Sorrow never stops in the Balkans. It's the favorite topic, the inspiration, the poetic lament. It's the history.
The recent flood that drowned the region, the biggest recorded since 120 years, as usual showed how the scale of human tragedy translates into human solidarity. There was more ironic black humor on display than I've seen since the NATO bombings of Serbia and Kosovo.
The Balkan countries are warlike and fractious, but they tend to unite when oppressed by a common enemy, in this case a fantastic Global Warming cloudburst. Soldiers and bayonets are worthless against the floods, the bad dams, the lack of any plan to deal with the reality of the climate crisis. Suddenly the Balkan locals forgot their religions, ethnicity, sexual and political orientation.
But not all of them forgot, of course. The Orthodox church official immediately blamed the floods on the ungodly tolerance of gays. In fact, even the gays couldn't manage a political protest because of the floods.
River waves two meters washed away rural villages, leaving people stranded on the roofs without food and water, no medicines, no boats… Well-known scenes from disasters all over the world, but there's nothing quite so real as major disaster in your own court yard. It was like the disintegration of Yugoslavia all over again, but in reverse, as Serbs Croats and Bosnians, against their own intentions, were unified in a bath of mud.
World stars reacted to the tragedy, from Novak Djokovic the local tennis star to Billy Idol, Angelina Jolie, Paulo Coelho, etc… Nowadays, only stars can draw attention to anything real happening in the world, for the world press reacts promptly only when the stars stopped talking about their costumes and marriages and mentioned massive disaster. Then many humanitarian concerts/actions sent money and kind words. God bless them, that's the world we made, our stars carry the world's sorrows on their shoulders when they exist just to look good.
Serbian politicians were the picture of hysterical pathos, outdoing one other with wild guesses and an obvious lack of accurate information and institutional organization. I bless the common people and their proverbial common sense. The heroine of the social networks is a humble Serbian granny talking frankly about her survival. It is always the most modest that prove the most enduring when it comes to general catastrophes. They have nothing to lose, especially when they tell the truth.
All over the world humanitarian actions have been organized to aid the stricken areas with relief supplies. The diaspora usually gets very active in those matters, out of sense of nostalgia, guilt, whatever. As a member of diaspora myself nowadays, I've learned never to speak in the name of those you are aiding. Let them talk: you should listen. No matter where you went or where you are now, their situation is waiting for you. Global warming is entirely global, it spares no part of the world, it is no longer freakish or unusual, and it can strike hard with no warning. Get ready.
After the three-day shock of the emergency situation, three days of mourning follow.
My favorite good and bad stories are these two. Upside: Gypsies came over to the emergency staff and said: we have nothing, we are gypsies, we have nothing to lose but we can give, because our women can breastfeed the babies! After the first startled moment, their offer was accepted!
Downside: an eminent professor from Serbia accused the USA of covert weather warfare, using the HAARP military science project to produce artificial clouds and the floods so as to exterminate the Serbs, who are of course the elected people of the world in this phase of history. These conspiracy theories never lack in natural disasters all over the world. These Serbian fables are particularly dear to my heart because they come in my own language of ignorance and megalomania. The HAARP paranoia comes straight from the legendary claims of Nikola Tesla that he could use electromagnetic wave power to destroy the world. Of course Tesla was a Serb (or a Vlach, which is close enough) and he serves as a kind of Moses for Biblical-scale devastation of this kind.
During the Yugoslav wars I saw and heard many of these conspiracy theories, which served as some psychic relief for the guilty consciences on all sides. But at least bombs were a genuine military action, hard to mistake for black magic evil forces. Climate science is entirely aware of why people get washed away by cloudbursts these days, but in our human neglect and ignorance, we Balkan locals like to call science some kind of corrupting force in service to a sinister New World Order. Instead of avenging ourselves on the big polluters who literally wreck our homeland, we talk about God's wrath instead of carbon-dioxide exhaust fumes.
We live in a miasma of ignorance as thick as the clouds above our heads.
May the gypsy mothers and the reasonable grannies find some way to endure the dreadful failures of the high and mighty!
Amen and inshallah!
[Photo: A flood-damaged Opel Astra is seen in Topcic Polje, May 20, 2014. At least 40 people have died in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, after days of the heaviest rainfall since records began 120 years ago caused rivers to burst their banks and triggered hundreds of landslides. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic]