Thursday, August 9, 2012


I'm reading/seeing Joe Sacco's wonderful book "Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995."

This drawing brought back memories (see below). We had tea that day in 1998 in one of the low buildings to the left of the wide opening just before the bridge.

Up the Drina River, past the hydro-electric dam and the reservoir, Zlatko pilots his Peugot through a dozen tunnels. A railroad track with its own network of tunnels snakes along the opposite side of the river. In ten minutes we reach Muslim-held territory. There are, contrary to my expectation, no borders to cross. Since the Dayton Accord, explains Thomas, this is one country.  
Border or no border, the tension in our little car rises as the familiar ruins begin to appear, Serb houses this time. We have been welcome in the Republika Srpska – two Serbs, the author of Justice for Serbia, two translators of that text, and the journalist who demonstrated that the ITN photos of the concentration camp at Trnopolje were a fiction. The welcome wouldn’t be as warm here.
“Here” is a town stretched along both banks of the river. Fierce fighting with machine guns and artillery has marked, has scarred the once prosperous face of Goražde. Between the highway and the river rises the brilliant white tower and five domes of a new mosque. Goražde was taken by the Serbs and retaken by the Muslims. It is connected now by a thin corridor to the Muslim-held area around Sarajevo.

In less than five minutes we have passed through the town. We’ll come back this way tomorrow.        

Late afternoon. Where the bridge over the Drina meets the main highway, we sit in front of a cafe and drink “chai,” which Zlatko pronounces with a careful and delicate Muslim lilt.
No reason to attract attention, he says.
Across the street is an apartment complex. With laundry hanging to dry in every window and on every balcony, the building looks like a ratty overstuffed couch. A white truck stands in front of the building: UNHCR – United Nations High Commander for Refugees. Stacks of firewood rise high in the courtyard.
Three children run past the café. Two of the boys wear tennis shoes. The third runs with a practiced shuffle in the adult shoes he wears, their backs flattened like slippers. He looks up and smiles at us before following his friends down the riverbank.
A woman with a wheelbarrow full of kindling shoves pieces of wood into a basement window.
The main street of Goražde is called Marshal Tito Street.
Good for them, Žarko says. It’s a crime that most Serbian towns have renamed their streets. You can’t just wipe out forty years of your history.

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