Jasmina Tesanovic, Belgrade: Floods and Bombs

Jasmina Tesanovic
Floods and Bombs
April 20, Belgrade

For the first time in my recent life, we Serbians are the first headline on CNN news without any mention of Milosevic or war crimes. Our new specialty is floods, global warming I guess, political neglect I am sure, and young girls in high heels.

Trust me, I am not joking: Serbian young girls whose high heels pierced the sandbags meant to keep the rising water away from decent citizens who sleep innocently… their menacing shoes now outrank Iranian nuclear weapons. Time is money in the world of big broadcast. TV publicity for the Croatian seaside… Montenegro casinos and then surfers in Serbia… and hey, surfers close to my street! Serbian teens dragged past on cars, jeeps, on homemade surfboards.

I am looking for kids that I know personally… It reminds me of the bombing days when our kids used to cruise in those few buses spared in those idle days of no schools. The kids would jump into buses and visit the bombed building and craters in order to see bodies or weapons or soldiers, or fallen planes, anything that would make the invisible long boring bombing into a real issue in their minds. I could never convince them that the dust of a crater might have depleted uranium or that an unexploded bomb might go off. As my daughter put it at the time: if I have to die, I choose to be killed with my best friend Sarah and not with my mom sleeping at home. How could I object to that kind of argument?

Well, as I cruised the Danube banks in the Zemun suburb of Belgrade, looking for menacing girls in high heels, an explosion occurred in the military school nearby. Yes, trouble never comes alone. I do remember floods during the bombings, with heavy rains. CNN reported this at the time from the point of view of NATO pilots, who lamented that they had bad weather for targeting. I never found out if bad weather could save our lives or kill us.

On the Danube banks there are only people with cameras like me, and the military trying to help with sandbags, mainly stacked up there by the civilians, bored teens really. I see the military bunching together and being photographed. The spring weather gets sunny and nice between showers. So people go out to look and measure the rising river. The riverbank boats, my favorite restaurants, are half or totally submerged. The restaurants up the hill are open, though. You climb the incipient mudslides over some ropes and wooden steps and you can have a great view of the sunken ships.

One waiter from a sunken ship found a new job in the hillside restaurant. Many others will do the same, that's how cities change. Beyond mere politics and wars… slow and potent, like the growth of empires and loves…

The Danube is fast and dirty, brings along vague shapes of floating wood or whatever. I dare not look twice, because many years ago we had dead bodies floating downstream from the war zones… The fish is however very tasty, fresh and cheap… The big tourist ships of cruising elderly Americans and Germans are stuck in the Belgrade port, waiting for better weather, and having the fun of their lives, I guess, broken out of their routines and schedules in this Balkan fit of music, food and catastrophe.

I saw some a man plunging into the water in his boots saying, this is like Venice, except that there are no gondolas… There are some boats, on the other side of the flooded city, for that's the only way for people enter their homes… Not much panic on the ground, much more panic on the TV really, especially in the foreign broadcasts. It will dry out soon, the local people say, we have had worse troubles… Right: but now I have a new worry, climate change. What if we're utterly transformed, like in Calvino's Invisible Cities? What if Belgrade never dries again? What if we have to live up in the hills with ropes and ladders?

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(Images: courtesy Jasmina Tesanovic)

Jasmina Tesanovic is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tesanovic on BoingBoing:
Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral
Link to previous posts about Jasmina's work.