I’ve been back from Serbia for just over a month now, and I in talking to people about my experiences there, I find myself repeating a few things over and over to people. First, it seems ironic that there is a perception in the media (true or not) that the US and Europe aren’t getting along well very, but the US currently spending large amounts of money to help Serbia integrate better with the EU. In the case of the project I worked on, they are trying to help the law schools incorporate more EU law into the curriculum so that they can be better positioned for entry into the EU somewhere down the road.
Another interesting thing I was told by one of my drivers, who also happens to be a bee keeper, is that right after the US bombing took place, the quality and quantity of the honey production by his bees increased dramatically. Now why would that happen? It may have something to do with the fact the the US destroyed most of Serbia’s heavy industry in the bombing, and in the process eliminated the source of most of the pollution in Serbia. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) many of the plants have now been repaired and the pollution if flowing freely again. It’s not surprising that Mirko (the bee keeper) now reports that honey production is down to where it was before the bombing again.
Lastly, during my stay in Serbia, the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenicia massacre was observed. Eight thousand men and boys were killed by Serbian soldiers while UN peace keepers looked on near the infamous Bosnian town. The Serbians I talked to in Belgrade were ashamed at what happened, but correctly pointed out that Bosnian soldiers had committed smaller atrocities in Serb villages around Srebrenicia before the Serbian solders committed their crimes. Prominent Bosnians and Croatians, including famous basketball players for example, rightly condemned what the Serbian soldiers did, and in their anger said many hateful things about Serbian people in general. There are now some signs of reconciliation though. An all star basketball game for the retiring Serbian basketball star and national hero Aleksandar Djordjevic was held during my visit. Many former team mates came to pay tribute, including some former Yugoslavia national team players from Bosnia and Croatia. It was reported in the media that one Croatian player expressed concerns about travelling to Serbia, because he literally feared for his life after some of the things he publicly said about Serbia during the war. Djordjevic told him not to worry, that he would let everyone know through the media that he was in Serbia as his personal guest. His visit went off without a hitch, and he was cheered by 20,000 Serbians at the beginning of the game. Hopefully we will see more cheering on both sides as time goes on.