Wednesday, March 7, 2007

"God forgives -- Skabrnja doesn't."

If there were any lingering doubts about the relevance of Adam Lebor's piece for The Nation on genocide, which I reviewed on Sunday, then Marion Kraske's report on ethnic hatred in Croatia at SPIEGEL ONLINE should reinforce Lebor's argument. Kraske's lead says it all:

The nights scare Sofia Skoric most. The 71-year-old Serb woman sits in her sparsely furnished sitting room, her wrinkled skin bronzed by decades of sunshine. It's getting dark outside and she no longer feels safe. It's night again, and she and her husband Svetozar feel they may again fall victim to the rage of their neighbors.

Just like one night last summer. It was shortly after half past one when people started hurling bricks through the windows of their house. The police later counted 34 bricks in the house. Other Serbs in the small village of Biljane Donje were also targeted. Within a few hours, police had found the culprits: four young Croats from the neighboring village of Skabrnja.

Turning the other cheek may sound good enough in church, but it does not hold up very well against a collective memory that has been contaminated by the experience of genocide. This is the message behind the graffiti left by the Croatian vandals and quoted in the title of this post. The word from the more moderate voices is no more encouraging:

"There's no one here who didn't lose a member of their family in the massacre," says the mayor of Skabrnja, Nediljko Bubnjar, wearing black sunglasses, his mobile phone attached to his belt. Bubnjar, regarded as a moderate here, says he condemns the attacks on Serbs in Biljane Donje. "But," he says emphatically, "one must not forget what happened here either."

In Ulysses James Joyce had his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, describe history as a nightmare from which he is trying to awaken. The nightmare continues, ironically enough, in a corner of Europe where Joyce did some of this best writing.

1 comment:

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