Jasmina Tesanovic from Belgrade to Philladelphia Inquirer
May 3, 1999
These are excerpts from a diary kept by Jasmina Tesanovic, 45, who lives in
Belgrade with her family. This is the third installment of the diary, which
was e-mailed to the Inquirer from Belgrade.
Friday, April 23
The TV building was hit last night: my window burst open from the blast, I
live quite near whilst my parents are just behind. A very good friend of
mine is the building next to TV. We are all OK, except for the sacrificed TV
workers, common craftsman who had no ideas about what the program should
look like. I am OK except for the people this morning in the market clearly
distressed by lack of understanding. Just yesterday I thought, now everybody
is fighting for our souls, of us Serbs led astray, all these TVs, local and
international: we even receive American leaflets from the planes telling us
about us. . . Not even the Colorado teenaged killers could draw attention
from our educational program.I was in the Greek embassy today. And they are
the last embassy giving humanitarian visas with very strict rules. They were
nice, tender. It was our people who made me cry. Young, old, middle aged
women of different social backgrounds were smiling all the time to the Greek
staff, in order to get a visa, they were pleading, arguing, crying. . . My
God, I don't need that kind of life. I don't need a visa, I asked for my
passport back without a visa; they couldn't find it. So there it is, for
trying to be privileged, I became person without identity: I feel free. They
will find my passport on Monday, they said, but I won't go anywhere, not
splitting with family, friends, not as privileged but humiliated, even if
only for two days. If we have to go, we will leave all together, as
Albanians did. Dignity and love is the only thing we have yet to lose.
Saturday, April 24
Since the big NATO celebration going on in Washington is dazzling all the TV
channels, we expected here in Belgrade the bridges to be hit, to finish it
off, in one big dazzling operation and to start all anew: the new NATO era.
I watched the military waltz, the flags, the uniforms, the audience, the
speeches. . . It was as surreal as our reality here, that of political
idiots under bombs. It is not stern and grave as commentators claim the
world that NATO is protecting has become, it is funny, surreal, and
dangerous. Hostages of both sides, and of bad weather, we stay in homes and
watch life of the Others on TV, the screen coming and going, depends on
which side is militarily stronger at that point.
Sunday, April 25
I am crying with relief every day, not with fear. I am seeing only people
who are sharing or have shared my reality, I am not wasting my life and time
anymore: maybe I will never come back, but I am not sorry, on the contrary I
am sorry for my wasted time, though fun it was, so let it be. . .
Last night I dreamed that some kind of police, without clear signs, but in
uniforms with weapons rang the bell of my door: they were coming to get the
men. I didn't stir, I didn't breathe, I thought it was real, even this
morning I am not sure I dreamt it.
Monday, April 26
The shops here are still full, the green market is rich, but people are
speaking about radioactive vegetables, more and more. They are also speaking
of future without bread, water or electricity. No visible signs of that yet,
only fears. The only visible lack are still cigarettes and petrol. And of
I am sick, I know I shouldn't be. In '93, when we were under heavy
sanctions, without medicines, I remember my mother, a chronic asthmatic
saying: well, now we shouldn't get sick until the sanctions are lifted. And
I remembered the dying Freud with throat cancer, emigrating in 1939 from
Germany to England. And I decided not to let it happen to me. If we have to
leave, we will leave all together, as Albanian refugees: I won't leave my
men behind to fight somebody else's cause: they are my men, and not just
chess players of a Nation-State.
The famous NATO star Jamie Shea, said we, Serbian citizens, feel safe with
NATO bombs ? we don't stop working when hearing the sirens. Well, maybe we
don't stop working, but that is for other reasons, because the work has to
be done, not because we feel protected. I don't feel safe with the NATO or
any other bombs, NATO being the only ones I know: I don't feel safe without
bridges, in a boat, on a horse, on a bicycle, against NATO airplane; I don't
feel safe without schools, universities, libraries, against highly
technological NATO countries. I am not afraid, not anymore, we are beyond
good or evil by now, but my legs simply tremble, when I hear the NATO or any
other planes with bombs above my head.
Tuesday, April 27
Last night I switched on TV: on 10 channels we had the same program, the
Then I saw my friend Viosa on BBC, an Albanian from Kosovo: a human rights
activist, a doctor, a beautiful woman. She was telling all the atrocities
that happened to her whilst running for her life from Pristina. I started
crying, her story I know since she left and some other of our feminist
friends, I guess it is not the story in itself. It is her: she has changed,
her face has something of a person who will never laugh again, be
superficial. . . I suppose, mine too, if I dared look myself in the
mirror.Wednesday, April 28
We got nervous, it was 1.a.m. and there was no alarm: we didn't know what to
do, as many people in Belgrade I heard; it is called the alarm neurosis. But
the explosions immediately came: very strong, the windows were opening, the
building shaking, fireworks in the air. The Yugoslav anti-aircraft responded
heavily and then the thunder and lightning with heavy rain. I think it was
also full moon. We all went to bed together, to one big bed with children's
toys and many cushions and we went to sleep. I guess you can call it candid
semblance of death. . .
The cleaning lady came late this morning. She said, no buses, no petrol,
I've spent all night in the shelter but I don't believe anymore we will win
this war. My friend's child said: Hurrah: "We have no music classes anymore,
our teacher has became a sniperist." I remember the young man, a great
talent he was in the music academy. My friend's son serving in the regular
army phones regularly: he is afraid and cold, but alive. He takes
tranquilizers and smokes cigarettes. She stopped eating and laughs all the
Then the news this morning: we cannot understand what was hit, we understand
that NATO made another mistake in a village of South Serbia: again
collateral damage, this time children in a "safe" shelter. . .
Petrol rations, 20 liters per month: market full of items of all kinds, of
people selling and buying, cash still available. . . this kind of war
economy we have mastered, all these years and many before in ex- Yugoslavia.
. . Petrol on black market costs only twice more. . .
My friends from Belgrade and all over the world ask for my diary, daily, so
they can cry: that is what most often they say. . .
I just had a phone call, a friend telling me that an ecological catastrophe
is on its way: no more salads, vegetables, fruits. . . Only tinned food and
bottled water.. . . What will happen to the market, the only vital place in
the war? Many papers have been circulating on email, collected evidence of
poisoning of air and water.. . . A young friend of mine decided to have an
abortion because she believed all that: she's been crying for days now. . .
The alarm again, it is daytime: my daughter phones immediately, she is
coming home. That is our deal: until the war is over we will stay together
all the time. . .
Thursday, April 29
Another horrible night, again children with teddy bears in our beds, a
wonderful sunny morning with no real news. . . Who cares anymore for my
story. . . I hardly care for my life, why should somebody else.. . . Foreign
friends and journalists urge me to leave, until it becomes too late, they
tell me Serbs are the contemporary Jews. . . it all passes me by; I am
tired, I need to sleep, our torture is that of lack of sleep.
Last night my friend told me how she didn't get her monthly pay because her
director lost all the money because he is in distress; his son is in the
army in Kosovo. So she doesn't have the money for her children. We give each
other money as if it were water, for free. We share cigarettes, wine,
information and pass it on. Yes again, the famous Serbian solidarity; I am
not a nationalist, on the contrary I am a political idiot and an
internationalist, but my ideology doesn't bring me food, love, solidarity,
which I need most now. . .
My washing machine broke down, I started crying, as if somebody died; I
imagined myself washing the laundry with hands besides all the housework I
have to do since the war started. But then I remembered how somebody told me
that in NATO phase three we will have no water, electricity, phone lines. So
I imagined myself with many others, mostly women I guess, washing the
laundry in the Danube, as in ancient Greece: singing, gossiping, laughing .
. . with kids running around us as in a Karen Blixen pastoral. That will be
my summer holidays.. . .
Friday, April 30
Step by step, down, down: every day crossing a new border of horror:
yesterday's fear is today's habit. Last night the bomb hit only 100 meters
from my home, the blast was so strong that the building was shaking for
minutes from one side to another: we hang to each other, over each other,
laughing nervously. Somebody said: they will kill us all after all,
biologically or physically. Then we went to bed, all together. After few
hours no explosions, only shakings: again we hang to each other, sleepy
without saying anything: no news on TV. The earthquakes following the
explosion went on and on, we are shaking and feeling sick.
Never before Belgrade was hit so strongly: dead bodies are lying around the
destroyed buildings, alarm of destroyed cars pitching strange tunes, rescue
vans circling with lights on: full moon. And the life goes on: today with no
buses, trams: forbidden salad and market food because of the poisoning of
earth and air by uranium; no information because it doesn't bring help
anyway . . .
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