The Long Goodbye
Belgrade, March 17, 2006
Slobo's body was not accepted in the Museum of the Revolution, the director said. There was no room there since there are other two current exhibits.
So with a little help from the government, Milosevic party members broke into the Museum of History of Yugoslavia and exposed his coffin. The director of the museum sent out a furious public letter of protest, but to no avail. His fans were already gathering and queuing to pay the last respect to their idol.
Some Ratko Mladic photos were also there next to Milosevic. Old phrases I almost forgot from bad old Milosevic days; such as Slobo my love, my hero, you saved us... his fans were always sentimental and hysterical, but never very modern in rhetoric.
War invalids from the nineties, the Milosevic wars, are protesting at the same time in front of the governmental building. Everybody is hoping those two crowds don’t meet.
They won't. Milosevic is outside downtown where the embassies and residential houses are situated. Only a hundred of meters away, Tito's body is lying.
Milosevic used to live in this neighborhood; so did Djindjic as well as Tito. Once they get up in those fancy hills, they never go down, I noticed: politicians in power or deposed. Against the law as it always was, it was never really outlawed.
A museum is transformed into a chapel. The Parliament is not working until next week because of the funeral... A member of the government said, what could we do? Open a tent in the middle of the road? The American embassy is issuing a warning message: We wish to remind American citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.
As I am listening to the press conference from Hague about toxic results from the autopsy. Suddenly I have a feeling: as if it were a matter of my personal life and death.
NO TOXIC TRACES... wow, no speculations, no unrest, no Milosevic among us anymore... That is a victory condition worth fighting for.
But the western allies definitely have a problem in dealing with Milosevic, live or dead. They neglected his deeds while alive, resulting in numerous innocent deaths. Now his health problems in prison resulted in his own death. Hopefully this does not close the tribunal and topple governments.
It seems the family will not be coming for the funeral tomorrow: Mira , Milosevic's wife never saw her mother or knows where she was buried, for she was killed as a true communist rebel during World War Two ... Now we will all have her husband's body, publicly available, except for her. I wish it was vice versa. I wish their love story never crossed into a power story.
In the daily papers necrologies of Slobodan Milosevic. We have the Red Brigades ( special troops responsible for Djindjic's killing) saluting him in this long goodbye. As well a group of citizens saying: Thank you for all the things you did to us: wars and miseries. You are gone but we will never forget you...
The Last Day, March 18
Mass Murderers to Mass Graves
No family members. They are fighting among themselves: the Milosevic daughter, who is the only one still in Serbia and Montenegro, and who is not indicted, claims that her father should be buried in Montenegro because he comes from there, not Pozarevac in Serbia. But Pozarevac has the famous linden tree that Mira and Sloba planted forty years ago. Mira wrote poetry about that tree and place, rather bad poetry, but sincere. We used to read between the lines in those days, when she cut the heads off her enemies while reading and writing poetry.
The daughter is threatening an exhumation of the body and a new burial in his other hometown.
Right now a meeting is raving in front of the federal parliament in Belgrade. Hate speeches against democracy, foreigners, minorities. An angry, mocking tone.
At three o'clock, when they leave for his burial town -- a town which proclaimed a day of mourning, since his party is ruling still there -- we Women in Black will reclaim our square, our streets, our town: with balloons...
Around 80 000 people in the square: buses from the country brought his supporters, organized by his party, in the same way as they were once bused to defend the bridges from NATO bombs. One man died. Quite a few were taken sick. Russian communists are the only foreign delegation speaking. Only one local TV is broadcasting the event full-time. Foreign press like BBC and CNN are giving more importance than our local media. They are warning the world: I fear NATO preemptive fear now that he is gone. I have more problems to publish about good guys than bad guys. I have problems myself with US aggressive politics, which I also recognize in Milosevic's model sometimes.
Ramsay Clark spoke in front of Belgrade parliament, with all the radicals and nationalists, next to Milosevic's coffin. Sorry, I don’t understand his need to do that.
Other famous speaker is Austrian author Peter Handke: fortunately the broadcast interrupted when he spoke: I love his books, let's keep it that way.
At three o'clock, in the Republic Square a spontaneous gathering with balloons ends, lively and happy, with whistles... it was organized through an sms network. Can you explain what is this? asks me the Reuters TV. Yes, we are celebrating Slobo's funeral.
We are couple of thousand, some politicians, artists. As we did when Djindjic was alive, we started walking through our city chanting: he is done.
Our crowd is mostly young people. The crowd in front of Milosevic coffin was mostly older people and men.
We fly our balloons from the top of Kalemegdan, the statue of unknown hero overlooking the confluence of two big rivers, the border between eastern and western empires.
In Pozarevac, the funeral is going on, with military marches and red roses dropped in front of the car transporting him to his garden. Like a canary he is buried in a garden, says one woman sadly, his fan. It is a big necro feast. A priest was supposed to be giving the service to this atheist communist ex president: a priest famous during the wars as an excellent hate speech racist orator who inflamed the masses against other ethnicities. But the priest abandoned the funeral suddenly. Only fifty people have gathered in the garden, many are war criminals indicted in Hague. The event is broadcast on video in the center of the small city.
A letter of his son is read first: pathetic, nationalist, megalomaniacal and dangerous. Daddy he says: I love you.
Mira, his wife, sent a letter: speaking of dates and coincidences as usual, as if God ordained their love and power. She identifies with her dead husband and calls the rest of the world criminals. She is insulting his opponents with vulgar and distasteful language, in the name of her own divinity.
A Russian general says goodbye with a heavy Russian accent: goodbye, Slobodan the soldier... Certainly a euphemism for his big endeavors.
But you know what? At the end of the day, I must say, we won. Unfortunately, funerals are the best yardstick for judging power here in Serbia. Three years ago, Djindjic's funeral was attended by millions of local people, with a big foreign presence. Not one moment of bad taste then, except for the stark fact that Milosevic, at that time in prison, still managed to pull strings in his criminal network and to avenge himself by killing the man with who ended his reign of terror. Milosevic never personally dirtied his hands.
It was raining heavily at his funeral, which had a cleansing effect on both sides. And it was not even ethnic cleansing!
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Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.