|DIARY OF JASMINA TESANOVIC
April 5th, 1999 - 5 p.m.
Today I feel like Rubliov. I don't want to write, I've seen too much pain and suffering too close, my language will be silence, and blank space. Whatever I do or say doesn't count anyway. I don't want to be anybody's accomplice in living and writing as if everything was OK. One day, somebody, maybe I, will make a bell out of the memory of these null days, like the boy that makes Andrei Rubliov speak up again. Last night when we spoke about personal, moral and public war, I thought I was Rubliov's boy who would make the bell notwithstanding the war. But this morning I woke up the invisible anonymous girl I always was and still am; the magic lasted only until the first low flight planes thundered over our heads at dawn. The most terrible thing in a way is that after all, nothing really happens: in the morning we are alive, we have food, we have electricity, we have even luxury articles like whiskey... But in a way, we were there, where it all happened, once again not us but to somebody else. As in false executions we survive our own death every night, our fantasizes of the death of our beloved, with more no physical evidence than a few more white hairs... The nationalist/patriotic heat around me makes me bear even worse the planes above my head and flames in front of my eyes. I am cut off emotionally from my own body, afraid of physical pain, least of empty big ideas like clouds. On the other hand, I fear that until the bad guys come to your door and take you away, we will not know who the bad guys are or believe it happened really to our neighbors. I entered a pharmacy, the shelves were full, fuller than ever, but you couldn't get aspirins or tranquilizers, and everybody was asking for those. The supplies were out.
Another detail: sweet shops are full, people are buying
sweets like crazy, emotional distress, lack of love...
April 6th, 1999
Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Belgrade in 1941 by Hitler. However the major damage to Belgrade happened at the end of the war from the allies bombing, the so called liberation or Britain bombs. I know everybody today here will use this parallel to feel better or worse, whatever... I remember an old librarian whose fiance died in the first bombing of Belgrade; he never married but became a priest. That story impressed me more than the personal stories of lost lives, furniture and goods I heard from my close family. I was sitting on the terrace this morning, the sun was bathing me with great love, I was dreaming of the sea and the clear sky of which we spoke last night waiting for air raids on the terrace, while the planes were flying over our heads. And the planes came again. But they didn't bomb Belgrade last night: again other places, other victims. I feel so guilty, more than ever this morning for this Other. My friends and enemies from all over the world ask me, do you realize how terrible it is in Kosovo? I do, I really do, and I feel guilty that we feel bad here without having the horror they do. But our war, for the past 10-50 years has always been this kind of invisible horror, we have still a long way to run to the catharsis, to be free from our bad conscience, wrong myths, inertia... I feel we are being cut away from the rest of the world, more bridges down, more friends and enemies pointing out to us here how bad we are, more crazy people here making careers on screaming how we are heavenly people. And the people? They are in cellars or just in beds waiting for nothing. I dreamed last night of bombs falling in my cellar, in my bed and afterwards feeling relieved and free. I should stop writing, I hate my dreams, thoughts and words. But it is a vice.
April 7th, 1999
Running to shelter with food, running out of the shelter to buy food. It is spring, who cares. Phoning friends and relatives, exchanging needs, goods, fears, information: who where when was hit, who is next. Never a why. I don't watch news anymore, I hate them all, all sides, all truths. They seem too true for me, I have no distance. Yugoslavia is crumbling, what a pity for all those bridges. Bridges always send good messages: people building, crossing bridges... Victims? I don't know, what a pity for all those wasted innocent lives because only few people couldn't find proper words... Is this my future, running into and out of a shelter, as a rat? The schools are closed, children have serious grown up eyes and lives: in and out of the shelters. Is this our future?
April 8th, 1999
Last night we sat on the terrace waiting... We heard a few big detonations. My right ear became deaf and it hurt, as if travelling in a plane. We started to bet, my absolute pitch won me the bet, and of course my female body as the pain map of world: a government administration building was hit in downtown Belgrade, only half a mile away from us. Nobody really knows why that building and not the general headquarters as was expected. Nobody tells us either anything: call it civil or military target. Anyway , good, we are done with that, we've been waiting for that for days, we from downtown Belgrade. We started laughing with relief when we heard there was no collateral damage, as NATO calls the dead, by the Criminal Aggression, as TV Serbia calls the NATO. My father's voice was trembling, he heard nothing, he saw nothing, he is already deaf and old to move: but he kept saying: <<what can we do now, nothing, can we? I thought it was the frying pan falling in the kitchen but then it was bombs, what can we do now?>>
Last night the daily rock and folk concert moved to the bridge, the bridge over Sava that brings together, new and old Belgrade. We are all split families between new and old Belgrade, we dare not cross the bridge in order to stay with your part of the family, in case the bridges are struck down.
Yesterday a football game was held between Greek and Yugoslav teams: it was a big national event, people were crying, singing, kissing, and the players hardly played the game. I always thought that the energy of football audiences was wasted, finally they got a humane cause: to stop the war.
A BBC military commentator spoke about Serbian people as horrible and incredible people who care about nothing except their own lives. I was very much hit by his remark, I don't like to praise or degrade any people ethnically or globally. I never realized there is something like British people, even though I spent 12 years in a British boarding school but after his remark I did. I wonder what would British people be like in Albanian or Serbian conditions.
So much comes out of all of us in these border situations, so many discoveries: I realized that my fear, the enormous fear I deal with every night when the sirens go on, could be only balanced by some act of heroism. If I only knew what to do to stop the war...
The Gypsy woman from the basement next door, my old friend, is rather stable since the bombings started: her only distress seems to be the fact that we can't buy cigarettes anymore. She asks me every time I pass by for a cigarette. Her speeches now are balanced and wise, no more foul language, curses, personal offences. Instead of going to a lecture of the Alternative Belgrade University, The reasons of NATO Aggression on Yugoslavia, I listened to her, Mica. I didn't like the title of the lecture, whilst she uses big words together with small ones. The margin between her Gypsy girl and me white girl now is minimum, we both live in basements, on too many emotions, with too few cigarettes and too much beer...
A Gypsy boy asked me for a dime, I said I just gave
it to my girl. He asked me when do we paint our Easter
eggs. I said, I don't know, I am an atheist, but I
will dye my hair for Easter, it has gone surprisingly
white these days.
April 9th, 1999
I remember, shortly before the war, this date was the considered a good timing to make your baby if you want to have it born the first day of January 2000. I remember how silly and ridiculous it was, I remember how suggestive it was too. Now, when the day has come nobody in this part of the world has these plans anymore: amidst the small talk over what will happen if ground troops enter Yugoslavia women are hoping they are not pregnant, or wondering what to do with their children if they have to take up the guns. Already two of my girlfriends, pacifists, feminists, said that if it comes to an all against all ground war they will take up guns instead of staying back home and waiting to be killed, raped, or sent in exile. I thought of having a child, but then I remembered another woman who had just her baby before the air raids started. She is in the cellar all the time taking tranquilizers and her baby is sick: she didn't improve or stop the political situation by having a baby at the wrong time in the wrong place, on the contrary, she made it visible, the wrong place and wrong time and wrong deeds. Military logic is entering our everyday language, I never liked computer games or even field competitive sport: when competition enters my mind I feel paralyzed, I feel different form other people not worse or better. We speak about adapting to war conditions, finding new work, new ways of relaxing, socializing. My friend, a university professor, says she will clean houses for old people, my other friend is working with Gypsy children. I think of putting up a school for our loose children who are suddenly without any daily duties or working habits, being until two weeks ago urban school children fighting with institutions for their own identities, not prepared for war catastrophes or survival situations. But the main point today is that, ground troops or not, we don't care about our personal lives anymore: most of us don't go to shelter, don't think of leaving the country... We are just being here, who cares for how long, we have no decent way out, we are hostages of our own life without power.
April 10th, 1999
Today I decided to clean the house. The hairdresser next door opened and is working his usual hours, notwithstanding the alarm which went off today even during daylight. The pilots were probably <<frustrated>> last night for not dropping their bombs. The NATO briefing will be tense, military commentators will speculate on the new world order, but we had a peaceful night: no boom booms, only local aircraft which has a more humane sound, as planes used to have.
Tomorrow is Orthodox Easter: my daughter painted the
eggs. We are not religious, we never were. She said,
I am bored; I thought better let her do constructive
things than sulk alone in her room waiting for the
alarm. She is a child of the war, who knows, maybe
she is God's child too. She said yesterday, I have
a feeling I will be killed when I am sixteen, so why
bother to go to school anymore. I froze and just said:
you will go to school anyway.
April 11th, 1999
Just a small Easter thought: if somebody is killing, raping, ethnically-cleansing Albanians, why should I be spared of it? My friend, a very decent person, cannot believe it is happening; as far as I am concerned I believe everything too much.
Last night at midnight Belgrade was on foot, sirens were on but still people were crowding in the churches, around the churches for the midnight service: the Easter service. I was looking at the people: old, simple and poor ragged people, young and middle-aged snobs and then the fewest, those who really believe. All crowding together with the same tragic expression in their face, as in an staged opera in La Scala. On the other hand, at the same time on the bridge crossing the Sava, the concert, rock folk whatever, was raging, people were angry, patriotic, believing in their power instead of God's.
I couldn't find my place on either side: I don't believe in God but I don't believe in myself against the world as it is. I am afraid when the alarm is on, I don't want my children to risk anything for anybody. So I went to the video club and took some films to watch. It was a Mickey Rourke film, my favorite actor until 18 days ago: he was so foolish, I thought, he knew nothing of my life anymore, he doesn't love me anymore, so I couldn't pay him back with adoration. We don't share the crucial experience of my life, so Mickey Rourke and I had to split after so many years...
I went to bed early and slept like a log, my fridge emits terrible sounds, worse than air raids, so I decided to switch it off and clean it today, even though it is bad omen to clean on Easter, my granny used to say.
When I was five my granny took me for Easter to church, secretly, so that my parents, communists wouldn't know. I remember the secrecy, the fear and excitement on entering the biggest building I ever saw in my life, smelling of strange odors and glimmering with candles, from roof to the pavement, all round me. After the first moment of joy, I remember this feeling that until today never abandoned me when entering a church: the feeling of nothingness, powerlessness, invisibility of my little person. I started crying like crazy, in a fit, saying to my granny, I will be burned, I will be punished... She took me out, much in distress over her failed mission. She bought me an ice cream and a toy dog. Never again did we speak about Easter or church. Not until many years later did I enter a church again, the feeling was pretty the same, but I was stronger, my mystical crisis was over, not resolved, but over. And my granny wasn't alive anymore to give me an answer or comfort.