While the US marks ten years after the attacks in New York that led straight to two wars and basic changes in how American citizens view their security, Croatia solemnly recalls the 1991 incursion of Serbian troops and shelling of one of their most beloved cities, Dubrovnik. That started a two-year war on their lonesome soil.
“My buddy Drojti was stationed at the stream tunnel that connects to our hydroelectric power station when the Serbs came thru it,” announced our host, Ante. “He ran down the hill, jumped into the sea and swam the 20 kilometers to the old city.
“The folk who could not leave Dubrovnik went into the old city because they believed that the Serbs would never attack it,” Ante continued, with sourness in his voice. “But over two thousand shells struck the city, and 68 p.c of the buildings had damage, some absolutely gutted by fire.”
As Cheri and I walked thru the ancient city, over stone streets that were laid centuries ago, it was tough to fantasize the annihilation. Only when we saw the Serbian television photographs did the actuality sink in. Now, lovingly and accurately rebuilt, Dubrovnik is once more a wonderful representation of medieval life. And families still live there, doing the majority of the same stuff they did way back. Only now, the Universal Teenager can be found even here. While Ante gave us a private history lesson, a bunch of youngsters mooched noisily by, dressed just about the same as in the US, earbuds connected into their smartphones, guffawing at us tourists.
“What’s the economy like now?” I asked Ante.
“Not so good,” he responded. “After the war, we had to reconstruct our industry, but plenty of our folk had sold their property and left to the U.S, to New Zealand, England and other places. Many homes were abandoned. After ten years, things started to enhance because Europeans began to build houses here, start businesses, and tourists returned. Then in 2008, the global economic recession just put everything into reverse. Tourism is just beginning to improve. But we need alternative sources of industry.”
I was thinking about the population emigrating, guessing that most of them would be younger people, those who hadn’t started a family. Looking at the striking natural wonder of the Dalmatian coast, I could see it’s a place of great nourishment for the adult soul and really boring for kids.
Ante confirmed that this was indeed the case.
“Our youth aren’t staying in enough numbers to make our future growth,” he claimed. “Many of them are getting degrees in economics and business, but there are few growing industries here to use them.”
This same story was repeated by Samoj (he loved to be called “Sam”), a person we shared drinks and a table with in Korcula, another walled city on an island of the same name further north. Sam is a Slovenian, trained as a solicitor and historian, working for a research institute in his home country of 3,000,000 people. We were lucky to have such a convincing source of information, and we took advantage of it.
“So, Sam, what was the civil war about?” I asked. “It was portrayed by our media as an ethnic war, that so-called ethnic ‘cleansing ‘ was what the Serbians were after.”
Sam explained, “Well, in actual fact Serbs, Slovenians, Croats and Bosnians are ethnically identical. We share identical traditional roots returning to the time of the Illyrians who formed the 1st regional identity beyond little clans about three thousand years ago. The conflict goes back to when the Roman Empire broke up and was split between an eastern area and a western one. When that occurred, Catholicism under a Roman pope dominated the western empire, while the Eastern Orthodox Church was paramount in what came to be called the Byzantine Empire. The orthodox faith doesn’t recognize the pope as the representation of Jesus ‘ church, the priests can marry, and the sacraments are dissimilar, among plenty of other things. Slovenia and Croatia are on the west side of the dividing line. The Serbian aggression was really about non secular ‘cleansing, ‘ and, it was about money.”
“How did economics play into the war?” I asked.
“Under Tito, when we were all one country, there had been typically equality across the larger nation,” Sam claimed. “But the region of Slovenia was the industrial powerhouse. We had a little fragment of the total population, but we were the source of 30 p.c of Yugoslavia’s gross domestic product. Croatia had the gorgeous coast and many pretty islands where traditional towns still prospered. Croatia was the traveller mecca for Yugoslavians and many Western european countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Ever since Yugoslavia was first created after World War I, the Serbians, who were the most in number, wanted to exercise the best influence over the course of the country. When Tito died, Serbian ambitions re-emerged, and their wish to control the two wealthiest regions of the old Yugoslavia drove them to occupy when Slovenia and Croatia announced their independence.”
It occurred to me as I listened to Sam that Jesus would find it sad if he knew that in the name of claiming exclusive rights to his inheritance, envious folk would try to take away what others had out of envy and gluttony. Perhaps he does know as reported tagza.com.