I’M AFRAID OF AMERICANS

Attention, attention. Air raid. Go to a bomb shelter immediately. Open the windows, lower the shutters, turn off the power supply, turn off the gas, and take only the bare necessities with you. If you are in a vehicle, park it on the side of the road and head to the nearest underground shelter. Air raid, please follow the instructions provided by the Information Center. Over.

On March 24, 1999 at 7:45 PM CET, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) launched air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), composed of Serbia and Montenegro, during the Kosovo War, with the bombing of Serbian military positions in its southern province of Kosovo. An uninterrupted 60 second signal tone denoted a state of emergency that lasted until 5.30 AM the next day. We heard bombs rumbling in the distance. I remember the panic, the terror, limbs going numb, heart racing, squatting in the middle of the living room and holding each other tight. An ‘imminent threat of war against Yugoslavia by NATO’ was declared on national television right after the fist bombs hit, along with a list of instructions on what to do when air raid sirens go off, followed by a huge mobilization of troops and resources. As of day one, the creepy music of penetrating warning sounds was played on a regular basis, giving us chills every fucking time.

The following day, the sirens start wailing at 1.30 PM. Once again, we switch off the lights and electrical appliances, open the windows wide, and lower the shutters, blocking out the sun, rain, wind, life. Wrapped in a blanked the color of veins, I’m kneeling on the floor in the dark half of the hall in the central part of my parents’ house, listening to the indistinct voices of the street, the voice of a mother, a grandfather, a brother, a husband, a toddler, whimpering dogs, and bewildered roosters. In the night between Mar 25 and 26, I heard the deafening noise of swarming planes for the first time. Deadly mosquitoes buzzing endlessly in the skies above made our blood run cold and caused us to develop an arrhythmia on the spot and chronic insomnia and noise phobia with time. The sound produced by warplanes, especially when flying low at high speeds and perceived as danger, is hard to describe. Your body reacts without conscious thought, seeking cover, and you feel its intensity in your nostrils and your throat, it chokes you, it makes your knees tremble, it vibrates in your stomach, turning your bowels upside down, it incapacitates your legs, paralyzes your spine and tongue, blurs your vision and messes with your brain. The lights have gone out, candles being a rare commodity these days. We have only one left which we decide to keep for a rainy day. I close my eyes for a few seconds and feel a wave of claustrophobic darkness wash over me.

Three days after the bombing had started, the wise men of our small tribal community decided we should start hiding in the basement of a shaggy old house at the end of the street. Most towns didn’t have a proper underground bomb shelter so that people were mainly hiding in house/apartment building basements. The decision to leave your house and join a bunch of strangers isn’t the one you’ll make lightly. However, the elderly think it’s necessary when the unthinkable occurs. Choosing your emergency shelter supplies is not easy either as you have no idea how long the air raid could last and what might come out of it. Most importantly, you need something to keep you comfortable and well-fed during the time you’ll spend there. A sandwich, enough drinking water and blankets were a must. But, as no one could imagine a temporary visit to the shelter would turn into a prolonged stay, a couple days’ worth of non-perishable food, let alone the first aid kit, wasn’t on our mind. Everyone thought about how to make it that very day. Tomorrow was too far away.

Our new temporary shelter was a centenarian, which made it the oldest fella in the neighborhood. Stone, and blocks made of mud and straw were protruding everywhere. In today’s world of advanced architecture, such a home would be considered healthy and safe for a living after some additional renovations, but no house can be safe enough to protect you from bombs unless it’s a proper fallout shelter. In spite of this, at the time being, we find comfort in sharing our plight with others, although we don’t really know each other. Ironically, a couple of decades later, I’ll read about a video game, the war and post-war world of the underground nuclear fallout shelter that will prove to be massively popular on mobile phones and PCs, which will be downloaded by millions and earn staggering $5m in its first two weeks on sale. It’ll be described as ‘a highly addictive building and management game in which you construct your own vault and carefully manage the people and resources to create a thriving sun-free community.’ They suggest stockpiling granola, as well as salt, pepper and other spices. Oh boy! If the game makers had known half of what we did about the shelter, they would have never come up with such a dull pastime because it’s impossible to turn an apocalyptic hell into a home.

I walk into a dungeon I’ll be sharing with my neighbors, cramped in a matchbox with wooden benches on the side, waving hello to wrinkled faces of the elderly, kids chit-chatting, serving tea and sweet coffee, sleeping, acting out, a two-year old girl who can’t stop crying, and her older sister who has a hard time being called by her nickname (Nato), preschool and elementary school children with their parents who cling to the hope that this frenzy will soon come to an end and a charismatic guy in his late 60s apparently skilled at making everyone feel better. I’m trying to avoid close encounters, unnecessary remarks and compulsory smiles, turning my head not to feel bad breath coming from teeth they haven’t brushed in days. It’s terribly cold and smells of mold. I’m wearing a T-shirt, an undershirt, a sweatshirt, a woolen sweater, a warm hoodie, a winter jacket, thick tights, two pairs of woolen socks pulled over my knees, and sport shoes. I take a seat on a bench without backrest, feeling cushions underneath, and cover my shoulders with a blanket. After a few hours of uncertainty, the sirens blare the end of danger and we all go home only to head back to the improvised bomb shelter as soon as the ear-piercing screech goes off again. We’re back to black: drowsy kids, worried parents and toothless old women in PJs who hurried back, obviously forgetting their teeth at home. They don’t feel like prattling any more, and place their hands over their mouths when laughing wholeheartedly. Leaning against the wall, I’m closing my eyes to catch up on some sleep but wake up at the slightest sound. From a heavy sleeper, I turned into a light one. A pin dropping two rooms away behind a closed door would startle me awake, let alone a truck driving by or honking.

I’ve been dreaming a lot lately. I had a dream that all people were created equal…

 

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* Originally published at Morality Park

Author: Blogging_with_Bojana

I'm diggin' Need to grow, have to push Flicking through vinyl and feeding the rush I dig for that one and I open the haunt It's takin' all day from the back to the front I'm diggin' and diggin' You know Sorry baby I'm gone diggin' www.bloggingwithbojana.com

84 thoughts on “I’M AFRAID OF AMERICANS”

  1. Maybe I’m too close to you now…a year of learning about someone will do that to me…I just wish it wasn’t. I wish a lot of things.

    My word the way your words make me feel the oppression…the utter wrongness of it all.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. People are more prone to seeing the wrongness in an idea or sb’s actions than the rightness. In this case, what was considered right by many is turning more and more into terribly wrong as time goes by. How can any war be right, right?

      Thank you, my friend, you know how much it means to me that you’re here.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You are so right. Once I began to read this one I started to question whether I should have poked you to pull down that journal of yours you kept hidden for so many years. I still believe I was right for doing it. This is a story that needs to be told…for us and for you.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Through so many tears, I haven’t the breath for words. I am sorry, so sorry the world has stamped your heart and eyes with such grief and horror. I wish it could be undone. I wish it had never happened. I know there is no point wishing. For what it is worth, the bravery you possess in baring these scars is beyond the definition of bravery. I will always, so deeply, admire you.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Sad things happend, and will happen again. But dont worry about, Bojana! I think “the Americans” have other ideas, now. Looking at the situation in the EU, there are a lot of problems here in Germany. Whenever a state tell its citizens its all great, and there is so much money they never had, the issues are in the background too. The war in Yugoslavia in my meaning was something like covered culture imperialism too. And they got an highway for the refugees. Thinking on our revanchists here, i think the next wars will only be civil wars. ;-( Think on the “airbase” BER at Berlin. This one dont get ready, maybe they dont know how big the bunker has to be. 😉 Best wishes, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My spam folder loves you, obviously.
      I’m not worried for myself. I’m worried for the whole world. Many more wars are going to be waged for sb else’s goals.
      If they thought of refugees for a split second, they would never do what they do worldwide.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand Bojana! Myself i think we will get civil war in Europe very soon. Some months in the past i found very interesting information about a Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, the founder of “Paneuropa-Union”. His thought in 1928 were horrible, and i think there a at least one group which try to realise “neofeudalism” in whole Europe.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a tough read. From a writer’s perspective, I appreciate that you were able to add some rhyme, some poetry, some lovely description to your memories of a horrifying and horrifying trying time in your life (and world history).

    I appreciate having some insight into who you are. I think we get along for the same reasons, although I have a hard time putting it into one word (I got called a sad clown quite a bit by one kid in college, not that I’m calling you that). Maybe it’s something like joi d’vivre crossed with cynicism or realism, smiling through the pain, Elvis Costello’s bitter take on life and love, a great smile with sad eyes (it’s just a guess; the only picture I’ve seen of you is your gravatar), a desire for life to be as good and perfect as it can be juxtaposed with the realization that this world is shit and because of us.

    Anyway, I appreciate the insight. It was a tough read.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You got it all right, Justin. That’s me, a big smile with sad eyes, melancholic, pessimistic, a cynic, a realist with dreams as I often describe myself. Having had to put up with so much shit, I can’t see myself in any other role. Regardless, this is my movie, so I’d better star in it, right?

      Warning: it’s gonna get much tougher so stick around. (Thanks)

      Liked by 3 people

  5. P.S. I, too, am afraid of Americans. It’s hard being one. Like when my students indicate that they don’t like me, my typical reaction is: “Can you imagine being ME then? I get zero break from me, whereas you get to go home at the end of the day.”

    America: Where ALL Lives Matter.

    Period.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Absolute power corrupts
    … absolutely.
    When America joined in the
    allied bombing of Germany
    the U.S. Air force took great
    care to only hit military targets.
    Despite this striving for
    accuracy meant more of their
    planes were shot down.
    It was considered a moral
    decision, after noting the
    carnage to civilian areas
    caused by the RAAF, who’s
    bombing was far less accurate.
    The British had decided the
    less time their planes were
    exposed to anti-aircraft fire,
    the better. But after a few years
    of fighting the U.S. was willing
    to drop the atomic bomb, on
    civilians … twice!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I have no words today! This was difficult to read. As much you have decided to share this with us, I can feel how the world is so lopsided. While we choose not to care anymore, when we can. When you mentioned the centenarian, it forced me to think more. In times of adversity, we are strangers no more.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for this my friend. The blaring sirens are now with me too, but I say this out of gratefulness that you have shared this story. I think everyone should read stories like these to know what it truly feels like to be in a modern war zone, at the mercy of warplanes (and now drones), if they knew, they would not cheer as bombs drop.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Who’d want to be on the receiving end of justice as interpreted by the Land of the Free? We’re under the flight path of the fighter planes stationed in Les Landes. When they go out for a spin we swear they’re aiming right for us. It scares me (not to mention all the dogs in the neighbourhood) witless. What is must be like for people who KNOW they’re aiming right for them..

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Some years ago, there was a British tv series that ‘recreated’ the experience of going to fight in the First World War. The young guys involved were using diaries of those who were there to re-live the experience as accurately as possible. I had a conversation with my father about how much attention was paid to detail during the make of the programme. He replied (as someone who has served in a modern day war), that no matter how realistic and historically accurate the experience was for those men, the one thing they wouldn’t be able to recreate was the fear. Ultimately, they knew they’d be going home alive, in one piece. Your words struck fear in me, I can’t begin to imagine how utterly terrifying that was for you, your family, friends and community. To be able to find a way to function through those circumstances is a testament to the strength of humanity. Who do you turn to when the leaders of the free world are dropping bombs on you? I’m so very glad you survived to tell your story. It’s such an important aspect of this history to tell. I’m sorry for the pain you went through and re-live in its telling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You father was right. You can feel compassion, sympathy, the ultimate tragedy of it all, but you cannot recreate fear. I’m doing my best to describe it as thoroughly as possible and in the following posts I’ll be concentrating more on fear. I think I’m currently challenging myself to make it as realistic as possible, precisely by going through the different stages I went through.
      Thank you very much for reading. I can’t show enough appreciating for everybody who has taken interest in my story. One talks, the other listens and responds. This is what compassion and democracy if you will, is all about. Listening and respecting each other’s opinions. Leading a dialogue instead of a monologue, discussing the needs, instead of being told what you need and what is good for you.
      Thank you again.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. This was so heartbreaking and terrifying to read. I can honestly tell you and I will probably be criticized for saying this, but I am not as proud to be an American as I once was. I feel there is SO much corruption, hate and evil behaviors, how can anyone be proud. I have what the country I live in stands for and how they treat others. It is 100% shameful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think you will. Many feel like this (esp.now with this clown). How can you be proud when things like these are done ‘to protect our interests.’ I hate when politicians speak in our name. Been there, seen it. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
      Thanks, hun.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Personally I think any American that says they are proud of this country is worse than the horrible and evil politicians. Things are just crazy and I do not stand with anyone that causes pain or loss to anyone else. My heart breaks when I see what this country is capable of. You are pretty amazing girl!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Things could be much better if we didn’t have someone so full of hate and evil running this country into the ground! Those in power are hopeless and I can say I do not support any of them but fight hard against them!

        Liked by 2 people

  12. So this is what those buffoons mean by “make America great again,” eh?

    The book I’m currently reading, when I have time to read, is called “Enlightenment Now,” and it makes the long history case about how things are getting better, even when we can’t see it in the shorter run. In the shorter run, things don’t look like they’ve changed much at all from 1999 to 2018. American imperialism still rules the day, through every president since. Manifest Destiny hasn’t changed in 200 years.

    Still, we never know what others truly go through, on migrant marches, in concentration camps, in makeshift bomb shelters or hidden Amsterdam rooms until someone tells the tale. Thank you for telling the tale. We all need to understand better what our desire for “greatness” does to others. War is a zero-sum game, at best.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trump must be thinking: Fuck, what made me say that? How do I make America great again?
      When you see someone wearing a cap with this inscription. Lord almighty!
      Some predictions say it’s likely that the world, leave alone the US, will see the devastating effects of a Trump presidency for decades after. So, the sooner we get rid of such presidents, the better. I say, let’s first choose someone who can control themselves on twitter. And then, hopefully, vote them out of the office by choosing a candidate who’s neither Republican nor Democrat. It’s maybe wishful thinking, but then it’s human to hope, right?

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Uhhh. Really, there is such a game? The girl called Nato will forever remain in memory.

    It’s probably not a good thing to say it, being a fucking MEMBER and all, but I was always glad that stealth got knocked down.

    I remember when Slovenia had our bomb threat alarm in 1991 – still don’t know who made those planes in Belgrade turn around – my grandma proclaimed that it was just a prealarm, obviously they had something like this in WW2, and that we must wait for the alarm proper, and so I continued to learn chess in our garden. When the second alarm came we went down to our cellar, while it was actually the end of alarm.

    It’s all good now but it will never be okay. Your description is palpable and hurting. It will never be okay. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A truth that most Americans knew nothing of because there weren’t enough questions asked and this is information that never made it to the TV National News programs or and of the Big News Papers. This it the kind of reality when the people are to busy, to tied up with their own personal realities of their lives and you just trust your government to be doing the right thing. Now day here in America the majority of the people do not trust the government or politicians at all but at the same time, most Americans are afraid to speak out because they believe that the government will “get them” if they do.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I read this about a week ago, and I honestly had no words in response to what you wrote…I still don’t. But I want you to know that I am in awe of your strength and honesty and also of your writing. You are incredible and a force in this world, Bojana. I am so sorry for what you and your family and friends had to endure. Thank you for surviving and sharing your story with us. It reminds me how truly blessed I am.​

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know it does. It should remind us to cherish what we have, however little we might at times think it is, because our ‘little’ is unattainable for so many.
      Thank you, dear, and thanks for being a part of this not so nice journey down the memory lane. Fasten your seat belt, I have a lot more to share.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Your description of the shelter was visceral. I still remember my grandmother talking about being wakened up in the middle of the night in England and having to rush all three of her children under five years old (my mother included) to sit in the bomb shelter for hours until the all-clear was given. My grandfather was on the anti-aircraft guns and they never knew if he was coming back. I consider myself extremely lucky that all of my knowledge of this is second-hand, unlike your experiences, which you’ve captured so vividly.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Another person that doesn’t like America – what a shock. I’m curious if you can name a country that has helped more people around the world than the USA. And when you look at a person who appears Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, or European, they may be from those areas or they may be from the USA. We are the most diverse country on earth. Not saying mistakes have never been made, plenty have been made, but at least we try to make the world better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say, thank you America. Please don’t help me in the future.
      When bombs are thrown on you for months, you can’t really be thrilled, can you? Now, let’s know confuse high politics with common, decent people. Some of my very good friends are Americans, and, interestingly, neither Republicans nor Democrats. My favorite movies and literature are American. America has given birth and rise to some remarkable people who made major breakthroughs in medicine, technology and science. I don’t hate America, I hate its power and idea they have they can play gods at home and elsewhere, solving all problems on earth by violence (read: making profit). If you’re a pacifist, no matter what county you belong to, what politics you favorize, or what god you pray to, you cannot be supportive of such ‘solutions’.
      As I’m saying in my next post, I’m afraid (not only of Americans but) of such a world that dreams of terror and death.

      Like

  18. Well, My Dear, I am oh so sorry for war in the world and the part our country played no matter the reasons! This is a stunning post on the subject and your personal experience. I hope you will come to know and understand that the people of America are not the same as the government of America. Sometimes it isn’t fair to judge all by the actions of some!! Love and blessings to you, My Dear!!
    Chuck
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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