Last week there has been the 10th anniversary since my country, which was called Yugoslavia at the time, was bombed for the first time on 24th March, 1999 by NATO forces. The attacks on Yugoslavia, which consisted of two republics Serbia and Montenegro but one who was constantly attacked was Serbia, lasted from March 24 to June 11. Two and a half long months of my life which I will never forget.
You would like to ask me, I know, why I have to remember of it right now, this night. Simply, I feel a desperate need for it, in this moment. I am listening to Lena Katina, a Russian singer, and her sad song titled "Yugoslavia" and I can almost feel my tears of that horrible night, the most horrible of my life. The night of April fools I used to like so much when I was a kid, the worst joke of spring of 1999.
It happened eleven years ago but I still have a vivid memory in my mind. I was a high school student at the time, on my third year to be precise. I am originally from a town called Kraljevo, which is situated in western part of Serbia, in a region called Šumadija, but at age of 16 I moved in Sremski Karlovaci, at north, in Vojvodina. There was the oldest Serbian gymnasium, which became as time passed by the high school that specializes in foreign languages and literature. My biggest dream was to study English language and literature, so I opted for it after the elementary school, although I knew that it would not be easy to live far away from home, 270 km, and to see parents once or twice a month. My mum was so attached to me, as I was a unique child who had health problems since birth, but at the end she accepted my decision and in 1996 I moved to Vojvodina. Mean while, in 1998, in August, my mum went in Italy, in search of work because my studies were expensive, especially a rent of room, and in époque of NATO intervention she was living in Trento, where our family lives today.
At that time, I shared a flat, a room actually, with two other girls younger than me who were also students of our school, Ivana and Svetlana, still my dear friends. Svetlana was at the second year and Ivana was at the first. All of us were living far away from Sremski Karlovci, Ivana also in Serbia, in a town near mine, and Svetlana was living up at north, at Serbian - Hungarian border. On 24th of March, my class was in the afternoon shift, as Ivana's as well, and Svetlana was the only one who had lessons in the morning. After her second lesson, she came at home. All of our professors were speaking about the NATO bombings among themselves trying not to make us panic but somehow the word of it got spread among students. She told us that a mum of her classmate was coming to pick them up, as they lived in the same town, and she tried to convince us to leave as well. She told me: "Come with me. In my town there are lot of Hungarians so probably it will not be bombed." I wish I could do that but I knew my dad would not approve it so I decided not to leave. To be honest, I did not want to believe such a thing, for me there were just rumors, nothing else. Svetlana left, we said good- bye to each other as we would never see each other again, and Ivana and I stayed alone with our landlady and her daughters.
When we heard the first planes, it was around 8:30 p.m. We were watching some Latino telenovela when we saw on the tv screen the notice about the bombings and my hometown was bombed among first because we had a military airport. I tried to call my dad but all lines were interrupted and it was impossible to call nor in town neither outside of it. I remember that I was in panic and that night I passed it awaken, with Ivana who was crying, we both cried. The sound of airplanes above us was unbearable so we tried to neutralize it by singing. We sang an old song called: "Samo da rata ne bude", I hope that there will be no war, while we were hugging each other. In the morning Ivana`s dad came to pick her up. I was still trying to get in contact with my dad but it was impossible. He asked me: "Would like to come with us to Serbia?" In Vojvodina a lot of people were saying that we were Serbians, as they saw each other as Vojvođani, people from Vojvodina. I was really touched when I heard those words. I would have given a fortune to leave with them but I stayed.
The following day I finally managed to speak with my dad who told me to wait for him patiently because it was impossible to buy petrol at the time and he didn't allow me to come home by bus because he was afraid. So, I waited for him one week. That day some relatives of my landlady, with small children, moved in from Novi Sad because their house was near a city refinery which was a target of bombs. It was quite difficult week. I had to get used to sound of sirens, which were quite frequent so we had to hide in basement. Meanwhile, some soldiers were transferred to our gymnasium and every day you could see them patrolling and warning people to pay attention and not to go out during curfew. On 31st March, my dad phoned me to inform that on the morning of 1st April he would come to pick me up.
That night I was so upset that I barely managed to sleep. It was almost morning when I heard screaming daughters of my landlady. "Get up, get up! Hurry up!" The ground under my feet was trembling. While I was descending the stairs, our room was on the second floor, they were moving! What was going on, I was asking myself? I remember I wanted to take of my slippers but Sandra, the oldest daughter, told me not to waste the time. When we were outside, the sky was full of bright colors and it was tuning so we went in the basement. After a while, light and water were cut and we were so scared. I was in shock. I remember I was saying some stupidities trying to calm myself. I never drank a Turkish coffee but that morning I had a desperate need of it. We were trying to understand what had happened but nobody new until our neighbor, who was working at the national tv station, came to inform us that the bridge of Varadin, which was connected Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad was crushed. Actually it connected a suburb of Novi Sad called Petrovaradin, where is the famous fortress of the same name now popular abroad for its summer music festival called Exit, to town. We all were sad. I used to walk over that bridge when the weather was beautiful and it was one of my favorite town bridges. I was sad and quite angry because that foreign bastards ruined a piece of my memory. Later that day my dad arrived and I finally left Karlovci for going back to Kraljevo.
Couple days after, my mum came from Italy because she could not stand any more lies of RAI – the Italian Radio television. She warned us about the NATO intervention, airplanes were departing from a NATO base in Aviano, but we ignored it. After her arrival, we all moved to a village, at grandma' place, where we stayed until the end. The following year I moved to Italy too, and my dad joined us in 2001. Ironically, I moved to a country which bombed mine. But that is some other story.
Today is the first April 2010. Eleven years after. Who knows what will bring this April fools but this time I want to laugh loudly. I will not forget the past, neither I can do it, but I will continue to live with it. Probably today I would not be who I am without that past and I am grateful to Lord for that.
Good night my friends, where ever you are now! God bless you!