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    Friends, part two

    This is the second part of my short story, Friends. Please would you correct my mistakes.

    Tito knew what he was doing alright, but ordinary people did not want to hear anything about that. After all, they were not hungry, they received flats from their factories and paid low rents; they could buy any household appliance and even purchase a small car. Therefore, they sang aloud, “Comrade Tito, we promise you that from your path we will not turn.” Nobody knew what that path exactly was, and nobody dared to ask either. Instead, people had faith in their leader, who outwitted the Nazis, had courage to say “No” to the arrogant Stalin and succeeded in borrowing billions of dollars from the West, under the pretext that the country must be strong to defend itself from the Warsaw Pact. When they were still children, Milan and Omer had learnt many revolutionary songs by heart. Songs about the revolution, partisans, party, brotherhood and unity. It was brotherhood and unity Tito and the communists were most proud of. So proud that they called the first built motorway “The Brotherhood and Unity Motorway”. During the Second World War, the Serbs, Croats and Muslims had committed terrible crimes towards each other. It was not animosity, but pure hatred, and that turned into barbarism Europe had not seen since the Middle Ages. But suddenly he appeared, in a dazzling white uniform covered in gold and diamonds, and told the masses that there would be no more killing, no more hatred, no more quarrelling.

    There would only be brotherly love under the red flag of the Communist Party. Many doubted that a simple locksmith would ever succeed. Nevertheless, his methods were reliable and effective. Those who opposed him would disappear without trace, included some of his best friends for whom he reserved years in prison instead of instant death, as a sign of mercy and compassion. That magic time went on for 35 years and then the great magician became terminally ill, and despite the best doctors from both the East and West, he was not able to outsmart the Great Reaper. When the news broke, the whole country erupted in a long mournful howl. Everyone was weeping for the great man, who would never again drive Hollywood stars in his Mercedes cabriolet around his island. Still teenagers, Milan and Omer wept as well, for Tito had been like a father figure to them. They had pictures of him in their rooms, on their schoolbooks, in classrooms, and school laboratories. He watched them from the oversized portraits on the important buildings. Both families watched together his funeral on TV, cried, and asked themselves what was going to happen to the country without its commander. As it was, life went on as before and there were neither upheavals nor conflicts.

    Milan and Omer grew taller and stronger and went to the Army to do their compulsory military service, which was for one year. That was the first time they were apart for such a long time. Milan went to Slovenia, close to the border with Italy, and Omer went south, to Macedonia. The long distance did not dampen their friendship. They exchanged letters regularly, describing to one another their experiences and feelings. They were both fine soldiers and their officers recommended them for the membership in the Party. That was the greatest honour, and they both accepted it with pleasure. After fulfilling their obligations towards their homeland, they both moved to Sarajevo with the goal of studying medicine. They rented rooms from an old pensioner, a widow, whose income was meagre and who needed money for the upkeep of her house and the paying of all the bills. She was kind, and treated them as if they were her own children. The only condition she had imposed on them was not to have female companions in the house. This was not because of any strict moral stance on her part, she told them, but because of her neighbours, who would be too eager to spread malicious rumours and give her bad name.

    For the two young men, Sarajevo was an invaluable experience. They came from a provincial town where everyone knew everyone, and suddenly they found themselves in a big city with trams, buses and cars speeding down the avenues and passers-by rushing to come in time to their destinations. Sarajevo was more than just a city. It was a place where the East and the West met and the three main religions lived in a peaceful cohabitation for hundreds of years. Thus, within a radius of a few hundred meters a tourist had an opportunity to visit a synagogue, a catholic, an orthodox church, and a mosque. Visitors who came abroad and walked through the streets could not believe their own eyes. In many countries people belonging to different religions tried to annihilate each other and were unable to behave like civilised human beings, but here in this city surrounded by hills and mountains, they could see only harmony. Tito was dead, but his legacy lived on, and his huge portraits in the streets warned the people not to stray from the path. Milan and Omer had an exceptional chance to watch the Winter Olympic Games, which Sarajevo hosted in 1984. They worked as volunteers together with thousands of other young men and women, who wanted to present their homeland to the world in the best possible way. Just as their parents before, now they themselves were proud of the achievements of their homeland. A socialist country, which was relatively poor compared to the mighty capitalist powers, had succeeded in creating a spectacle, praised all over the world. This was a beautiful dream, which people wished to continue for ever.

    Last edited by Bassim; 05-Dec-2013 at 23:10.

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