Text: Jasmina Tesanovic
Image: Belgrade, by Ksenija Livada
Where Did Our History Go?
On the anniversary of Zoran Djindjic's assassination.
I met Djindic before he became "the" Djindic. He
jumped over the office table and shook my hand when
our mutual friend introduced me as a feminist,
ironically. I remember, too, that afterwards, whenever
he would meet me, he would shake my hand in a feminist
leftist way — but not ironically, on the contrary,
Later on, when he became public domain, we no
longer met privately — only randomly. He was the
most important Serbian politician of the 20 century,
who managed to step into the 21st, who toppled
Milosevic, who was eventually killed by state mafia
resisting his progressive steps toward a modern
– History marches with big steps, he once said,
when his daughter was just born and we sat at his
place in his small apartment. He was regretting his
lack of time for a private life.
– You are behaving like a granny, you know, he
told me on one occasion when I was worrying about one
unpaid check in the midst of a calamitous economic
fall — a criminal state robbing it's citizens of
their bank accounts. I wasn't offended by this remark
— it made me come to my senses. The state's elderly
pensioners were famous for voting for Milosevic,
while I didn't even have a real job.
Once we spoke about the future of Serbia and he said:
anyone with a grain of sense would leave Serbia.
There is no future here.
He didn't leave. Those who listened to him carefully
didn't leave either.
A couple of times I really got angry with his words
and deeds: I was present at a uncomfortable discussion
about his visit to Pale and the Bosnian Serbian
leaders now indicted as war criminals in Hague… Then
again, I was angry when I was the victim of street
violence in the gay parade in 2001, and Djindjic
declared that it was "too early" for such political
While I am writing this, in my mind I have all the
time the day of his murder. A steamy hot day, nervous;
I am rushing to the ministry of health to do some
paperwork. I am crossing the Nemanjina street, and the
parallel one behind the government : I see the
parking lot where the assassination is going to
happen, I see the guard stepping out of his booth with
burek in his hand. I want to cross the parking lot in
order to reach my destination faster, he stops me:
You can't do this, this is the building of the
government. I haven't the foggiest but I remember how
this parking lot seems very informal and unguarded.
It's absurd that I cannot cross it.
I remember the empty street where the killer
Zvezdan was parked in waiting. I remember entering
the department of health in time, that they are
calling out my name to get my papers and that my cell
phone is ringing. In tears my lawyer is screaming:
they killed him, they killed Djindic… I am throwing
the papers and running back home…
I am switching on the TV, phoning everybody I know
and of course I see, I know, oh I am getting it all
very well. Dark fear is rising from my guts.
When my mother died, I said to my cousin: I will ask
my mom where the family jewels are so we can keep them
for our children. I felt something similar on March
12, 2003: let us ask Djindjic just a couple of things
more, even through a TV screen, before they bury him
Then the collective tears follow: of his crew, of
the government, that terrible burial in the ugliest
church in the Balkans, then the action Sword to get
all the criminals involved in his murder, then the
bumper stickers action all over Serbia STOP THE CRIME:
endless conversations with citizens who are willing to
help in whatever may be necessary. In particular I
remember one student whom I met at midnight on the
street: she snatched all of my bumper stickers and
said, I will do it in my university, you go to sleep.
Then she burst in tears.
Then commenced the slow but certain restoration
of Milosevic's friends, visible and invisible. I
wasn't politically aware altogether of what a
desperate situation his death had brought to us.
The last awareness I had was terrible: in the
court in Belgrade a couple of months ago, Bugsy, the
protected witness, is muttering some half truths about
the murder. Then Zvezdan the killer stands up as a
winner, the guy who killed his country's president
out of patriotism and who bequeathed the gun to the
museum of history.
I was sitting next to an unknown woman who seems to
be in court just to warm her bones, a couple of
Bugsy's friends, me, and that's it.
Djindic was a very popular man. Even people who
didn't agree with him liked him. His enemies thought
well of him. His murderers, too.
Where are these people now, what are they thinking,
what about their future and conscience? I don't think
it is a matter of a democratic party, his family. Not
even of politicians and philosophers who are swearing
on his grave using his words. It is a matter of all of
us who gained a part of our civil identity in Serbia
thanks to his political courage.
We can say all we
want to say, in favor or against his politics, but
thanks to him, history advanced in big steps forward
— and without him, history limps and crawls back into
– – – – –
Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:
– Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
– Carnival of Ruritania
– "Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
– Faking Bombings
– Dispatch from Amsterdam
– Where are your Americans now?
– Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
– Slaughter in the Monastery
– Mermaid's Trail
– A Burial in Srebenica
– Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
– To Hague, to Hague
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