Reads very well. I suppose that I, like most Americans, never really understood this conflict.This is the fourth part of my short story, Friends. Please would you correct my mistakes.
The Party leaders shook hands with each other and returned home to their respective republics, hoping that they would unite again in some near future, without being able to imagine the Hell, which would break out soon. Slovenia declared independence, which created an outcry in Serbia. Milan did not support it either. He told Omer that he could not imagine that a republic in which he had spent one year of his life doing his military service would suddenly become an independent state for which he would need a passport to enter. Omer thought that this was already a fait accompli. When the citizens of Slovenia had decided to separate from the rest of Yugoslavia, it would be impossible to force them to change their minds. However, the military leaders did not want to give up without a fight. They started a war, which went on for some days, and then suddenly they ordered the whole army to withdraw. They never gave any explanation; they never answered any questions either. Slovenia became free and independent, its citizens happy that they did not witness destruction and a large loss of life. Then Croatia made the same decision, but this time thousands of Serbs, which lived there for centuries, started to rebel. They created their own state within Croatia and attacked the Croatian police and the army. A bloody war ensued. Mr Milosevic immediately condemned the Croatian leaders and promised support for the Serbs.
This time Milan told Omer that the Serbs were right to rebel. They had no future in Croatia under the government of the nationalists who would continue the ethnic cleansing of the Serbs which started during the Second World War, and which only stopped because of the defeat of the Nazis. But now they had been given free hands to implement their evil plans again. Omer tried to calm him down. This was not the Second World War. Those were different times. The EU and the USA would never allow such terrible crimes to happen again. Milan was too angry to listen to him. His only hope was Milosevic, who would certainly help his brothers to defend themselves, and give them all the military and financial help they needed.
Even if Omer did not want to think about that war, he could not avoid it. As soon as he went outside to his balcony, he could hear the distant sound of artillery, which went on for hours. He did not know which side fired the shells, but in the end that was not important. They caused destruction of villages and towns, which people had built with their own hands in the hope of a better future. The two families sat often in the evening watching
on TVhorrific scenes on TV from the war and asking themselves the same question: Was the same awful fate going to befall us? They did not want to believe in such an end. It would be worse than death and torture. Everyone knew that Bosnia was something special. Three nations had lived together for so many centuries, had so many common memories, interests and aspirations, and prayed to the same God. Every attempt to split them up would look like tearing a body apart. It would cause indescribable suffering and transform the beautiful country into the cruellest slaughterhouse. However, the war followed its own logic and came only closer to Bosnia. Omer watched the vehicles belonging to the so-called Yugoslav People’s Army thundering by, carrying weapons and soldiers to boost the Serbian forces in Croatia. Tanks, personnel carriers, artillery guns and trucks were all travelling in one direction. The irony was that the Army was neither Yugoslav nor People’s any more, but consisted of the Serb volunteers, eager to avenge the Serbs who had been killed almost five decades ago. ("Army" in the Yugoslav People's Army is capitalized because it is the name of an group. I went into the army is not capitalized because here army is a general term)
One day Omer met his former schoolmate, Marko. He told Omer he was going
next weekto fight in Croatia next week. Omer knew him as a man who always liked to tell jokes and was not able to sit quietly in the classroom. But after the years he had matured and even married just a few months before. He did not take him seriously, believing that Marko was joking this time also. His face was sombre as he told Omer that he could not simply stand aside and watch the Croats killing his brothers and sisters. Omer said, “But you’re married, Marko. Your wife is expecting a baby. You’ve just started to live a proper life, and now you are risking everything.” His face turned dark and he answered, “You know, mate, there’re more important things in life than being married and having a child.” This wasThese were the last words Omer heard from him. Two weeks later Marko returned home, but not as a hero, but in a wooden coffin covered with a Yugoslav flag. Milan and Omer went to his funeral, and it was the most distressing scene with hundreds of people who came to pay him tribute. Surrounded by this sad and silent crowd stood Marko’s parents. They seemed to have crumpled and grown old overnight together with his pregnant wife, carrying the child, who would never see its father.
To be continued
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