Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

No one is to blame for anything anymore. Times have “changed.” All that remains are spectacle and entertainment. Spectacle when it comes to promotion of Serbia’s tourism capacities and entertainment when it comes to the production of culture. Brandy, wine, whey, and poetry festivals. Calf, furniture, book, and tractor fairs. The most valued word is creativity. Everything is creative now: capital, Karl Marx, cattle, managers, and advertisers. If you go to a job interview, they will ask you how you would handle something creatively. If you choose to work in tourism promotion, you will have to demonstrate full creative capacity which combines culture, tourism, economics, ethnography, and business – creative industries. If it can be creatively marketed, it could make good money. Anything from a local legend about some vampire’s grave to natural beauty. These include rivers, mountains and lakes. As well as hydropower plants, albeit just the older ones, of course. Countless TV programs have been filmed about Lake Perucac, for example, for the purpose of promoting the tourist capacities of that area. Anyone who follows the Balkan Trip channel knows very well that this is about the “cultural magic” of Serbia. It’s cool, touristy, and cultural. And magical to boot! But that’s where the entertainment ends.

In an effort by the state to shove inconvenient things from the past under the carpet, together with individuals and groups who have spent decades pointing out the serious slippage of the system into spectacle and entertainment, especially when it comes to the attitude towards the heritage from the time of the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Department of war crimes of the High Court in Belgrade sentenced Gojko Lukic, Dusko Vasiljevic and Jovan Lipovac to ten years in prison, while the defendant Dragana Djekic was sentenced to five years in prison. Who are these people anyway, an average consumer of domestic media may ask, and why should anyone care about them today? Give us more natural beauty and circuses! Really, who are these people? It would appear that journalist Bojan Toncic, who alone has remained consistent to his profession, is the only person in Serbia today who can tell us about this. For additional information, one would have to look very hard to even decipher the news article that appeared in several publications under the headline “Verdict for the crime in Strpce after 30 years.”

If creativity is the most valued word today, then the word crime is right at the opposite end of the scale. One could say that it’s just a short, insignificant word that no one likes. The only problem is that 30 years ago, thanks to creative coordination of military and paramilitary resources, the listed persons arrested 20 civilians from composition no. 671 at the Strpce railway station. Then they led those people to a nearby village, robbed them, tortured them, stripped them to their underwear and took them to the Visegrad hydropower plant to be shot. Zekovic Fevzija, Zupcevic Halil, Licina Ilijaz, Coric Rasim, Kajevic Nijazim, Hanic Muhedin, Ismet Babacic, Esad Kapetanovic, Senad Djecevic, Preljevic Safet, Alomerovic Adem, Zulicic Zvijezdan, Softic Seco, Bekija Fehim, Husovic Rafet, Rastoder Jusuf, Topuzovic Dzafer, Memovic Fikret, Buzov Tomo, and one other anonymous person. This is not just a list of names that could cause a certain alienation effect in the average consumer of domestic media, accustomed as they are to ethnic purity. It is about the human lives of our fellow citizens, about the permanent misery of their families, about the collapse of all systems of value in the country and the permanent discrediting of humanity.

Of course, Gojko, Dusan, Jovan, and Dragana pleaded not guilty and claimed that they had nothing to do with that event. Gojko complained that he was set up, since he already had a bad reputation because of his war criminal brother (Milan Lukic). Dusko said that on February 27, 1993 he was working in the TENT in Obrenovac, and that after his shift ended he had to take medicine to his aunt and couldn’t possibly have reached the scene of the crime. Dragana justified herself by referring to her young age, because she was only 17 at the time, adding that she went to war for purely patriotic reasons, which should be taken as a mitigating circumstance. And it seems that the state has heard all these appeals, because, in the end, the three “weekend warriors” and were sentenced to 10 years each, and the (then) “underage warrior” to 5, for their part in cleansing Serbia of Muslims. As it usually happens, when you count the years of the process and excellent conduct of the defendants, they will soon be free and able to enjoy the fruits of the creative industries. One of them could get a cruise boat on the Drina, and even appear in one of the shows, like the one about Lake Perucac, from which occasionally, as a warning, a human body emerges.

Namely, the remains of four murdered passengers from train 671 were found in Lake Perucac in 2009 and 2010: Halil Zupcevic, Rasim Coric, Jusuf Rastoder and Ilijaz Licina. But who cares about that. It is neither attractive nor creative. And Serbia is all about creating new values. After all, they said it in the news, that’s what those four people did 30 years ago, it has nothing to do with us. Okay. Let’s imagine that some Gojko, with a bad reputation, some Dusko – a worker in TENT, some Jovan – a local good-for-nothing, and some Dragana, an embittered minor, decided to stop a Soko train today between Belgrade and Novi Sad. (But only on a nice day, ideal for train travel.) And imagine they took 20 free war criminals, otherwise members of various political parties, from the train at gunpoint. What would happen? Well, nothing, they would have been arrested at the Prokop station, before they even managed to board the train. In an express court proceeding, they would get at least 20 years in prison each, and the head of the BIA would be honored on Statehood Day.

Everyone knows that no Gojko, Dusko, Jovica or Dragana in the world could organize a crime like the one committed at Strpci station on February 27, 1993 by themselves. This was done by the state, which creates new jobs for all those who want to prove themselves creatively. In order to mask its responsibility, the state offers citizens spectacle and entertainment, targeted precisely at the area where the most horrible crimes happened, such as Podrinje, on the stretch between sites of cultural magic such as Mecavnik and Visegrad.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 11.02.2023.

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Saša Ilić, rođen 1972. u Jagodini, diplomirao na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu. Objavio 3 knjige priča: Predosećanje građanskog rata (2000), Dušanovac. Pošta (2015), Lov na ježeve (2015) i 3 romana: Berlinsko okno (2005), Pad Kolumbije (2010) i Pas i kontrabas (2019) za koji je dobio NIN-ovu nagradu. Jedan je od pokretača i urednik književnog podlistka Beton u dnevnom listu Danas od osnivanja 2006. do oktobra 2013. U decembru iste godine osnovao je sa Alidom Bremer list Beton International, koji periodično izlazi na nemačkom jeziku kao podlistak Tageszeitunga i Frankfurtera Rundschaua. Jedan je od urednika Međunarodnog književnog festivala POLIP u Prištini. Njegova proza dostupna je u prevodu na albanski, francuski, makedonski i nemački jezik.

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