A Decade

Only the dead have seen the end of the war.


March 24th. I am sitting at home, doing nothing special. Wednesday as usual, I came home from job, ranting about salary that will not come in time. Wanted to watch the news on the TV but then remembered there will probably be nothing interesting – bad news as every single day. Tried to read a book but got bored very soon.
Telephone rang, my friends from sixth floor are inviting me to join them in eating a cake. Yay!!! The solution for boring evening. Put my sneakers on, say :bye: to grandparents, running down to sixth. We spend some time talking, eating cake, doing what friends usually do. TV was on, sound muted, evening news. Then I saw something on a screen: NATO aircrafts attacked Yugoslavia half an hour ago. I could not believe, we didn't hear any warning sirens. I ran to the balcony, looking with disbelief at explosions across the Danube. Anti aircraft defence firing, red trails all over sky. Then I looked up and saw stars moving…..

Photo: Ljiljana Živojinović/Andrija Ilić

I called my friend, we were in the same military unit during 1992. and asked him if we are supposed to go to our unit but he said he already contact them and was told to wait. They were not at the same place anyway….
This is how it started ten years ago. During 78 days of "Allied forces" campaign, USA led NATO aircrafts made over 36000 flights, severely damaging military barracks, factories, telecommunications, schools, bridges, private houses and appartment buildings. Over 2000 civilians and 1000 soldiers died. About 13000 tons of uranium based ammunition were fired, mostly in Kosovo, and 37000 small cluster bombs were dropped over urban areas in our towns, intended for deliberate frightening of civilians…
I have seen Tomahawk missiles two times, flying literally over my head. I was passing by Chinese embassy 5 minutes before it was hit with bomb from US B-2 bomber, leaving few Chinese citizen dead under the walls. I saw when a plane from German Luftwaffe severely damaged and destroyed TV tower in Avala, a symbol of Belgrade. Sat whole night at the top of my building watching bombs dropping on nearby military airport. Spent a night in underground station, watching terrified people and scared kids. This is when I decide I will never go hiding again.
A lot of people died but among them I will never forget one death. Milica Rakic was only 3 years old when she died of a fragment of a cluster bomb that hit her in head while she was sitting on a chamber pot in bathroom… (direct link, scroll down to read testimony of her father). According to general Wesley Clark, the Supreme Commander of NATO forces, she and other civilian casualties were just "collateral damage". Just…

Photo: BBC

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51 Responses to A Decade

  1. edwardpiercy says:

    The quote by Plato — very true, sad to say.

  2. LorenzoCelsi says:

    There are too many things to say about this.Or too few.I don't know.But I am sorry.

  3. uls says:

    Это великая боль для Югославии и великая глупость, невежество, жестокость со стороны Америки и НАТО. Об этих событиях страшно вспоминать. Тысячи оборванных жизней. "Зашто?".

  4. PainterWoman says:

    You mean this is happening right now? There is nothing on the news here. Darko, I'm so sorry. I hope it stops now so you don't have to go. I don't want you to go. I hate this. I hate war. Why does it have to be this way.

  5. PainterWoman says:

    Nevermind. I just realized you were reminicsing. Still, very troubling things to remember.

  6. Javaen says:

    Wow… Dare, crazy heavy stuff. Looking back, what's the most signifcant part of this experience for you?

  7. ellinidata says:

    Darko,it s amazing that we live so many different things each day ,at the end we forget all! Still when something major happens ,our brains are stuck with that memory, we remember if it was shoes or sneakers we wore, who we would have seen or how we felt.memories are a sneaky devil that can be a happy or a sad one.Like I remember exactly what I was wearing or doing when I did hear the death of my mom,what I was doing when 9/11 happened…It would have been so much better if we forgot…Looking of what your life is now and the rest of the people in Serbia I still wonderwas it worth it???and I say loud NO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :cry:there are no winnersnever have been 😦

  8. sanshan says:

    I can't imagine witnessing or living through such an event, and I hope I never have to.

  9. Zaphira says:

    It's impossible to imagine how it must have been to have experienced war. I hope that you'll never have to go through that again. :heart:

  10. Dacotah says:


  11. thaodp says:

    Sad memories :awww:

  12. Javaen says:

    Knowledge is often a double edged sword Dare… And….Aw hell….*hug* Thanks for posting it. :o. I may not understand fully, but a glimpse through someone else's eyes is… Special. Even if it is horrific and painful. I appreciate that.

  13. gdare says:

    Thank you all for commenting. At one moment I was deciding whether I should write this post or not. The important thing for me was that everyone of my friends, who are visiting this blog, understand that I am acusing no one, except politicians that started all of this. We lived pretty good during the end of `80s and then, life that we knew, disappeared. Eight years of wars changed the way I was looking at world and my place in it. Countries that were considered friendly suddenly backstabbed us – or so we felt during those times. We were young (I am mostly reffering to me and my generation) and we were willing to fight. We felt we were double crossed.Once I was trying to explain to one friend from abroad, what it was like to live in Serbia during 1999. I told her: You have a husband and two kids, you live in your house and half of a city want to kill you. And they are doing their best to achieve this. So you must do your best to protect you and what is yours. Is there anyone who can tell I am wrong?I know that a lot of my regular visitors support what NATO is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don`t, even though I can understand the general feeling of frustration of a people of USA after 9/11. And feelings of insecurity of people who live in countries where terrorist attacks happened. Because, thanks to my experience, I can see the background of those wars. Everything has a pattern, recognisable to those who can observe and read between the lines. This is not conspiracy theory.Sometimes, I don`t know if I am blessed or cursed with it. It would be so easy to live in black and white world.

  14. Dacotah says:

    Darko you are not wrong in your beliefs.

  15. wickedlizard says:

    :awww:At first I thought this was new news. I am so sorry for all the innocent people who are put into these war situations. I find it so tragic. 😦

  16. Furie says:

    That's a hell of a quote. True in all senses yet it has so many applications. I can't imagine the life lead during or after your country is torn apart by war. Even my imagination can't comprehend the feeling of that.I hate the term "collateral damage". It's the military way of saying "Oh well, nevermind then." and brushing senseless deaths that never should have happened under the carpet. They can't even say "We screwed up.", instead using this term to attempt to make themselves believe that any civilian death is an acceptable loss.The world's never been black and white, especially in war. Yesterday's ally is todays enemy. The soldier who saved your life on the battlefield in one war may well be the one you're firing at in the next war. In this way at least, soldiers are constantly betrayed by their countries. Politics is the biggest problem soldiers have ever faced, and one they can't beat.

  17. Dacotah says:

    I hate the term "Killed by friendly fire".

  18. ricewood says:

    What can I possibly say about war that isn't already said a thousand times at least?War has cast deep shadows over my family as long as I can remember. Communism, Nazism, Capitalism and other isms have been the causes for all that. I am sorry. Sorry for the fact that war exists. Sorry for the victims and sorry for the families of the victims.I truly hate war. When I was "asked" to serve my country, I told the committee in front of me, that I would serve my country with all my might, but I would definitely refuse carrying any arms meant to kill fellow humans, since it was my belief that any war – with or without my participation – would damage my country.Had there been invading forces around, it might have been a different story – but there wasn't, and there isn't. Instead my country has become the aggressive part in two wars in my time already – Iraq and Afghanistan. I have not regretted my decision from back then.

  19. gdare says:

    I remember one day in April, 1999. after a week of intesified bombings, I was going by bus from Zemun to Belgrade. Bridges in Novi Sad and in Niš, were targets these days and some people died while crossing them when they were attacked. There are few bridges in Belgrade and we were expecting some of them to be bombed, and that made bus drivers very nervous. We aproached to Branko`s bridge, slowly, while driver was looking at all sides of a sky, trying to see if anti aircraft defence are firing. Then, when he saw no signs of danger, he stepped on a pedal and soon we were speeding over the bridge with more than 100 km/h. It was funny at the moment but while watching through the window I realised that I cannot remember a times when there was no war. Only some foggy distant memory, like in a past life. We were in some kind of new reality and needed to stick to it while it lasts. Remembering past times was luxury.

  20. studio41 says:

    The important thing for me was that everyone of my friends, who are visiting this blog, understand that I am acusing no one

    never got that impression, dear Darko… this was a real attack now? or the commemoration of the event of before? please keep us updated of your safety.

  21. Cois says:

    I would never want to find myself in such a situation or situations.. Sorry for the ones that have to live through this

  22. gdare says:

    Jill and Pam – I am sorry for confusing you, I wanted to write a post as I remembered that day in 1999. It was going through my head like a movie and I just put it here; I apologise once again; those days are far behind us now…

  23. LorenzoCelsi says:

    On a side note: where do Jill and Pam live? 🙂

  24. Marike79 says:

    Thank you Darko, you gave us a window to see what it looked like for a very real person living there, not actors playing in a movie… It is so sad what happend… and what are still happening all around the world*big hugs*

  25. PainterWoman says:

    I am in Arizona, the southwestern part of the U.S.

  26. rose-marie says:

    Wow… Just… wow! I actually remember the bombing of Chinese embassy. A missile "gone wrong". And to imagine that you had passed there just moments before is… well, I lack words.Thank you for posting this, Darko. It was an excellent, yet very sad, read.:heart:

  27. MirabelaTM says:

    Darko, thank you for sharing your story with us. I experienced the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia too. We didn't have a basement in the house to hide inside, but I think that wouldn't be a good protection if the bomb hit the house. In the evening we turned off the lights, there were of course days when we didn't have lights. Each time I heard the planes and explosions I thought I could die at any moment. Fear and feeling of helpless filled the lives of many of us.There will be tonight on RTS1 "Бомбардовање – Жртве рата" at 21h, there were 2 episodes already yesterday and the day before. The stories of our pilots stunned me, they were so brave. I can't imagine how hard was that situation, especially on Kosovo where they have to fight with both NATO in the air and Albanian terrorists on land.

  28. gdare says:

    That night was crazy one, really. I spent afternoon at my friends place, just close to Branko`s bridge and in 10 in the evening I decided to go home. They tried to persuade me to stay but I insisted to catch the last bus (the last one during bombing was leaving bus station in 10 p.m.). Unfortunately, as I was aproaching bridge, I saw bus running over the bridge without even stopping there. I thought to go back to my friends but decided not to. Instead, I thought of crossing the bridge and then to try to find some kind of transportation to my part of Zemun, about 7km away. I was in the middle of bridge when bombing started again. Anti aircraft guns fired "red snakes" on my both sides and I saw one rocket too. This is when I begun to think that idea of crossing bridge was not that good. I started running and even though a bridge is not long I thought I will neer see the other end of it. There was no traffic at all, only me running, sound of my breathing was loudest thing to hear. When I came to the other side I ran about hundred meters more, somewhere close to Hyatt International hotel. There, in the middle of a street stood a cab, driver :eyes: at me, asking me if I was running over the bridge."Yes, it was me :)""What the hell did you think about, are you crazy?""Yeah, I just might be…."He told me to hop in and he will give me the lift for a small amount of money. I told him address and he asked me: "Which way do you want me to drive, through Tošin bunar street or near Chinese embassy and "Jugoslavia" hotel?" At first I thought to choose Tošin bunar street because it is a bit shorter way, then I remembered the street was in a bad condition and he would need to drive slowly. So I choosed second one. I remember Chinese embassy was well iluminated unlike some other parts of town that were in darkness. 5 minutes later we heard a strong explosion, vibrations in a car. Cab driver and me looked at each other and he stepped on a pedal, driving like crazy through empty streets.The same night a hotel "Jugoslavija" was bombed. I can`t remember when exactly that happened, but it was not much later, I have heard that explosion too but I was at home by then.It was in the night between 7th and 8th of May, 1999.

  29. LorenzoCelsi says:

    The military executes orders but you must be very stupid as political leader to put your Nation in the position in which Serbia was. The result was inevitable and Serbia lost on all fronts. If I was Serbian, I would be reasoning about those mistakes and how to make it better in the future.

  30. Marike79 says:

    Wow… That must have been so intense!! I'm glad you are ok to tell us the story…

  31. LorenzoCelsi says:

    It depends on your definition of loosing. I've seen a documentary on TV about italian troops that are still in Kosovo to protect the few christian monasteries that haven't been burned yet by the Albanians. I would not call it a success. Albanian/muslim only Kosovo is not bad only for Serbia but for the whole Europe. And, you know what, Albania is going to join NATO soon.I don't understand your point about accepting conditions. Serbia had to accept worse conditions after being bombed, was it better? Once Mussolini, leader of the fascist regime in Italy said something like "many enemies, much honor" and that clever thinking ended with Italy occupied by the enemies and put in ruins.

  32. MirabelaTM says:

    I think there is no country which would accept the conditions given to Serbia in Rambouillet. Plus they threatened with a bombing and there is no place for diplomacy if you use threat.Serbia didn't lose, Lorenzo.

  33. SittingFox says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this time, Darko.

  34. MirabelaTM says:

    Yes it depends.Capitulation means that most of the Serbian army is captured and the capital is occupied. That didn't happen. Serbia just defended its territory and people. The war was very unfair, many powerful countries against one.Albanians burned many monasteries, remember 2004, and forced non Albanian population to leave the province.Do you approve the bombing?About Albania, that is their business.Could we avoid the war? I would leave this to the political analysts.

  35. LorenzoCelsi says:

    No back then I did not agree with the bombing but I insist it was a huge and obvious mistake by the serbian leadership. Yes, you could have avoided to be bombed by NATO.What worries me is that even today the Serbs could not have a clear vision of the situation, like a stupid move being clever and such things. There is something very wrong when you don't learn by mistakes. Even worse when you don't recognize mistakes.On a side note, Serbia did not maintain its territorial integrity. In the same time, nobody wanted to invade Serbia, the NATO bombing was just an intimidating (and limited) show of force.

  36. Javaen says:

    *just listens* 😮 (It's surreal to me… And Marike is right… No movie… Which is even more surreal. I take so much for granted).

  37. gdare says:

    I wanted to avoid political debate about all of it. To discuss who started first and who achieved what. Chronology of conflicts in Balkan has a long history. Sometimes I think it started in 6th century when first Slav tribes arived here. But the most recent conflicts are more than hundred years old. And I think it is nothing over, yet.My point in making this post is rememberance. History is not written yesterday.

  38. Javaen says:

    *perks up* Really? Wisconsin here! 😀

  39. studio41 says:

    thank you for specifying, Darko, glad you are all right, presently; I am very sorry for all you went through and am thankful that God preserved your life to now… Lorenzo, I am in the upper midwest, USA.

  40. studio41 says:

    😀 a friend of mine is in WI, too… a couple years ago I got a ticket 😦 in Tomah. I couldn't believe it as there was no "NO U-TURN" marking at the intersection, guess it's supposed to be common knowledge even from out-of-staters 😆 hmmm. It was a pretty pricey ticket, if memory serves. I loved this sushi joint in Madison, though… I recently drove through WI coming back from Chicago… feel free to msg me with your loco, Jen.

  41. Javaen says:

    I am in LaCrosse, an hour from Tomah… Sorry bout your ticket! 😦 I also know a good sushi place in Madison, but the name escapes me now… Wouldn't it be cool if we dined at the same yummy sushi joint?? :DMy dad works for the railroad in Chicago, but lives in Indiana. Small world eh?

  42. I_ArtMan says:

    it doesn't help a bit, but i am so sorry that my country has been such a militant busybody in the world. they, the power elite, are dead men. they have no feeling for innocent lives at all. if i had a force to oppose them i would throw them all out into the street. it's archaic, primitive even the way it just goes on and on and the killings just go on and on. the world is sleeping through it all. the terror of our situation is that we can't do anything about it. we talk, we march… nothing affects them. they have no conscience.

  43. gdare says:

    Marching people are just annoyance to them. So they send a police. They are not touched by public opinion. They can always find national interests in their deeds.

  44. I_ArtMan says:

    i disagree. what we need is more marches. public opinion is the only tool we have. i kind of lost faith in the future because of the lack of student protests. civil disobedience can change government policy. it seems to be forgotten these days. anyway, we are numb to the reports of war and deaths… this will be the downfall of all the ideals we, we, some few,still believe in.it's up to the individual conscience now. put a gun in my hand and tell me if i don't shoot him he will shoot me. and i will not shoot. that's a principle i would die for.

  45. studio41 says:

    Hey, Jen, look at my railroad shots from my lunch hour in Chicago! 😀 Cool about your dad! I love Chicago, like Indiana, what I saw of it… I bet it was the same sushi joint in Madison… it was so good!well… Darko and Scott and I are different in politics or approach… but the human casualty crisis is reprehensible any way you look at it. I still firmly believe in national security and I feel that generally speaking we have been a great humanitarian nation these last 100 years. I won't rant,… but I believe in the worth of a life. And a soul. Perhaps that is a starting point… if not government, at least amongst friends.

  46. AnitaMargita says:

    I will never forget Milica Rakic's death too. Poar little girl. 😦 And i remember one more death. My father's coleague had a house i think in Rakovica. He, with his family was there during bombing. One day we heared the news that during NATO attack bomb fell on their house. Only his wife survived. He died in hospital, and THEY DIDN'T FIND THEIR TWO CHILDREN because bomb hit them directly!!! :yikes: :cry:I will newer forget many other things from bombing period: no electricity, often no water, sound of airplanes above, my father leaving us going to the army base, how people jumped out of bed when they bombed bridges in Ostruznica, bombing of Chinese ambassy and Hotel Yugoslavia when me and my bro saw lightening rocket thinking it will fall close… and it did, and many, many other things… 😦

  47. studio41 says:

    this is all so terrible. what a travesty! I'm sorry you went through this, each one. I hope you never witness or experience this again.

  48. studio41 says:


  49. AnitaMargita says:

    I hope that too, Jill.

  50. intothedeep says:

    I remember hearing about the couple of hundred thousand people who lost their lives during that bloody war. So, so sad. If the world didn't have its respective interests, they could have stopped it :(Sorry you had to go through that!! :heart:

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