I want the best for my children.
 I want them to play with computers. I don't want them to be scared."
 
 Her neighbour Sonya, a 38-year-old lawyer, wanders by: "In the last
 two weeks of this bombing started I've got to know people I've seen
 around for years. Now we're speaking to each other, we're all in the
 cellars together.
 
 "The bombing has brought us closer together."
 
 Next to Pancevo's old church two plump altar boys sit in Father
 Milovic's presbytery drinking orange juice and finishing off the last
 of the painted hard-boiled eggs from Easter, each delicately coloured
 in shades of purple, orange and yellow.
 
 After 50 years of being 'crucified' by communism, and now finally,
 being able to practise their faith freely, the priests of the Serb
 Orthodox Church are not known for their radical voice or for even
 mentioning Kosovo refugees. But Father Milovic understands his flock
 well. "The West expects us to behave the way people behave in a modern
 Western democracy and have the same intolerance towards bad
 leadership," he says.
 
 "But here, we never really left the communist mind behind, and he who
 controls the television controls everything. The people are without
 power."
 
 So, on the day that Ms Albright rallied Nato and President Clinton
 addressed the United States, insisting that the fight would go on, few
 Serbs blame Mr Milosevic for the crisis.
 
 As an information black-out remains in force on state television, the
 explanation for their country's tragedy is left to such people as
 Aradunik Mihailovic, an academic writing in yesterday's
 state-controlled Politika.
 
 According to Mr Mihailovic, the crisis was triggered by the
 'Bilderberg group', a secret organisation of companies, politicians
 and businessmen who want to control Serbia.
 
 He goes on to reveal, in Serbia's most popular newspaper, that the
 shadowy group is chaired by Lord Carrington, that Bill Clinton is on
 the board and that the US special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, and Sadako
 Ogato of the United Nations are also secret members.
 
 And so it goes on: a passenger train hit by Nato killing nine people,
 and children in Pancevo watching Cinderella in a cellar.
 
 Despite Nato's claims that oil supplies have been hit and the army
 will soon be paralysed, owners of private cars in Belgrade are still
 buying petrol. In the city's expensive restaurants on Skandarija
 Street, elegant women in black, with round sunglasses and shining
 hair, are taking lunch.
 
 The couple sitting in the sun in one of Serbia's most damaged towns
 see the conflict as most people do: "We're in the shelters together,
 we're on the bridges together and I suppose if it comes to it, people
 will have to fight together. You can't break us that easily."
 
 The pressure from Nato may aim to make Mr Milosevic back down, but it
 is not echoed by his own people.
 
 While the Serbian political elite watches the struggling factions of
 Western democracy grapple with dissent on CNN as they are forced to
 justify every action, every deadly missile on live television Serbia
 speaks with one voice. That of the victim of a Western conspiracy.The
 dissenters have been silenced. Independent radio has been shut down
 and on Sunday the most vocal critic of the government, Slavko
 Curuvija, was shot down returning from a walk on Belgrade's Knez
 Mihailovic Street, killed with a single bullet to the spine.
 
 Driving over the Danube from Pancevo, over rusting barges that have
 lain there for nine years since the West first imposed sanctions, a
 old man brings out a copy of Politika, which has, as usual, scoured
 the Internet for any criticism of the Nato campaign.
 
 Yesterday it quoted from Spanish media and reported on a motion
 condemning the bombing from the far left of the Mexican parliament:
 "Look," says the man, "they are all with us. They are protesting
 against Nato in Spain and Germany, everyone is lining up against the
 bombing.
 
 "We're very brave people. We've been through the Turks, the Balkan
 wars and the second world war, and God knows what this is going to
 turn into."
 
                Copyright Guardian Media Group plc. 1999



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