Wednesday, 23 July 2008

News from Belgrade

Back in town for 72 hours and lots to catch up on. The biggest and greatest news is the arrest of Karadzic in Belgrade. I ended up staying up half the night in happy disbelief whilst the story broke. Incredible that he was hiding, by not hiding. I guess changing your identity and learning your new part thoroughly is the safest way to escape - he was always a self-deluded actor!

Two years ago I celebrated New Year's Eve in Sarajevo. I stayed with Mumo & Valida, a couple exactly the same age as me. Whilst I spent my early twenties finishing off my degree, training to teach and putting up my first shows in fringe venues in Manchester - they spent theirs daily dodging bullets to get a few bottles of essential water from the spring under the brewery and taking unrelenting 18 hours on, 18 hours off shifts to defend their city from the Serb artillery on the hill.

This year I spent New Year's Eve in Belgrade and met with Darko -again the same age as me- who'd served for the Serb army, mostly on the border of Kosovo. As the American bombs began to fall on Belgrade and his military commanders refused to surrender he felt it was only a matter of time before the backlash caught up with him. He wrote several 'final' letters back to his family.

Karadzic had a deathwish for both.

What united my Bosnian and Serb friends was a sense of Yugo-nostalgia, but they also both agreed on was the need to move forward and that stability, if possible in such a tribal region, would only be reached by some kind of truth and reconciliation process. In this context the handing over of, a major architect of the ethnic cleansing programme, to The Hague tribunal, by the Serbian government seems to offer an opportunity for further progress. I hope so.

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