The first three days of the “new” era

Sunday, March16th

I landed in Vucic’s Serbia on Sunday night. Air Serbia’s two-headed eagle logo stood still at the airport. Stewardesses wearing byzantine blue hats and matching rain coats were leaving the airport, rolling their dark blue suitcases. Their faces were beaming. Later, in a taxi, I noticed the same smile on the face of the driver who spontaneously started talking about a great fortune that was upon us. – Everyone is celebrating, streets are crowded, he told me, as if he was justifying the longer night rate route. – Never mind, I said, just drive… My head hurts from decompression. However, the driver continued analyzing: Now he, i.e. Vucic, can do his job… Everyone stood in his way… I mean, I knew we would win… As he was speaking about his percentages, I was looking at Belgrade at night and trying to catch the flickers of electricity that was left on the streets and among the people after election day. The driver wouldn’t stop talking. It’s been a while since he’s been this happy, he said. He even began to cry at one point. – So, what do you expect will happen now? I asked him. – Arrests, he said, short and simple: He’s already arrested Miskovic. Now it’s time to move on… OK, he got off easily, but never mind. – And what is the next phase, after the arrests? He looked for me in the rearview mirror, as if he was hesitating to uncover the plan of the people’s brainiac who went through a genuine emanation that day by inspiring all faithful voters. – We want what is ours, what the tycoons and politicians robbed from us… – So, that’s the next step… Would he be able to do that? – He can do anything now, the driver assured me: No more Dacic, Dinkic or Djilas, no Ceda or that Kostunica… OK, Djindjic is also long gone. – And Tadic? What happened to him? The driver glanced over his shoulder, demonstrating that we shouldn’t talk about such respectable candidate over a rearview mirror: He has forgiven Tadic everything… Anyhow, it wasn’t Tadic’s fault, but those around him… – Right, that’s what they said about Sloba too, I said. – You know, Sloba was something else, the driver warned me: But yes, those around him were worse. – Well, wasn’t he around him, too? All those years? – He was young, the driver started to make excuses for him: But now, now he can really do everything, he concluded in solemn tone. When I came home, I flipped through the news. Under the pile of information about SPP’s grand victory, two striking images remained: one of Minister Selakovic, smiling like my driver, clapping to the sound of trumpets, like Jeremic before him, and another of minister Mihajlovic, dressed in white, holding a piece of SPP’s election cake. The background is also white, like the tricolor cake, only the filling is khaki. As if there was a dark past hidden under the SPP’s cream shirt, only to be shown to us on special occasions.

Monday, March 17th

My daughter is in second grade. When I picked her up from school, she immediately told me that they had something special at school today. – So, what was it? I asked as we were crossing Ustanicka Street. – Some lecture, she said: But I didn’t understand anything… There were some strange words… – What do you mean, strange? – Well, strange. I don’t know what they mean… Like when politicians talk on TV… – Like that one up there? I pointed at giant Vucic on the billboard, whose mouth someone had hit with an egg the previous night. He looked like he was finally free of that suppression and shouting, like he used to. – Yes, like that one, and the one with grey hair, across the street, she said, pointing to Tadic’s billboard. – Is that the word, “vision”? I asked. – No, no, I know what vision means, it’s not that. – Is it “corruption”? – No, but it has something to do with Metohija? – Oh, I remembered: With Kosovo? – Yes, she said: The children over there are hungry and thirsty and we have to buy something new for them. – Why something new? – Well, it’s because of that word, you know. – I really don’t understand, I said as we were entering the supermarket, with the outer wall covered with remains of torn election posters. – Is there a word like “program”, but not exactly that? she asked. – Let me think, I said: Is it “project”, or “protest”… – No way, my daughter said: That word is scary, you know… But I’ve forgotten it now. The teacher said that it happened a long time ago, before I was born. We all had to listen and bring something for those kids tomorrow… – For those kids? – Yes, she said: Something new… That’s what she said. We looked at each other in wonder and stepped among the shelves with fruit. I found the answer to her riddle that evening. It was “pogrom” which became a part of school syllabus in the command-driven policy of national remembrance. The directive was executed, with his blessing, by minister for Kosovo Vulin and his colleague Tomislav Jovanovic, minister of education, both now resigned. Or maybe newly empowered. I wasn’t sure. Anyhow, the command was to give a lecture on the suffering of the Serbs in the March 2004 pogrom in every school in Serbia during the first period. A ceremony was given at the National Theater and the patriarch said that the suffering of the Serbs started in 1389 and that today they are suffering more than ever. Vulin then said with pride that “today is the first time we speak about the pogrom in schools, that we are not silent, but speaking, because those who were obliged to protect the citizens regardless of their religion and nation, were silent”. What Vulin meant to say was that the state had launched an excellent programme for education of youth, who will be infected by hatred of those “who tore crosses and burnt churches”.

Tuesday, March 18th

There were whispers at work since the early morning: Did you hear the news? Could it be? They have already started the work… Ts, ts, ts, now you see the importance of wide support… How many percentages did he win? That’s why he managed to arrest Saric so quickly… However, the day after the pogrom, the spotlight was on BIA, commanded by Miki Rakic before and since the middle of 2012 solely by him. The arch-villain was caught and everyone is talking about how long and difficult the operation was. If he didn’t take matters into his own hands, it would have never ended. BIA operated on every continent, almost like the CIA, which has a similar name, but different methods. Because his explanations of Serbian security service’s techniques sound like anything but sophisticated technologies of modern age. BIA used the following (Zemun) methods: monitoring in the country and abroad, eavesdropping outdoors and indoors (even 51 times), secret searches of various locations (about 25 times), geographic positioning by phone (about 300 times), recruitment of collaborators (total of 20). Some measures, of course, have to remain secret (?!). Only 396 high-tech steps to criminal Darko Saric. Everyone has contributed to that action, called “Balkan warrior”, from Miki Rakic and Tadic to Nikola Selakovic, the head of BIA and the first deputy prime minister himself. Congratulations came from all over, from the EU and USA, but BIA and friends also showered each others with praise. The media were ecstatic. The picture of the day depicted Saric in handcuffs, tanned and, of course, wearing a white shirt, like the 50 lb.-SPP cake, coming out of an airplane, accompanied by agents with dark ties and blurred faces, like in the Matrix. The day is sunny and festive. Everything is up by few registers. It looks as if we are entering the EU. The soon-to-be-former prime minister and chief of police Ivica Dacic, who saved his congregation in the elections, congratulates all security officers. And the deputy prime minister is again silent, but satisfied. The percentage of support is extremely high, whistles like a cattle, while Saric sits in his special prison cell in Ustanicka street, where I pass by every day with my daughter as we try to decipher the words they speak to us over the media and in school. In the evening, people who walk their dogs in the park Sumice, say that Saric was arrested fifteen days ago, but that the scenery was late. This was an ideal day for his arrest. It’s not good to overlap the holidays. They last longer.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 24.03.2014.

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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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