“A Serb makes a good wife: she can pull the cart out of mud.”
That old Serbian proverb, its genius author has no name. It’s like the earthy quip from a hospital that I once heard in real life; after her severe car crash, the emergency doctor told her worried husband: Don’t you worry man, those Herzegovinian vipers are hard to kill!
I’m personally half Serb and half Herzegovinian, so I take these attitudes to my heart, half proud and half offended. But my American friend said: what about the Serbian and Herzegovinian husbands? Are they pleased about their mud-carting vipers? Is that the kind of proper home-girl that a local guy just has to have?
Good questions! If enough years go by, a man gets used to the woman of the house, muddy viper or not. But what about the opinions of the rest of the world?
Our world is a big place, so maybe a Serbian Herzegovinian woman is considered just one regional sub-class of East European womanhood. I might be called Balkan, from that mountain region of many fractured grooves, or a historical, fossilized ex-Yugoslav. I was never “Warsaw Pact,” although that arrangement meant “Eastern Europe” in the eyes of the Cold War West. I’m from a shatter-belt, a corner cushion among conflicting empires, a little regional federation that has vanished like the Austro-Hungarians and often resembled the modern European Union. It broke up in blood, but that’s been the fate of most European alliances, eastern or western, northern or southern. Read the rest
I saw this coming, for the past ten years or more. I saw small Trumps, rising and tramping around, first timidly, then bravely, and finally boldly.
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"You can’t tell who is craziest: the refugees, the police or those women," said a local shopkeeper. He made a cross over his chest, to express his sincere Serbian bewilderment.
He had just witnessed ten shabby Afghan and Syrian refugees walking past, escorted by ten Women in Black from Serbia, Italy and Spain, themselves escorted by ten policemen and a police car.
By the railway station in downtown Belgrade, the temporary citizens-from-nowhere are living their nomad existences in the the rubble of the so-called Belgrade Waterfront construction project. The refugees loiter all day, hoping for something to happen, between the city bus yards and huge trash-cans full of boxed food that the aid workers supply on a regular basis.
Around five pm there is a kind of tea ceremony where about 800 people gather, most of them arriving from the organized camps where they sleep. They arrive to be heard, to be seen. We Women in Black went to join them to show this Belgrade political scene to our international colleagues.
It’ s been now two years since the Syrian refugee crisis seized headlines, but the refugees are not entirely Syrians, but a global peoples’ market of Afghans and Nigerians as well. In the beginning there were many more refugees, and far less aid from the locals and the Serbian state. The migrants were simply collapsing on flat surfaces anywhere in Belgrade, urban nooks, parks and lots where they ate, drank and slept.
Now the bus-station square, a favorite place to cluster for obvious reasons, has been fenced and organized. Read the rest
I am a fake Briton: in elementary and high school, for twelve years of my education, I attended offshored British schools.
I was clumsy, and I spilled some beer on the keyboard of my Mac Air laptop, bought July 9, 2014. I immediately started drying my precious computer, overturning it, and my greedy Mac didn't gulp all that much beer, but....
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Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, is no longer who she once was, 200 years ago. Time changes all famous people, especially cult personalities. Ada has become a modern icon for the digitizing world of science and literature.
My handbag was stolen two months ago. It happened in seconds in a mall in Turin, Italy. I never saw the thief, and neither did my husband, sitting two meters from the scene of the crime a fast food Japanese restaurant.
How is such criminal skill even possible? There was almost nobody around. Now, after two months, I do vaguely remember though a nice young woman, sitting with a child, next to my table. Was it she who grabbed my bag off the back of a chair and escaped with it?
A week later, I read that a gang of four women, convicted of serial handbag thefts in Italy, was finally put behind the bars. Even though found guilty several times, they were always released from custody because they had either small children or were pregnant. So maybe they relied on the handbags of other women to feed their numerous children?!
But that would be a topic for a novel, and not what I want to write about. I will focus on this accident from a different angle. Because it can only be compared to an accident, a personal disaster, as if a truck ran over me. No use asking, was it my fault? Should I blame myself for leaving my chair to order a second beer to go with my sushi? And why on earth did I center my earthly life inside one rather small handbag? Why did I visit a shopping mall taking with me all of my traveling documents, credit cards, checkbook, USB backup, health insurance card, Iphone, address book, prescriptions, etc. Read the rest
Once I was a refugee, too. During the fall of former Yugoslavia, I visited many refugees camps all over the war-torn region. I edited a book of refugee stories. Read the rest
The people who hit the streets in Italy's major streets on the first of May wanted to celebrate the day of labor. They also wanted to express their worries about unemployment (which is now 43 percent among young people). Their credo: more work for everybody, less work per person.
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On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated in Sarajevo the Austrian Archiduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (heir to the throne) and his wife Sofia. This act allegedly triggered the World War One.
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Jasmina Tesanovic ventures into the "Palace of Corruption" where deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych partied and gloried in graft while the #Euromaidan raged on his doorstep. Tesanovic was in Serbia when Milosevic was deposed, and she reflects on the careers of post-Soviet dictators.
Jasmina Tesanovic on the recent floods drowning the Balkan region, in which, it seems the sorrow never stops.
Recently I saw a movie on the life and death of Aaron Swartz, who is nowadays often called a martyr for the freedom of the Internet.
People, nations and governments like martyrs. They love them, they need them. Martyrs are part of our bipolar, black and white society constructed from good and bad guys, who always do good and bad deeds. Martyrs are those who have escaped our human condition, of being judged by people as people. Martyrs are beyond judgement, they become the scapegoats for our biggest failures, for the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt phrased it.
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Silvio Berlusconi, 77, speaking to supporters in Rome on Wednesday. Tony Gentile/Reuters.
[Editor's Note: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been expelled from Italy's senate after two decades in government.]
My American friend wrote me this morning: How does it feel to live, free of Berlusconi? Are the people of Italy rejoicing in the streets?
Here in Turin, the news was hardly noticed, because although it is good news, it is also old news. It was expected, a fully foreseen turn of events, part of the long goodbye of an Italian ruler who came in power in distant 1994 and is still clinging to authority with all his histrionic might.
Italian politics have never lacked for stage histrionics, but Berlusconi is very likely the most ridiculous Italian state leader ever. Beppe Grillo, the leader of the opposition Five Star Movement, is a television comedian, but Grillo is the picture of sobriety and decency compared to Berlusconi. Read the rest
Writer, filmmaker, and "humanitarian bombing" survivor Jasmina Tesanovic
reflects on the similarities between the war she experienced, and the strikes proposed by the United States against Syria.
Authors Jasmina Tesanovic and Bruce Sterling attended Republika
, a three-day seaside meeting of futurists and forward-thinkers, organized in part by Share Cyberpunk Academy. About a hundred activists, artists, and tech experts gathered in Croatia to meet and speak to attendees from around the world. Jasmina shares her account of the gathering here, a portion of which took place on a historic boat.
Writer Jasmina Tesanovic lost her homeland in The Yugoslav Wars, and says she can relate to the statelessness of Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum while waiting in a no-mans-land at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.