May 10, 1999 16:33

War Report 8 - Greetings to Serbs from the Twilight Zone!

(Translated by N.S.Macura)

It has been over a month since we have began to live in a
parallel universe in which the nineteen most powerful
nations in the world are bombing Serbia. In this alternate
time line, the most frightful military force in the known
Universe has attacked our little earth and just like
soulless cyborgs they repeat "You will be assimilated.
Resistance is futile." But our lonely planet resists
attempts to convert us into slaves with collective mind
control and despite heavy casualties, we resist all
attacks. No, don't worry, I'm not crazy yet. I just
concluded that as a sci-fi fan, this is a rather efficient
way of denying reality.

In order to defend ourselves from the reality that
surrounds us, our defense mechanisms are working in full
force and everyone is thinking up the best way to convince
themselves that everything is actually all right and
repeats like a child after a fall, "I'm OK, I'm OK." Some
are coping by keeping to their regular daily schedule and
getting up at seven o'clock to buy food and a newspaper
even though they haven't slept all night, and they don't
need to go to work. Others are engaged in a great
housecleaning and they wash their windows and clean their
floors ten times so they don't look bad before the
occupators. My parents, in a wave of inspiration, decided
that this is the ideal time to change their bathroom tiles
even though we wait for Pancevacki Bridge, near which they
live, to be hit. Young people have concluded that this is
all a big party and just move from one spot to another;
during the day they're on the Square(1), in the evening on
the bridge, during the night on rooftops or in front of
houses. Sports fans are cheering for a new team, PVO(2),
which is competing in the discipline of shooting down
airplanes and missiles, and every victory is celebrated by
ovations, lighting colored smoke-rockets and general
partying. Cultured people are having a wonderful time going
to free plays and classical music concerts, and digging
through books in search of suitable citations of our
predecessors who in the course of our merry history have
survived to write something wise in the style "This will
pass, too."

Of course, living in denial is nothing new for the Serbs,
we're living like that for years now, and we're getting
along well. Worried Americans always ask me, "How do you
manage to go without gasoline, anyway?" I don't know how to
explain to them that it took me a long time to get used to
getting gas at a gas station instead of getting it from my
neighbor, who, with a lit cigarette in his mouth, pours
into my reservoir three different kinds of gas from plastic
Coca-Cola bottles through a piece of a garden hose. A
confused Englishwoman asks me how we manage to live when we
don't work. How do I explain to her that I went to London
last fall, Paris last summer, I vacation in the Caribbean
and I have a salary of 300 dollars? Plus a meal and a
monthly bus pass. Sometimes.

Since Yugoslavia began to fall apart at the seams, we have
all gone through forced training for adjusting to war
conditions. Cigarette shortages, gasoline ration stamps,
irregular paychecks and pensions. What else is new? The
only thing that's new is that until now we didn't have
bombs falling on our heads, but we've gotten used to that
already. As usual, Belgradians

right away found some element of the situation and turned
it into local folklore which finds itself shoulder to
shoulder with citations from "Radovan the Third" and "The
Marathon Runners"(3). This time it's the wretched Avram
Izrael, spokesman of the city Center for Information. As
soon as the air-raid sirens are activated, Studio B and
Politika(4) interrupt their program and display a graphic
with a blinking airplane, which kids love. And then you
hear the voice of the wretched Avram. "Attention,
attention. The air-raid sirens have been activated. We ask
you to open your windows, turn off your gas and electricity
and move to your shelters slowly and without panic.The
Center for Information will keep you updated on the latest
developments. Finished." Finished?! His voice, which should
be calming, is actually totally panicked, as if his chair
were on fire. Of course, jokes began to appear right away,
such as "How do Belgradians make love in war conditions?
Slowly and without panic. Finished." As time went on,
Avram's voice got more desperate as he realized that no one
was listening to him anymore. Not only does no one go to
shelters, but we have already gotten so used to the siren
that we don't even wake up when it sounds at night.

Sirens don't shake us up anymore, but our windows sure
shake. As soon as I conclude that there will be no party
and I wrap myself in a blanket in front of the TV to watch
some of the newest film hits that our television has ripped
off, the idiots always make a few hits in Belgrade. And of
course, what would a panicked Serb do when a two-ton bomb
explodes in the middle of the night and the windows open
with a bang? She goes out on her terrace to watch the
development of the war situation and to make phone contact
with observation bases all over the city to determine where
the detonations are coming from. The bases are set up well
and function in concentric circles; first you call you
godparents, aunts and uncles, and when you locate the
general direction, you begin the process of narrowing the
scope by calling all our friends who live in that general
area. From the beginning of the fascist aggression on our
small and sovereign country (citation from Serbian state
TV), the most frequent way of beginning a phone
conversation has been "Is that by you?" If the phone rings
in the middle of the night, you don't even need to wait for
the question to be asked before you say "It's not by us."
If you get the wrong number, it doesn't matter because the
password is universal and everyone feels a patriotic duty
to get involved. The other night I accidentally called an
elderly gentleman in town, who in response to my apology
for calling him at three in the morning said "It's all
right, child, just write down my number and call me when
they hit near you."

Even though Novi Sad and Nis are the worst off, Belgrade
also had its unforgettable April nights, like the one when
they hit the Petrochemical factory in Pancevo(5). Within an
hour, a dark cloud formed over Pancevo and slowly began to
drift across the river toward Belgrade. The cloud was so
thick that light could not go through; the wild flames of
the fire reflected off of it. That was the first time that
I thought that we were in some bad episode of Star Trek
because the cloud which mutely drifted like ink across the
blue night sky seemed totally unreal,
pulsating with red and pink lights, filled with internal
explosions and electrical discharges. It drifted slowly and
unstoppably, like that deadly mist in Carpenter's film, in
the vicinity of the tenth floor. The surrounding
communities were evacuated immediately. Of course, there
were those who, despite police insistence, answered that
they would not leave their homes, even if they became
mutants! And then the whole thing ended just like a cheap
horror movie; a spring storm showed up with a strong wind
and intense downpours which broke the cloud and washed the
poisonous substances from the vegetation. Everything was
again green and blooming and smelled like ozone and early
spring. If we don't count that 15-kilometer oil slick on
the Danube.

Just when we were relieved, the next night they decided to
blow up a "vital strategic object" the former Central
Committee building. The vandals knew that they will hurt
the Serbian people the most if they destroy the studios of
TV Pink and the last episodes of the Mexican soap opera
"Esmeralda." And just when the poor wretch was finally
supposed to find happiness in the arms of her Carlos
Daniel. Pink, which only six hours later continued
emitting, answered the accusations that it brainwashes the
Serbian people with its programs by rerunning the famous
soap opera Cassandra, showing three episodes a day. The
enemy tried to stop them once more and with two deafening
explosions destroyed the roof of the building, turning the
antenna into a ball of metal. Only a few hours later,
Cassandra returned to the screen, although with a slightly
poorer transmission. They think that it's that easy to kill

We just managed to get over that, when the great
strategists of the Atlantic Alliance decided that they
don't like that Mira Markovic (Yugoslavia's First Lady)
moved into the presidential residence, and they tried to
get her while she was sleeping. Well, even better ones
didn't manage to get rid of her and her husband. Not only
was the family of our democratically elected president not
in the presidential residence during the assassination
attempt, but neither were the Chippendale chairs,
impressionist paintings, and Ming vases. What is worse, I
came off more panicked than the family of our president,
because the two missiles which hit the residence flew over
my head (literally) with a hellish whistling sound.

Since the beginning of the war, my mother was afraid only
of one thing - the state television building which is
located in my neighborhood. When they finally hit it the
other day, she was the only one who sighed in relief. Our
poor RTS(6) has so many times said that it is very possible
the NATO crazies would bomb the building, that foreign
journalists began to claim that our reporters were
paranoid; to prove that, they would bravely visit the night
news crew. However unlike us, the foreign journalists still
believe that they are from countries in which freedom of
expression is allowed and which are not governed by
maniacs. When the detonation was heard, it was so quiet and
subdued that I was sure that they hit something across the
river. Only when the first pictures came to Studio B and
Politika I realized that the explosion was only 300 meters
from me. I immediately got dressed and went to see in
person what happened.

It was around 3:30 in the morning and the nearby large park
was quiet and lit with lights. For a minute I thought that
I must be crazy and that nothing bad could be happening
near here in such a lovely spring night. The empty park
benches and calm walkways were so romantic that they
reminded me of those old musicals in which Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers dance alone at night in Central Park. In the
air, the smell of grass mixed with the smell of burnt
plastic. As I approached the area I saw that a lot of
people were gathered around. Strong reflectors were shining
the ruins which were left of the building. Strange, I
thought that if I saw all that in person it would somehow
get to my brain, the sheer horror of that sight and the
fact that in the downed building, next to which I grew up
and spent my entire life, now lie innocent people who
cannot be freed. And I stood there looking at them carrying
out body parts and piling them into ambulances, but other
than subdued anger, I felt only disbelief that someone
could be able to do something like this. Around me, people
were standing in complete shock muttering, "Those criminal
motherf-----rs" and "Is it possible?" Even the next day,
when instead of the usual concert they held silent
demonstrations in the Square and people lit candles and
brought fresh flowers to the ruins, the dominating mood was
not sadness or anger, but disbelief.

Coming back home I saw a guy I know from the neighborhood.
He told me how a buddy of his who worked as a security
guard at the RTS building suggested that they go have a
drink somewhere since he was on break. Just as they were
walking by the Parliament building they heard an explosion
and jokingly remarked "What if it was the TV station?" They
came back only after they heard at the caf what happened.
The missile, they said, flew through the front door and
everyone who was on the bottom two floors was buried by the
rubble. Even today, nearly a week later, they still didn't
dig them out, since there were apparently two missiles
(they always hit with two at a time) one of which is still
in the rubble, unexploded.

After that, they left us alone for a few nights so we can
at least get some rest. They were probably busy with their
birthday party. Although they did relentlessly bomb the
rest of Serbia. Twenty times they come back to the same
places and throw millions and millions of dollars' worth of
bombs and missiles. Other than scaring the people and
breaking the glass and siding on houses, they're wasting
money. All those secret places were built by comrade Tito
(the longtime leader of the former Yugoslavia) with the
intent of saving his ass in case of a nuclear attack. Since
yesterday they are chasing our beloved dictator (Milosevic)
with missiles around the outskirts of town, but they'll
never find him. When I remember how I hated the subject
"Defense and Protection" at school and how pointless it
seemed throwing money away into the army and building up
all sorts of bases dug into godforsaken hillsides! Now, for
the first time it seems to me that our military is not just
a bunch of self-indulging uniformed retards; maybe they do
know what they're doing.

In the beginning we were held by euphoria and hope that
this would all end soon after all. Now we are held by pure
Serbian intent. As hard as I try to define the atmosphere
in Belgrade with some innovative slogan, the only thing
that completely illustrates the position of the average
native Serb is the often-repeated "Screw them! They can't
do anything to us! We are living on!" We have given up
watching all the informative shows and satellite NATO
briefings. Why watch those stupidities when they just lie
and threaten? Whenever I watch some supposed serious
debates about Kosovo on British, Italian, Spanish TV
stations it just deepens my illusion that I'm in a bad Star
Trek episode, because their arguments have as much sense in
reality as if they were talking about the Romulans' attack
on the Klingons. If it weren't tragic, it would be amusing
to watch to what extremes their dirty imagination goes: one
of the more effective jewels from the domain of science
fiction is that Serbs are actually vampires - we hold small
Albanian boys and use them as reserves of fresh blood! And
why boys? What pedophile thought of that? My favorite
picture from NATO briefings is the mass grave in the
village Ivac, or something like that, on which a field is
visible with 150 small black lines, evenly spaced. That
ragged-looking, bowtie-wearing dork from the Pentagon is
tired from trying to pronounce the names Prizren and Srneca
and claims that the pictures of white boxes on a gray field
are actually vital strategic objects in Kosovo triumphantly
explaining to the gathered journalists that this is
reliable proof that Serbs killed 150 Albanians and then
massively buried them in separate graves, regularly spaced,
with their heads facing Mecca! Our journalists went on a
trip with their foreign colleagues to find that village,
and, with great pains, found it three days later. An old
Albanian recognized his field from the satellite photo and
took journalists to it to show them. They ask him if anyone
was there within the last month, and he says, dead serious,
"Yes, some..." The foreign journalists immediately pushed a
mike under his nose expecting a Pulitzer prize. "Some of my
son-in-law's cows were there," he says, all-important.

The Russians have obviously stopped to think and have
concluded that if we're able to survive like this, we can
continue. Why should they fight the Americans directly when
we are doing that very nicely instead of them? That's why
they keep stalling with all sorts of peace initiatives, and
all the time they're giving us huge amounts of various
humanitarian help and well-dressed humanitarians.
Chernomyrdin is chosen as the perfect one to walk around,
pull the wool over the world's eyes, and rake in the cash.
During that time, Sloba (short for Slobodan) receives
various mysterious visitors about whom neither our guys or
the Russians are saying anything, but my contacts near the
airport say that the airplanes are huge. The official
stance of the government is the reduction of troops from
Kosovo to a reasonable number, under condition of NATO
forces' retreat from the border and the arrival of civilian
observers. In the process of bargaining, the last
acceptable price would probably be to allow forces under UN
command, but not from countries that are participating in
the aggression, and only the ones that we allow. For
instance, Russia, Belarus, Greece, Cyprus, Libya, Cuba,
Iraq...We have strong friends. Of course, NATO refuses
that, because that would be equal to defeat for them. While
the diplomats are arguing over who will screw whom harder,
everything here that's visible from satellites is being
destroyed. They particularly like bridges. They shot at
that innocent Zezelj bridge in Novi Sad for a week and
spent at least a hundred million dollars to finally finish
it. If things continue like this, we're going to be
traveling everywhere by barge. After the war, the fastest
method of transportation will be rafting.

However, the only thing that has made my heart skip and my
stomach turn since the beginning of the war is not the
bombs or the destruction but the stupid Vuk Draskovic!
Sloba, in his infinite slyness, appointed him as deputy
prime minister only a few months before the start of the
war in order to create a government of people's unity and
to prevent them from breaking us at the weakest link in the
chain. Vuk felt important for a time, giving interviews to
British media, who love him, and then even they realized
that he hasn't met with our tyrant since the beginning of
the war and he has no idea what is really happening. Then
came the triumph of Vuk's endless stupidity and his wife's
endless greed, and they hurried up to secure their place in
the puppet government and got ahead of themselves. Vuk gave
an interview to Studio B in which he attacked the
government for creating war laws against smuggling (just as
he appointed all of his wife's family to all significant
places in the Customs department), for hiding from the
people how NATO has a far superior military than we do
(wait a minute, there's 10 million of us, 890 million of
them, hmmmm?), and how we should accept the Russian
initiative for bringing UN troops to Kosovo (what Russian
initiative? What UN, the one who hasn't even said anything
yet? Where are those things said publicly, in front of the
enemy?). It's not such a big problem what he said, but it's
just that he even found it suitable to say anything in a
situation when the only thing that can save us is firm
unity among all parties, or how he calls it,
one-mindedness. All his talk was so ill-tempered,
pointless, and counterproductive, that the enemy
immediately liked it and they announced how they finally
broke our unity and now they should attack full force in
order to deepen that disunity. Studio B and Internet sites
were filled with messages of the type "Shut him up!" and
all the other opposition parties hurried to isolate
themselves from SPO (Vuk's party). Of course, there were
some parties who have a voter's circle comprised of close
family members and who just wait for troubled times to swim
out into the surface, like turds. The reaction was so
intense that even Vuk himself got scared and began to
loosen up and give nebulous statements on Sky News about
how his party is standing ready to defend the country. On
the British commentator's inquiring in whose name he is
issuing those statements, Vuk said that his party controls
Belgrade and that he gave that statement for the TV station
that is under control of his party. From all that power of
control, he forgot to control his tongue! A day later, the
Prime Minister silently removed him from power, and Studio
B, which still brags that it is an independent media
source, got a small visit from the Minister for "Keep your
mouth shut when our country is at war." Like a child when
it is spanked, Vuk called a press conference and said how
he doesn't know what he did wrong, how he is for the
defense of our country, and how the Serb military leaders
in World War I didn't always agree with the military
command. Maybe they didn't agree, but they didn't go to the
enemy to describe that in great detail! They say that Mira
Markovic keeps a quote of Lenin's in her office: "The only
thing that can defeat us is scoundrels among us." Oh, Lord
have mercy, what kind of times are these when even I agree
with her?!

While we're on the category "Lord have mercy," I don't know
if you had an opportunity to watch the interview that our
bloodthirsty tyrant gave to CBS and C-Span. One can hate
him, but one cannot help but admire him! He answered the
questions so calmly and evenly, carefully making sure that
he includes everything that needs to be said and not sound
like a robot who is reading text from a Teleprompter, that
it was really impressive listening to him. If someone told
me yesterday that I would have the urge to shout "Sloba!
Freedom!" I would have killed myself immediately. For those
of you who are worried about the health of the President's
family, we had the opportunity to see on the news the
receiving of the visiting Russian Patriarch, where even the
President's son attended, appropriately dressed in a
striped mafia suit.

In the foreign press I read how the night attacks are a
part of the special psychological war. The degree of their
success can be illustrated by an older friend of mine (one
of my observation bases in downtown). I ask him how they're
doing in this situation, and he says, "Like everyone else,
we wait for the sirens to sound, and then we go to sleep!"
Since they apparently figured out that the vast majority of
Belgradians sleeps through their most effective explosions,
they decided today to attack us in the middle of the day.
The result: 2-0 for PVO.

One of my observation bases in the east side of town told
me that one enemy plane was seen flying overhead with a
thick plume of black smoke behind it, with standing
ovations from everyone on the ground. A well-armed group of
locals tried to get to the swamps where a second plane
ended up, but the water level is too high and the
vegetation is thick, so in order to keep themselves dry,
they'll wait until the mosquitos drive the pilot out.

Today I got a report from my connections at the Medical
Academy who said that they and another nearby hospital were
damaged overnight, but they had an opportunity to toast
with the doctors' supply of whisky while they watched an
airplane fall in flames. Some of the captured pilots were
brought there for treatment and apparently the poor
bastards are so frightened that they don't allow doctors to
examine them. They still have some black guy who jumped out
of a downed German plane and who still goes into a corner
and howls every time a doctor tries to enter the room. The
others shake, refuse to eat, and just dig through their
food looking for any pills or truth serums. One day, the
head doctor, a guy from Krajina(7), took a translator with
him and tried a psychological approach. "What are you
crapping your pants for, motherf----rs, what do I have to
ask you when I already know everything?! (To the
translator) All right, you translate it now." I read in the
foreign press that the NATO summit in Brussels made a
decision to block the ejection lever in all its airplanes.
They made that decision after more than 200 specialists
have died so far in rescue missions, and also because the
pilots would eject as soon as the airplane would register
that the PVO has locked onto it.

We don't always have to knock them down ourselves,
sometimes they come to us themselves. I got this story
second-hand, but from a fairly reliable source, accompanied
by all the necessary references. Since they have hit the
military airport near Belgrade at least fifty times by now,
there's nothing important left there, so reservists from
Belgrade go there in the morning to guard the empty runway
(NATO has complained how we're fixing it too fast), and in
the evening they go home. A few days ago, just as they sat
down to have some coffee and read the paper, they heard an
airplane landing on the runway. Still half-asleep, they
went outside to see what's going on and they see a NATO
plane on the ground. From it exits a distressed pilot and
yells "Tuzla(8)? Tuzla?" One of our reservists replied with
a Bosnian accent, "Yes, Tuzla, Tuzla, come here for some
coffee." They say it's not hard to fix navigation

Since they are now holding the eight-day festival "Belgrade
Springtime" on the Square, we have subsided with slogans
for the moment, but we are going on with jokes:


A worker at a home-appliance factory is complaining how
NATO destroyed his factory and he wasn't able to take home
a vacuum-cleaner. His neighbor asks, "Why didn't you take
home the parts?" He answers, "I did take home the parts,
but no matter how I put them together, I end up with a

A Gypsy guy is bragging how he's having good sex in this
war. He puts a gas mask on his wife's face and: 1. He
doesn't have to see how ugly she is; 2. He doesn't have to
put up with her bad breath; 3. If she makes too much noise,
he can just block the air valve.

What does a Serb do when he finds a locator? He throws it
into his neighbor's yard. What does he do when he finds two
locators? He throws one to his neighbor, and the other one
to his mother-in-law. What does he do when he finds three
locators? He throws the extra one to his mother-in-law,
just to be safe.

A Serb asks an American, "Say, how much does that Tomahawk
cost?" "About a million and a half dollars." "Well, you can
just throw that money down, we'll kill each other to get

An American brings a Tomahawk to a German to be repaired,
and the German says that the price for fixing it is a
million dollars. The American doesn't like this, so he
takes it to a Russian, since the Russians have already
stolen that technology. The Russian offers to fix it for a
million and a half dollars. The American, furiously
refuses. Next, he takes the missile to a Serb, since Serbs
are known for their improvisation. "I can fix it for three
million dollars," the Serb says. "Three million?" "Sure, a
million for me for the labor, a million for you for
bringing it to me, and a million for the German to fix it."


The last couple of nights they have intensified their
actions over Belgrade, as they euphemistically put it.
Right now its 11:30 p.m. and our heroic RTS has again
disappeared from the TV screen. Since they have bombed the
RTS building, the signal disappears every night and appears
every morning like the phoenix from ashes, from some other
location. Every day they display war songs and pictures of
monasteries, although the anchor people look worn out,
dressed in black, and they sit as if they were in a
restaurant, in front of a blue tablecloth. They wrecked all
our transmitters in Serbia in a desperate attempt to
prevent any information from escaping from here, so they
can drive us into the ground silently. What is not seen on
CNN does not exist. They just reported that they destroyed
the relay tower on Avala (a hill near Belgrade).Hey, the
tower on Avala! As proof that they can't screw us over, the
next RTS news will go from Studio B, until they destroy
them, too. Then, from Politika, until they destroy
Politika. Then from someone's roof, while we still have
roofs. Then, in the end, we will shout from hill to hill,
like those wailing songs from Krajina that people sang on
the bridges the other day: "Serbs, brothers, fear not your
wounds. There is no death without doomsday.OOOOOOY!"

Tonight the moon is nearly full and bright so the entire
city is visible, so we can expect an all-night party.
Everyday, people are saying how they will be targeting
bridges that night. Until now, that's always turned out to
be false, but it's bound to happen sooner or later. I hope
that they won't shoot at any of the outdoor markets,
tomorrow I want to go to buy some petunias for my terrace,
and it looks like they have some nice young potatoes, too.
We really are suffering from hunger in these war
conditions; nowhere can I find parmesan cheese for ravioli.

I have checked all sci-fi books and Star Trek sites. In
order to return to the normal flow of time you need to
produce a rift in the space-time continuum, which can be
done by a large matter-antimatter explosion. So far, over
here they've thrown 1 kg (2.2 lb) of explosives per person
which comes to around 8.3 bombs thrown on Hiroshima, and
much of what until recently was matter is now antimatter.
Eh, Picard, you have no idea...

Death to fascism, peace to the soul of the tower on Avala.


P.S. Large ovations on the street. Maniacs, who sit on the
roof of the Technology University and listen to
conversations between pilots and AWACS over ham radio,
confirm that we have downed another one! PVO! PVO! They'll
kill us tonight, in the last 24 hours we've finished off
four of their airplanes over Belgrade.

1. Republic Square in Belgrade; a prime spot for protests

2. Serbian abbreviation for Anti-Aircraft Defense

3. Famous Serbian dramas

4. Independent TV stations in Belgrade

5. City near Belgrade; one of the cities hit hardest by the bombing

6. Serbian state television

7. A region of Croatia that had a large Serbian population until the war 
earlier this decade

8. A city in Bosnia; site of a NATO base

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