Potato i Jedinstvo

Sunday, December 31, 2006

затворено / Zatvoreno

Former Yugoslavia is in me. It has been since the 1984 Winter Olympics, the first clunky and cheap Yugo in my town, the Marxist econ professor going on about worker self-management, the B-movie "Force 10 from Navarone." I'm a fool for the place.

I first went to former Yugoslavia in December of 1993. I was more hindrance than help, a tourist in other people's misery. The border post between Slovenia and Croatia was backed up with supply trucks and donated old ambulances. The ship from Rijeka to Split held an equal number of aid workers and "volunteers," as many with NGO's as with the HVO. In Split I saw the UN blue berets on holiday, and the white mountains farther inland. I did not go farther inland or further down the coast. In shame I booked the next passage to Italy.

My second trip was in January and February of 2002: Zagreb and Belgrade, Sarajevo and Vukovar. I was based in Brčko as a guest of the Agency for Legal Aid, paid for by CEELI - the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative. Brčko was a beacon for the rule of law. I was supposed to be a "legal expert" to the Kancelarija - in fact I was more of an office mascot. I will always admire the colleagues I met there, for the wounds they bore without losing sight of their commitment to a government of laws, and a future free of torture and ethnic hatred. I can think of a few million of my countrymen who abandoned those values in a heartbeat, without experiencing a scintilla of the horrors personally endured by my friends, the non-nationalist lawyers - Serb, Croat, and Bosniak - of Brčko District.

The third trip in May 2003 was also courtesy of CEELI, weekdays in Sarajevo, with one weekend training lawyers on Bijelasnica, another weekend on the road back to Brčko. It cheered me to enjoy Marko's hospitality again, now moved across the river from Gunja, and to see the new construction and the progress on the restoration of the library. I saw the new courthouse and the fine new offices of the Kancelarija. At the symposium I saw many of my old colleagues: Safet, Predrag, especially my wonderful interpreter Dubravka. On the way back to Sarajevo we followed the Sava and the beautiful gorge of the Drina via Zvornik, lunching on Serbian home cooking in Bijeljina on the way.

We were hosted in Bijeljina by the parents of one of the Sarajevo CEELI lawyers, whose family had relocated there from Grbavica toward the end of the war (under less-than voluntary circumstances which you may recall). I thought about a long walk I took above Sarajevo in 2002, from Pansion Čobanija up past the Catholic church by the brewery, east to a small Muslim cemetery, then back west past the Jewish cemetery and down through Grbavica and across the Miljacka.

I'd been thinking a lot about snipers that day, and I find that I think about them still. Before the trip that winter, I bought Joe Sacco's "Safe Area Goražde." I'd recommend it, but with its images of the bodies of child victims of the war, and a child of my own back in Idaho, I didn't want to bring it home. I sent it on to a old girlfriend who worked then as a prosecutor for the ICTY. When I mailed it to The Hague from the post office downtown, the clerk who inspected it cut the corner of wrapping paper just where the book displayed the fleur-de-lys. I cringed a moment, then the clerk slathered the book with the stamps of the Republika Srpska.

I knew the arguments, that all the deaths were Alija's fault, or Hans-Dietrich Genscher's, or Tito's himself. I couldn't square them with the individual brain, the individual nerve impulses, from the eyeball sighting the child in the scope to the squeezing of the trigger finger. I probably think about this more than is productive. Being a public defender by trade and inclination, and having argued for mercy for other murderers, I've tried to understand the sniper's reasons:

The lawyer had only just finished his cheese cream, and was sincerely grieved from what he had seen, heard and realized. His conscience prevented him from accept the fact that such beastly behavior could go on, and, had not be for various reasons (some real, some not) maybe he would not have restricted himself to try to understand.

"You see" he said "there must be something absolute on this earth, something that everyone who has a shred of decency would refuse to do. How can somebody hide himself for hours behind a rifle waiting only for a child to walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk?"

The man from Bijelijna took a quick drag on his cigarette and replied: "How would you know if that boy carries an hand grenade in his pocket? And how many times there was a knife buried under an old woman's gowns?"

"In that case I cannot accept the risk of murdering an innocent; I have the duty to accept the risk of dying myself, instead."

The man from Bijelijna sighed: "You may die all right, but they ordered that nobody can pass on that street, and if you disobey your orders, for whatever reason, maybe your folk will die too, and there is innocent people amongst them also. You must understand the Sniper's reasons."

A silence ensued, sudden and a lot less dramatic than their words. Then the Man from Bijelijna took his accordion and started to play a love song.

I suppose I might accept it, but I can't forgive it. This month they discovered more bodies in Brčko District. The wounds are still open. And I still retain some empathy, and some imagination.

One Friday night Judge Terry Shupe and I were walking from the Tito barracks and OHR back to the Hotel Posavina, our home in Brčko and one of several killing sites in the war. The mosque on that side of the Brka had yet to be rebuilt, and the moonlight fell on burned-out storefronts and Arkan graffiti. As we crossed over the pedestrian bridge, we both stopped to hear a faint singing wafting from the southwest: the azan, the call to prayer.

They were not all killed. The ideal is not dead. I have been to former Yugoslavia three times, and I'm sad that it does not seem that I will have a chance to return any time soon. I have moved from a town where I regularly could see many people from there, practice the jezik, and buy kajmak and ćevapčići to a town where I can't. I still have a jar of ajvar in the fridge, a big bag of Vegeta in my cupboard, and the lands of the south Slavs in my heart. It's been frustrating to lose my ability in their languages and my ties to their cultures, and hard to maintain this blog. I wish continued peace to my friends and all the people of that tormented place, as they will remain in me.

Christmas greetings, blessed Bajram, and Happy New Year to you. This blog is now closed.

E-mails from Brčko, 2002

Very much of their place and time (four months after 9/11), from a younger version of me:

Jan 18

The party was at the home of one of the American diplomats here, with the Supervisor, an American ambassador who is sort of the chief of the whole Brčko District. There were some people who came up from Sarajevo, too. There were about twenty internationals, and to my knowldege, no locals. It was kind of wild: first an American guy is talking loud about those goddam plea bargains, then this Brit is talking softly, almost conspiratorially, about, "you know, there are no white hats here. The Muslims as well." "Yeah, but some hats are light grey and some are dark grey..." "And some are black." "Some are black." Then a Dutchwoman starts off by copping an attitude like, "I sure you don't know the Netherlands," and I get to say, "no, we have a dear friend in Alkmaar." Very interesting. Almost colonial. (The food was American snack food! Potato chips, cashews, cheese and crackers! One of the Europeans went, "I _love_ this onion dip!")

Afterward, about eight of us, the Canadian judge and Dutch Person among us, walked through the snow to my hotel for dinner. I was surprised by how good a time I had. I might have been overcompensating for being self-conscious about being an American, and a hick American at that, so I was talking a lot, talking in French, showing off and using words like "apotheosis" (as in, "no, no, Allain, I think that to die while rescuing others is the apotheosis of the firefighter's calling." Can you believe this out of me? How embarassing.) Anyway, this is the same conversation where J_. pronounced that she was tired of the firefighters being called heroes, and that you never heard about how the firefighters stole all the gold and jewelry from the shops around the World Trade Center, and it was at that moment that I decided to write her off for good. The Europeans were much better. However, about Bosnia, they were all pessimistic, saying that it will take at least a generation to come back from the war, and the internationals will be gone in five years. Allain, a suave Swiss guy who's a human rights lawyer, thinks actually that getting rid of most of the fairly officious and arrogant foreign administrators and just relying on the regular - Joe foreign military guys to keep the peace would not be the worst thing in the world.

By the way, I got to personally thank some peacekeepers for keeping my personal peace. Today I was walking from my hotel to the courthouse when I saw a patrol of four American soldiers, all in battle dress uniforms, with helmets and guns. Remember, this is on a street with just regular people going back and forth to work or the store, not a war zone at all. I asked if I could take their picture, and they were really friendly and great. Each one took off his gloves so I could shake his hand.

Jan 23

Brčko (say brc- like birch tree, -ko like Costco), Bosnia-Hercegovina isn't a picnic, but I can say it's truly educational. I've met six remarkable lawyers who make up the first public defender office in former Yugoslavia, and their commitment to this whole rule of law thing is pretty humbling. Plus, some of them are just very skilled and crafty practitioners in any language. I watched the senior P.D., nicknamed Pythagoras in the office, argue part of our equivalent of a suppression hearing, something that one just didn't do under socialism or during the war. He knew the new law cold, and he was able to build an air-tight record. Result: motion granted, suspect's statements and all fruits thereof suppressed, a first for a murder case in these parts (give the judge credit, too, for having the integrity to follow the law and do the right thing, also a relative novelty here). I respect these colleagues a lot.

Brčko town itself ain't pretty, but it is peaceful. Having Georgia and Idaho boys driving around town in Humvees helps a bit, I suppose. I was able to download some court forms translated into Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian from the GIDC website, so now a little piece of the Brcko District Legal Aid office will be forever DeKalb County.

By the way, it's either "your language," "the local language," or "Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian." A few days ago, I'm in a shop and I'm apologizing for not knowing how to say "muesli, yogurt, and 2%, please", and trying to say, I'm sorry, I only know only a little Serbian (thinking it a safe bet, since only in the last two years has Brčko tried any reverse ethnic cleansing, from the pre-season 50% Muslim to the career-high 95% Serbs). Well, I gambled wrong, and I'm usually so good about these things. 20-something dude goes off on me, in English no less: "Why don't you say Bosnian? This is Bosnia! You are in Bosnia! We speak Bosnian!" His neighbor the unindicted Bosnian Serb hard-liner might disagree.

Jan 23

Excellent Humvee-spotting here recently. There were four in the plaza near my hotel on Sunday. I've also seen one Blackhawk and a camoflauged GMC Jimmy, all seeing to my personal security. Not to mention the Finns! Thanks for the peace-keeping, Finns! And this weekend the hotel filled up with cops from many lands, as part of the International Police Task Force. Law enforcement from Denmark to Bangladesh are here, making it entertaining to guess what the various patches and badges mean.

This week a nice warm breeze blew out the fog and low clouds, so I got my first clear view of the mountains of Bosnia to the south and west, and my first view of a Bosnian minaret, out in the suburbs, beyond an imaginary and erased but still-significant border between the Republika Srpska part of Brčko District and the Federation part. It's good to see them rebuilding a mosque here in Brčko town, too, in the RS part.

Jan 29

The judge is here at OHR typing an e-mail to _his_ wife. He did not go to Serbia with me, but stayed in town planning his big fishing expedition. "Fly-fishing Guide to Bosnia, by Judge Terry Shupe."

Dutsa says don't worry about the shirt, but to get Joe a Dinamo Zagreb shirt too, and that there's no Bosnian Muslim soccer team, so no shirts for that side. She also said that if Ibrahim the burek maker gives you and Joe a sad look, just say, "this is just a souvenir, my husband didn't understand the politics very well." Bosnian politics are hard enough for Bosnians to keep straight. I just liked the shirts because they were bright red and because it was _the_ Yugo soccer team that was known outside YU before the war (it's also mentioned in a Billy Bragg song, maybe that's why).

I will look for silvery trinkets for you in Sarajevo. I saw icons and pretty things in Belgrade, but by this point, I'm sort of turned off of traditional Serbian Orthodox anything. I think that I wouldn't mind having traditional Bozniak stuff in our house, as they have the least to apologize for by far. See how ethnic politics pops up over here? I'm ending up doing it too. No wonder some people get nostalgic for the old dictator Tito. There are some pop singers that everyone likes, though (no, locals, not Michael Jackson).

Jan 30

Judge Shupe is going to help me with an abbreviated version of the cross-examination display for the goddamn private lawyers, but not for two days, more like 90 minutes. This will be next Tuesday or Wednesday. Goddamn lawyers don't even like public defenders, think they're taking all the business. What's worse is that some of them are these unreconstructed legal troglodytes who not only don't accept the new "Brčko Model," but are actively hoping that it fails. Grrrr.

And so, ROADTRIP! The big symposium starts tomorrow at 11:00 am, for two days. Then, I am hoping to get a ride to Sarajevo with M_. whenever he's leaving in the famous ABA-CEELI "Americans-Only" car. If I can't get a ride, I'm taking the local chicken bus. Sarajevo sounds like it's worth it, so I'm going no matter what. It's also supposed to have the best opportunities to buy trinkets for you and Joe. (I'm waiting to find stuff for the grandmas in Zagreb, capital of Catholi-crazy Croatia. Did you know they have crucifixes on the office walls in government buildings there? Some messed-up papist juju there.)

Dubravka and I have to go back to the courthouse at 3:00 pm local time to watch Team Legal Aid put the last touches on their mock trial. In the latest petty OHR insult, we have to leave sooner, because we can no longer ride in an OHR car, even if J_. is headed to the same place. Double grrrrr.

Let Frank know: Safet the lawyer, Mister Happy Bosnia Fun Guy, has gifted me with not one but two big bottles of Brčko moonshine! Mmmmmm, slivovitz..... I definitely will have to put them in my carry-on, and hope they make it through Customs. They're just two clear bottles with clear liquid inside, and no proper labels or markings outside. If they do survive the drug-sniffing dogs, I would be pleased if Francis would take one off my hands. Those tasty little plums should not have died in vain.

Faux pas for the day: Safet and I were talking about cars, and he was telling me about the Yugoslavia-built car that he bought ten years ago. So like a fool I ask, do you still have it, and he says, no, during the war the Army needed to use it, so.... Dumb of me (happy ending, though; Safet now drives a not-too-old Mercedes).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Potatoes, sisterhood, and unity

The Balkan - friendly zeka at Yakima Gulag thought of me when joining her YVCC friends for a potato-y feast.

But were they Idaho potatoes?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Holy days

L'shanah tovah


sretan Ramazanski Bajram

Friday, August 18, 2006

Seattle sevdahlinke

Mostar Sevdah Reunion are touring the United States for the first time.

They play in Seattle at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, September 8th at MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry), 2700 24th Ave. E. Tickets are $25.

(Here are also links to Seattle performers Balkan Cabaret and Mary Sherhart)

Update: the concert is cancelled, as "the group was not able to obtain the required visas to perform in the United States." It is disappointing. A kindly ZeKa from the Yakima Gulag gave me the news.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Srećan put!

Eff, rising star in the law student / cartoonist blog world, is heading for former Yugoslavia, the lucky dog: first Dubrovnik for study, then Crna Gora for family and possible match-making. There is some danger that he will come home attached to a nice Serbian girl.

Not Ceca - a nice Serbian girl.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sarajevo back streets and byways

New to me, and to the blog roll:

Sarajevo Photoblog -
Photos from Sarajevo, the ones that you usually do not see.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

In Montana, historic justice

Thanks to the Montana Sedition Project, Governor Brian Schweitzer has granted posthumous pardons to 78 persons convicted of sedition during the First World War.

One of them was Croatian, or as he may have called back then, "Slavonian." He might even have been listed as "Austrian" for the empire which occupied his home country.

He was Martin Ferkovich (Ferković). He was a miner, and had been in Montana for 14 years. His "crime" was to give voice to his feelings about being drafted into the army. He said,

"I would kill the first man who tried to take me. Austria is my country and I won't fight against her. I wouldn't shoot my own brother. I would shoot someone else first. The Government didn't do right; they didn't give me my citizenship papers. The Kaiser is all right; he didn't bother me. The Kaiser didn't bother this country."

He offended his neighbors so much with his k. und k. - style moustache that they removed it - forcibly one assumes. He grew it back:

Sentencing judge George V. Jones later said he had a very poor impression of Ferkovich as defiant and peculiarly un-American because he aped the airs of the Kaiser in the way he wore his mustache (which he evidently grew back after it was shaved off by the citizens of Musselshell).

He served 33 months, and was Montana's last sedition prisoner. Where might his descendants be?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Map: B/H/S in the USA

This is pretty cool: the MLA Language Map of the United States.

If you click through to the map, you can find counties in the U.S. where significant numbers of people speak the jezik formerly known as "Serbo-Croatian." (that's what they still call it on the maps. No, I'm not going to tell them, you tell them.)

The neat thing to me is seeing Twin Falls County, Idaho, making a very respectable showing, with a comparatively high percentage of speakers, particularly for the Western states. You can also zoom in by zip codes to see the splash of color that is the city of Twin Falls, with more speakers than all but four zip code areas in the Northwest (Richland and south King County). Idemo, Idaho!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bosnian - Idahoan: "I came from war"

Here's an interesting angle on this country's current furore over immigration: Cassidy Friedman, a reporter from the Twin Falls, Idaho Times-News, spent some time in the local caffe-bar and asked some immigrants from the former Yugoslavia what they thought:

Skepticism and cigarettes - Immigration rights is hot topic at Euro Store

Chain-smoking, laughing caustically and twitching from espresso, the Euro Store regulars talk with mixed emotions about expanding the rights of illegal immigrants.

The issue draws from them both sympathy and bitterness.

Bitterness, because what principle justifies making them and other refugees wait in line, while granting unconditional amnesty to illegal aliens?

And sympathy, because they too would seize the opportunity to enter the U.S. illegally if it meant greater opportunity for their family.

"I would do it, too, for survival," said Narcis Kurbegović, formerly a Bosnian refugee who now owns Euro Store, an eastern European cafe bar on Hansen Street East. Others nodded in agreement.

"If you see a bigger opportunity for your family, of course it makes sense," he said, about people who work illegally in the U.S. But whether it should be legal is another question.

Mirzo Ramović, a custodian at Twin Falls High School, legally obtained refuge in the U.S. after the war.

"This is a big problem," he said. "I'm 50-50. Build a wall. We need more security" on one hand, but "if they don't have a home in Mexico, (they) need a license to stay and work."

The room stirs when Kurbegović contrasts the illegal Mexican immigrant's plight with that of the political refugee. "The difference between those guys and me," said Kurbegović. "I came from war. They came from a free country."

"I would never have come here if I didn't have war in my country," he said.

But the economy in Bosnia before the war offered more opportunity than in Mexico.

"Every guy here," he said to the room. "His paycheck was bigger before the war in my country than it is now."

At present, 600 Bosnian refugees live in Twin Falls; there are at least 150
(Meskhetian) Turks; some Cambodians and some Laotians, according to the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fun fact about Twin Falls, ID

From the Times-News:

In addition to Hispanics, the county includes people from other cultures such as Bosnians, Croatians and Russians. The Twin Falls School District estimates that its students speak 27 languages...

Twin Falls County is no metropolis, but it's also not the sleepy, agricultural community it used to be.

And for the better, hvala puno.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A bit of Bosnian culture for Idaho

From the Boise Idaho Statesman:

Celebrate Bosnian culture through dance

You would never see Ramajla Duratovic at Starbuck's and peg her as someone who doesn't fit...

But culture is a subtle thing, she says. Born in Bosnia, she now lives in Boise. She goes by Maya here. "It's easier to pronounce and to spell," she said.

This is her home, she emphasizes as she moves easily through her day, poised, confident, speaking in English, then Bosnian, and then back to English within moments.

And she dances...

It's not something she did in Bosnia, but here it's how she keeps her culture alive. Maya dances with Mladi Behar, a company of the Bosnian-Herzegovina Cultural Center of Idaho... The group shares Bosnian culture and heritage with Idahoans through dance.

Mladi Behar will celebrate its sixth anniversary this weekend with its first official Bosnian Dance Festival, where you can see performances by Mladi Behar and four visiting Bosnian dance companies, as well as other Idaho cultural dance groups.

Boise's Bosnian community

Maya came to Boise with her parents and younger brother nine years ago... They were one of about 450 families that settled here between 1993 and 2004...

Boise's Bosnian community is very close. A few families settled here, and then friends and relatives.

"We all know each other here," Maya said. "It's like a big family."

And for that family, the dance group is an important cultural touchstone in Boise, said Irvaz Husic...

Maya was Husic's first student. Now she is a teacher in the group.

Husic helped start the group to "preserve, promote and perpetuate" Bosnian culture in Boise, he said. "Dance is a great tool to use if you're going to transcend culture barriers."

The group has helped bring the Bosnians living here closer together as it has helped them become a part of the greater community, he said.

They have performed at many city events, including Boise Music Week, have interacted with other arts and cultural groups and built strong ties with Boise's Basque community, a group they look to as a cultural success story.

"We see what they have been able to do and know we can do it, too," Husic said.

For their first six months, Mladi Behar used the Basque Museum and Cultural Center as its headquarters.

From the beginning, Patty Miller, executive director of the Basque Museum, saw Mladi Behar as a cultural partner.

"I use the Bosnian story all the time as a modern day example of the way the Basques came here 100 years ago," Miller said. "Only they're working much faster. They've been here only 10 years and they're already working on language classes and dance groups. They see how important it is, and I think the community is the better for it..."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"Bionic Croat," to sam ja!

Zlatna medalja za Janicu Kostelić!!

(I saw her at the Salt Lake Olympics, you know...)

Time for another big party on the Trg Bana. Listen to the cheesy fun of a MP3 Valentine to Janica here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"The gifted but inconsistent Serbian"

In English: Coming And Going: Sonics ship unhappy Vlad to Clippers.

Na b/h/s -om / на српском: Radmanovic trejdovan u Clipperse !!!

It's gotten pretty sad when a guy views a move to the L.A. Clippers as a step up.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

BiH: some technicality

(Cross-posted from Arbitrary and Capricious)

Neither this headline nor this first paragraph from Reuters are accurate:

Bosnia war crimes suspect walks on technicality

A Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect whose wife was killed in a shootout with European Union soldiers during his arrest in January is to go free on a legal technicality, Bosnia's state court said on Thursday.

Of course the court said no such thing as "legal technicality," and the FBiH news agency in Sarajevo, which might have some cause to be upset by the result, says nothing about a technicality.

Here's what happened:

The BiH War Crimes Chamber cancelled detention to Dragomir Abazovic and ordered that he be released immediately, the Court of BiH stated. Acting on the appeal by the suspect the BiH War Crimes Chamber decided that the detention ordered by the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo, which was done before the case was taken over by the Court of BiH, was not based on the BiH Criminal Code as the relevant legislation.

Or in more idiomatic English:

Abazovic was arrested on a old warrant that was no longer valid because Bosnia had since established its own war crimes court and relevant legislation. "Since the state court took over the case in July 2005, the Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the relevant law in this matter," spokesman Dino Bjelopoljak said.

The Reuters slant is familiar to those of us defending accused people stateside. It cheapens a part of something that was fairly hard-won, the Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a fairly crucial component of Bosnia's stabilization under the rule of law.

I was life-changingly lucky to enjoy two lengthy stays among our Bosnian criminal defense colleagues. Talking in terms of technicalities, about a commitment to legal norms for which many of them paid a harrowing price in war, disrespects them.

: here is more in-depth coverage from International Crimes Blog and Jurist.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Greetings to Charlie's Food Store, Twin Falls, Idaho

(l. to r.: Alen Čoralič, Ramiz Čolić, Refik Mašić)

It may feature an alternate way of spelling the name Ramiz, but this article from the Times-News gives another taste of Bosnian-American life in Twin Falls, Idaho:

Immigrant finds new life in Twin Falls

Human rights and nonviolence are not exactly everyday vocabulary for Rmiz Colic.

The 34-year-old Bosnian immigrant was shot three times and survived the Srebrenica Massacre, a 1995 slaughter of Bosnian Muslims that drew the world's attention to the three-year Balkan crisis.

"Before the war, nobody cared if you were Muslim, Christian or Jewish," Colic said.

Colic served in the Yugoslavian Army until it splintered into three armies: the Serbian Army, the Croatian Army and the Bosnian Army.

"I was almost dead," he said of the last time he was shot. "We went to a refugee center in Split, Croatia, and then we came to America."

That was seven years ago, and Colic says he loves Twin Falls.

He works at Charlie's Food Store, a small Bosnian grocery on Shoshone Street where Twin Falls' Bosnians gather for strong Bosnian coffee.

"Nobody says anything about you here," Colic said. "Nobody says, 'You're Bosnian, you're Muslim, you're black.' "

Though he's not sure of the total number of Bosnians in Twin Falls, he says there are a lot. The store, of which his wife is a co-owner, is somewhat of a meeting place for the community because the traditional spot for gathering in Bosnia would more likely be a mosque or marketplace.

The nearest mosque is in Boise.

Colic said his best friend from Bosnia is a well-known kickboxer named Esef Charlie Jasarevic, who lent his middle name to the store. It offers traditional Bosnian foods, strong coffee, Bosnian pizza pans, spices and even frozen Sarajevski Civapi, a kind of meat dish similar to the Greek gyro.

But on Monday, when other shops closed to remember Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to human rights, it was business as usual at Charlie's.

"I know the guy who killed my entire family," Colic said. "He killed my father, my mother, my two uncles and my brother die also."

"He still walks around free in my hometown."

So human rights are not the same to many of the survivors of one of the worst ethnic cleansing campaigns since the days of Hitler.

"I know that someday someone will come up to him and say, 'Hey, I know who you are and what you did,' and they will take him to jail," Colic said. "It's the same in Iraq right now; too many people are dying for no reason."

Colic is much happier now that his wounds have healed. He is a welder by trade, sometimes working as far away as Spokane, Wash.

The snow-capped mountainous terrain and wide-open expanses remind Colic of his homeland.

"Idaho feels like Bosnia, lots of hills and mountains," he said.

Charlie's Food Store, 139 Shoshone St. N., Twin Falls; (208) 733-0827

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sretan Kurban Bajram

And finally for the winter holiday season, a happy Kurbanski Bajram to those colleagues who are celebrating in Brčko District, in Sarajevo, and in Twin Falls.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Срећан Божић

"Srećan Božić - Hristos se rodi!" to my old Brčko colleagues and others celebrating Christmas this weekend.

Cheeseburgers to dollars

Today I ordered lunch at the drive-through window of Jack in the Box (it's a chain of US fast-food restaurants), and I saw this posted announcement:

"Congratulations to our $10,000 prize winner, Emina Mehmedović, Twin Falls, Idaho":

$10,000 for Your Thoughts?

The days of the customer-comment card are numbered. Today, telephones and the Internet provide customers easy ways to voice their opinions and possibly win cash and prizes. And if you think no one ever wins those things, just ask Emina Mehmedovic of Twin Falls. She won $10,000 simply for taking a seven-minute survey.

Mehmedovic participated in Jack in the Box® restaurants’ “Voice of the Customer” program, in which guests rate their dining experience by calling the phone number or logging onto the Web address printed on their order receipt and then answering questions ranging from food freshness to speed of service. As an incentive, Jack in the Box automatically enters all the respondents’ names into a drawing for cash prizes.

Jack in the Box recently contacted Mehmedovic, a nursing student with an affinity for Jumbo Jack® hamburgers, to inform her that she was a winner. “I’m usually not very lucky, so I was so surprised I won,” she said. “I’m just so happy. It has changed my life.”

Somewhat old news, but news to me, and happy news for one Bosniak-American family back in my old town.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Blagoslovljen Božić

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

War pictures

Slate has an online exhibition of photos from the Bosnian war titled Devastation in the Balkans.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gotov je

Reaction on the capture of Ante Gotovina:

From YakimaGulag: Arrested while dining...

From Balkan Baby: Won't be needing your swimming trunks where you're going now Mr Beach Boy

From Germany: The End of Gotovina´s Holiday

From 45 Lines: Gracias España!

From International Crimes Blog (and chock full o' footnotes): Croatian General Ante Gotovina Arrested

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Jurist: ex-YU war crimes news

From Jurist's Paper Chase legal news feed:

Nov. 15 - Belgrade: Ex-Serb soldier admits to executing 200 Croatian POWs in Vukovar massacre

Nov. 16 - The Hague: Former Bosnian army chief cleared of war crimes charges

Nov. 18 - Banja Luka: Bosnian Serb court reaches first guilty war crimes verdict

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pictures without borders

Steve Horn, a professional photographer based on Washington State's Lopez Island, first saw Bosnia over thirty years ago.

In 2003, he returned with his camera and his original pictures.

His pictures also may be seen online at the Academy of BiH.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Prof. Gordy vs. massacre denier

East Ethnia's Eric Gordy has a thorough critique of the report by Diana Johnstone from "a group of writers calling themselves the Srebrenica Research Group."

It's entitled "Anatomy of Denial".

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Seattle CroatiaFest

Heard some music, bought some ajvar, fed my kid some Kras candy, got a free pen from HRT-America, saw the Dancing Vela Lukas from Anacortes, WA... a good time was had.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Само слога Србина спашава

The Serbian Unity Congress (SUC) has responded to the news from Arizona with its accustomed restraint.

Surely there are people in Serbia or the RS, or in the Serbian-American community or Serbian diaspora, who dissent from the SUC line, even if not too loudly.

Anyone? Yes, you, Nataša, thank you for that.

Anyone else?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Idemo Sijetla!

The Sonics have re-signed Vlade Radmanović.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gotovina: gotov je?

I'm shocked, shocked, to hear that Croatian Franciscans may have been protecting Ante Gotovina:

Prosecutor Carla del Ponte's spokeswoman said Gen. Ante Gotovina was believed to be receiving support from a network of Roman Catholic monasteries in Croatia.

Friday, September 16, 2005

On the run from the eastern RS to Arizona

This is how the headline writer put it:

"Feds: Indicted Bosnians served in notorious brigades"

A federal prosecutor says Bosnian refugees who were indicted in Phoenix this week for concealing their service in the Serbian army 10 years ago belonged to brigades that took part in the most notorious atrocities during war in the former Yugoslavia.

Assistant U.S. attorney Andrew Pacheco stressed that none of the defendants is charged with a human rights violation, and investigators turned up no evidence of personal involvement in the Srbrenica slaughter or other atrocities.

At detention hearings Friday, Pacheco alleged that the ethnic-Serb immigrants were members of the Zvornik and Bratunac brigades - military outfits that massacred more than 7,000 Bosniak Muslim males in Srbrenica during July of 1995.

In an interview later, Pacheco said investigators obtained army records from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a United Nations entity that investigates war crimes.

Earlier this week, federal agents arrested the 13 suspects on indictments for immigration fraud and perjury. They seized seven others for deportation hearings based on similar allegations...

The rest of the article is not an example of fine reporting, or particularly insightful, but read it and filter it as you see fit.

P.S.: I've been through Zvornik - such a beautiful setting, and haunted as hell.

Update: another article about this - link via my reliable source.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Enter the dragon

Too cool:
Bruce Lee do kraja ljeta stiže u Mostar

Mostarski Španjolski trg, nedaleko od obnovljenog Starog mosta, do kraja ljeta bi trebala krasiti brončana statua Brucea Leeja u prirodnoj veličini. Kako se već dugovremena zna, statuu će izraditi akademski ...

... kipar Boris Jovanović iz Mostara koji je izradio i prvu maketu spomenika legendarnom akcijskom junaku, a jedan sarajevski studio za dizajn je izradio 3D simulaciju spomenika.

A fine tribute to a Seattle icon, as reported today on NPR.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Quotes from when Clinton committed military force in former Yugoslavia:

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."

--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."

--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."

--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't
think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."

--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"

--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."

--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

NK / фK Joe

Moj sin: fudbalski/nogometski star!

Monday, August 15, 2005


Yugoslavia nostalgics now have a place to call home -
Welcome to Yugoland: brotherhood and unity for only three bucks!

Bonus link: The Yugo Page!
Seeing one (still) on the road always makes me smile.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

BiH businesses in Twin Falls, ID

Nonprofit offers refugees business advice, loans

TWIN FALLS -- After a trip to visit relatives in her home country last year, Bosnian refugee Mira Delić isn't looking back.

"Life in America is a lot easier," she said, in an accent that reverberates with the soft sounds of her native Romance language.
(Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian may be Slavic, but apparently they are also the languages of romance!)

But there was nothing soft about the life that Delić escaped six years ago. The constant fear of ethnic cleansing -- in other words, murder -- in an ongoing civil war
(sic) in the eastern European country prompted the Delić family to apply for refugee status in order to come to the United States, she said.

In Idaho since 1999, the wife and mother of two teenagers lives in Twin Falls and runs her own hair salon on Blue Lakes Boulevard North. Money she had saved as a dishwasher in a restaurant and as a hair cutter in someone else's salon enabled her to open her own business, exSALONce, last year.

Before she opened the doors, however, Delić -- who had already practiced hair care in Bosnia for 14 years -- got advice from a nonprofit entity that specializes in counseling refugees on business startups as well as providing loans to refugees who have just come to America. To qualify for either, foreigners must prove their lives are threatened if they continue living where they are.

The nonprofit is META, an acronym for MicroEnterprise Training & Assistance. Funded with federal dollars, META has operated in Idaho for 2 1/2 years.

META has helped about 75 refugees in the Treasure Valley area, with about 30 of those taking out loans, program coordinator Ron Berning said. The nonprofit just recently entered Magic Valley. It's a natural expansion because Idaho has three refugee centers, with two in Treasure Valley and one at Magic Valley's College of Southern Idaho. During the past five years about 500 refugees have settled in Magic Valley, Berning said.

So far about 20 refugees in Magic Valley have used instructions from META on how to structure and maintain a business in the United States, he said. But no Magic Valley refugees have taken loans. META has $50,000 available at any one time for loans up to $15,000.

The loan aspect of META exists because "banks aren't willing or able to lend to refugees," Berning said. "We fill that gap."

Berning wants refugees -- who are often professionals such as doctors, engineers and lawyers who are forced to turn to service-sector businesses to make a living in the United States -- to know they can rely on META soon after they arrive in the United States to help them start new lives.

The stipulation for getting a META loan is that the refugee can't be a U.S. citizen.

Delić said she didn't want a loan. For one thing, it's not part of the Bosnian culture to borrow money, she said. For another, she was afraid of paying a lot of money over the principal in interest payments.

However, she said she took Berning's advice on bumping up advertising and raising her prices a bit. She also said she'll turn to him if she needs help with taxes.

Not all Bosnians are afraid of borrowing money.

Euro Food Store

I loved this store! After the Bosnian cafe on Main Ave. closed, it was the last place in town where I could buy kajmak and ajvar, and a piece of Kras candy for the kid. There's a caffe-bar next door, and tables out on the sidewalk too.
owner Narcis Kurbegović, a veterinarian who came from Bosnia 10 years ago, said he saved money from a welding job and added that to a loan from a local bank to start his business. It would have been easier to get his European-style cafe and ethnic food store going if META had been available when he was ready to start, he said.

So how is business for these new Americans?

"It's OK, it could be better," the former animal doctor said.

Still, Kurbegović said just being in the United States makes him optimistic.

Delic, with only a year's experience upon which to judge her new business, said: "It's getting better and better every day."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Live video from the bridge rebuilt

Thank you Katja of Yakima, for bringing us people-watching on the bridge at Mostar.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Heart of darkness

My Ghosts: blog of an American soldier gone upriver in Republika Srpska.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lyrics: ne klepeći nanulama

Ne silazi sa čardaka
i ne pitaj gdje sam bio
zašto su mi oči plačne
zbog čega sam suze lio

Stajao sam kraj mezara
i umrlu majku zvao
nosio joj dar od srca
ali joj ga nisam dao

Ne klepeći nanulama
kad silaziš sa čardaka
sve pomislim, moja draga,
da silazi stara majka

(Husain Kurtagić / Nedžad Salković)

(for sheet music and English lyrics, go to Balkanarama)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Boise, Idaho remembers Srebrenica

Last year:

For this year's event, contact the Boise Islamic Center - Islamski Centar u Bojsiju.

Here is an article from Harvard about the Boise Islamic Center.


Bosnian lamb roast
(in BiH, not in Idaho - note the Yugo - and a lamb, not a dog - read on)

My last night of my last time in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 2003, in a wooden ski lodge at the base of Bjelašnica, my local colleagues served us an amazing roast lamb. The mood was convivial, cheerful, reflective, and melancholy all at once, an aspect of BiH life that I treasure and miss.

I really miss at least one aspect of Twin Falls, Idaho life: Bosnian-Americans. About three hundred families from former Yugoslavia live there now, aided by the CSI Refugee Service Center. A great bunch of people, bringing a needed pinch of paprika to what used to be a bland Southern Idaho casserole.

And the food! At one time, Twin supported not one but two Yugo restaurants, where I could take family and friends for cevap and conversation. There are two caffe-bars still there, with a grocery store with umbrella'ed tables for hanging out out front, bringing a little bit of continental cafe culture to south-central Idaho. I'd dress my kid in soccer shirts I'd brought home - carefully balanced among Red Star Belgrade, Dynamo Zagreb, and FK Sarajevo and FK Zeleznicar - and get a kick out of the warm reception we'd get from our new neighbors. Most of the Bosnians in Twin left the divisions of the war behind them , many were in mixed marriages, and all were working hard at building a new American life.

I was fortunate to come to know several Bosnian people through my work. My interpreter was my best guide. A Bosnian Croat from Sarajevo, she helped me with my vocabulary and my understanding, and brought a bit of European dolce vita to our courthouse. Through her, I got closer to understanding my Bosnian clients. One was a cheerful funny Bosnian Serb who overindulged in rakija, women, and song, one of which regularly subjected him to random BAC's. Another was a veteran of the Armija BiH. He was sleeping through loud music when the cops arrived, investigating a neighbor's complaint. When the cops opened his door, shined their flashlights at him and woke him up, he pointed a gun at them, and was arrested for a felony. Maybe alcohol was involved, but when I was able to explain specifically what my client had been through in the war, the prosecutor gave me a misdemeanor, and the judge gave him no jail and a $10.00 fine.

Unfortunately, by and large, Twin was never the most embracing of newcomers. When I did my little slide shows after the times I came back from BiH, I tried to convey some sense of what the refugees from the Yugoslav wars had lost, and what they added to Idaho. I'd get asked, how soon are they going back home? I'd say, this is their home now. The lucky ones were the ones whose house back in Bosnia had lost its roof, because they could raise a new roof and move back in. The unlucky ones either lost their whole house and land, or had a house which was undamaged by the fighting, but now occupied by strangers.

So you can imagine how I felt to read this .

TWIN FALLS -- What's roasting over your neighbor's barbecue pit? For some, it might not be what you think.

In a June 3 letter to the editor, Linda Collins of Twin Falls said, "There are people living in Twin Falls who eat dogs." She also said some of her son's neighbors were barbecuing a dog.

Collins called the sheriff's office and reported the incident, but was told nothing could be done about it. The Collinses were told there are laws concerning cruelty, but no laws concerning killing and eating.

Even if it involves a dog.

Collins' letter added a warning for people to watch out for their dogs.

"If you have a dog you are trying to find a home for, please make sure it is going to a good home, not for these people's dinner."

Her son's neighbor, Resid Begic, said they were not roasting a dog, they were roasting a lamb. They roast lambs as part of Bosnian celebrations, he said.

Begic said deputies laughed when they learned it wasn't a dog being roasted. He also said even as bad as things got during the Serbian war, they didn't resort to eating dogs, that dogs are bad.

Did any neighbors ask the Begics what they were roasting? "No," Begic said, they don't understand Bosnians and their traditions.

When asked if she would change her opinion if she knew they were lambs and not dogs being roasted, Collins said, "No, there are people in this community that eat dogs and cats."

Okay, let's review:

Idaho lamb - mmmmm! Prijatno!

Idaho dog - not halal, no way

And that has to be my favorite part of the story: after being corrected and told that the critter on the spit was in fact a tasty lamb, and not a dog, the complaining party stuck to her uninformed guns anyhow and refused to change her mind about her neighbors. Her loss - that lamb is delicious! With ignant folks like this, I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused. Willful ignorance and proud bigotry: aspects of small-town life that I didn't mind leaving behind.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mladi Behar - Boise, Idaho USA / SAD

The Mladi Behar (Young Blossom) Bosnian-Herzegovinian Cultural Center of Idaho

Thursday, July 07, 2005


E, Moj Druže Beogradski - Jura Stublić i Film

Lijepe cure beogradske, kako ste se ljubit znale,
Još se sijećam kose plave Novosadske moje male.

Zbog nje sam se ja vozio kraj Dunava i kraj Save,
Sto sam sela zavolio, o kako sam sretan bio.

E moj druže beogradski sve smo srpske pjesme znali,
Pjevali smo prije rata: "Zdravo Djevo kraljice hrvata".

E moj druže beogradski Slavonijom sela gore,
E moj druže beogradski ne može se ni na more.

E moj druže beogradski srest ćemo se pokraj Save,
Ti me nećeš prepoznati pa ćeš na me zapucati.

Pustit ću ti metak prvi, vi budite uvijek prvi,
Drugi ću ti oprostiti, treći će me promašiti.

A ja neću nisaniti i Bogu ću se moliti
Da te mogu promašiti ali ću te pogoditi.

Ja ću tebe oplakati, oči ću ti zaklopiti.
Joj kako sam tužan bio, ja sam druga izgubio.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Locations of visitors to this page