Letters From Belgrade
By Vladimir Aleksic Special to ABCNEWS.com
B E L G R A D E, Yugoslavia Editor's Note: Vladimir Aleksic, 37, is a Serb
living in the Banovo Brdo section of Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital. He's
married, has a 2=-year-old son and owns a small electronics firm.
May 5, 1999: 11.00 PM
Here is a joke going around Belgrade: Yugoslav air-defense shot down a U.S.
plane. The pilot jumped out and on the way down meets another flying man.
"Which plane do you come from?" he asks, and another flier replies: "What
plane? I came from a oil refinery."
May 1, 1999: 11.00PM
The latest collateral damage NATO made [bus], made me remember a trick
question from my high school.
Well, you've got two drivers. One of them is mean, and he goes after
pedestrians, killing them with his mighty engine. The other one is
near-sited and he kills people accidentally, 'cause he doesn't see them at
all. So, the question is which one of them is more dangerous?
The answer is that near-sited driver is worse. He is not able to understand
what's he doing. The mean driver knows exactly what he's doing and there is
a tiny chance that one day he'll stop running after the pedestrians. The
near-sited driver won't.
This comment may sound morbid, but the pictures I saw on RTS (yes, RTS),
have left me speechless.
I hope you'll never see them.
April 29, 1999: 5.30PM
I've read the ABCNEWS.com article about war propaganda. I would like to
express my views on it.
First of all, I trust Yugoslav TV as much I trust U.S. media. Or, if you
prefer, I don't trust Yugoslav TV as much as I don't trust U.S. media. Both
of them have their reasons to do what they do. Most of the people I spoke to
think the same.
It is obvious that the media war is extremely important for U.S. in this war
campaign. I have seen President Clinton addressing the people of Serbia. I
heard that Madeleine Albright even spoke in the Serbian language. They tried
to explain that the bombing of Yugoslavia is for our own good.
Do you honestly believe that the Serbs will buy that? Do you think that
millions of leaflets and a NATO radio station can persuade Serbs that bombs
that kill their children are for their own benefit? Are the bombs that left
80 percent of the population jobless going to bring us democracy? Trust my
words, they won't.
The only audience for the president's speech and for Albright's exercise are
the Americans. They should believe that this campaign will save the Serbian
people from the Milosevic's terror. The U.S. public must swallow the bombing
of a passenger train, a refugee's convoy, TV stations, civilian houses . and
not only swallow, but show their active support for the campaign.
So far, the U.S. has done a great job.
The tales of horror from the Albanian refugees and breaking news that change
from day to day managed to cover the fact that the U.S. entered the civil
war in a sovereign country on a secessionist side.
I don't see that Americans are asking questions like "What is the American
interest in helping Albanian secession on Kosovo?" or "How will the bombing
of Serbian children bring Milosevic down?" or even "What in the God's name
are we doing there?"
I don't know what is NATO doing here. The refugee crisis is worsening, the
Yugoslav army is almost intact, and Milosevic was never stronger. It's the
ordinary people, civilians, both Albanians and Serbs that suffer. It's our
life that is ruined, not Milosevic's.
April 27, 1999: 4.30PM
Vuk Draskovic, the deputy premier who was sacked, is not my favorite
As a matter of fact, I have a very bad opinion of him as a person. I cannot
have an opinion of Mr. Draskovic as a politician, since every few years he
drastically changes his point of view.
Please note: Long time ago, while SFRJ [former Yugoslavia] was a pure
communist country, Mr. Draskovic was a chief of cabinet of one of the
political leaders at that time. When Yugoslavia allowed parties other than
communist country, Mr. Draskovic pushed himself as one of the leaders of so
called "democratic opposition."
On a very first offer from President Milosevic, Mr. Draskovic jumped into
the embrace of the same government he was fighting for almost a decade. And
now, Mr. Draskovic express his criticism of President Milosevic and Yugoslav
media? It stinks.
Mr. Draskovic is a very intelligent man, a talented writer, but simply, I
don't trust him. I don't trust his good will, since it seems to me that the
point of his life is to get on the top of the state, regardless of the
political attitude he represents at a time. He did what he did. He is
probably the only one who knows why he did it. I think that he is either
mis-advised or he is offering himself to NATO as a possible Yugoslav leader
to succeed Milosevic when this is all over.
I watched a part of the television interview with him, the one where he
criticized the Yugoslav leadership, late at night on Studio B, the local
Belgrade station. The interview was a mixture of truth and lies, as always:
I know that world public opinion is against Yugoslavia. If I had been
watching the terrible pictures of Albanian refugees, with the explanation
that it was Yugoslavia who is responsible, I would be against Yugoslavia as
well. But the truth is also that the refugees started fleeing Kosovo in
thousands after the NATO bombing started. This cannot be neglected.
I know that NATO will not back down, but that no one can retract that
anti-American mood that is growing in Russia, Greece, Macedonia, etc.
As I understand, the U.S. and NATO reached above the United Nations Charter,
as well as the U.S. Constitution. I am not a lawyer, but I am convinced that
no country or treaty has the right to interfere into internal problems of
Yugoslavia, especially without U.N. Security Council approval.
I don't know that Russia will not help the Yugloslavian military. Please
correct me if I am wrong, but as I remember, Russia made it clear that it
will not stand aside if the ground troops were employed in a "non-permissive
Mr. Draskovic also said that the U.S. and NATO recognize the integrity of
Yugoslavia. That is also very wrong. Both U.S. and NATO insist that
Yugoslavia accepts the Kosovo peace plan that the Albanians already signed.
And that peace plan does not respect Yugoslav integrity at all. On the
contrary. It gives the Albanians a legal background for the secession of
April 23, 1999: 2PM
NATO has said Serbian television was a legitimate military target because it
was spreading "propaganda" about the air campaign.
Does that make me a legitimate military target too? [...]
April 21, 1999: 6.00PM
Last night NATO bombed Belgrade again. The officials claim it was Milosevic'
s party headquarters. Accidentally, at 3 a.m. it was empty. So, also
accidentally, four TV stations were destroyed.
One was the SOS channel-sport channel. [...]
April 20, 1999: 8.00PM
President Clinton finally proved that he works for the benefit of the
Serbian people. Last night, the NATO planes destroyed what's left of the
largest cigarette factory in Yugoslavia. Those Serbs who don't become
collateral damage will have a reduced risk of lung cancer, and a very, very
The bombing finally started to influence the health of my family. My son's
crying re-activated his old problems with a hernia. In the last 24 hours, we
had to run to the hospital three times. The doctors advised an operation,
but I am not prepared to take that risk during the bombing. Most of Belgrade
's hospitals are already damaged.
My wife is on medication since yesterday. She can't take the pressure
anymore. I am used to little sleeping, two or three hours during the night.
Since the problem with a kid started, I increased my daily ration of beer so
April 18, 1999: 9.00PM
Last night one of the largest chemical plants in the Balkans was hit. It
kept burning all night, and this morning a large ten-mile cloud could be
seen from Belgrade. I just spoke to my parents who live near the site, and
they said it was dangerous to go outside. They spend the whole day locked
tight inside the apartment.
We were blessed with a storm this afternoon, so now the situation is better.
You can still smell something in the air, but it's O.K. I read a few days
ago that US claims we have "pursued a chemical warfare program." So I guess
that would be a nice excuse for last night's bombing. If the storage tanks
weren't almost empty, 20,000 tons of ammonia would be spread all over
Serbia. And NATO would say it was a Serbian chemical warfare program. Nice.
The warm and moist weather in Belgrade brought us mosquitoes earlier than
usual. The airplanes that used to drop pesticides were all destroyed by
U.S./NATO bombing. I was wondering, can we negotiate with the Pentagon to
drop some DDT on the river banks?
If necessary, we can mark the targets.
April 14, 1999: 7.00PM
There is also a funny thing that happened. Just before the bombing started,
we all bought a large supply of everything, afraid of what might happen. In
a time, we realized that we all made a mistake, so we had to eat our
supplies. Most of the people that I meet have put on the weight. Me too.
I stopped going to shelter more than a week ago. The fear from bombs is
something a man cannot get used to, but it can be managed. My prime concern
is the health of my family, so I keep my nerve all the time. My kid still
doesn't get the meaning of the frightening sounds of the air defense and
bomb blasts, but I can see that it affects him too. Since the bombings are
most intense during the nights, it is difficult to put him to sleep, when
the explosions wake him up.
The bombing of civilian targets and too many civilian victims including
women and children made us all very bitter. We all know that we are up
against the ultimate military power, but everybody I talk to is anxious to
see NATO ground troops. The bombing made Serbs so angry that the army who
wants to come to Kosovo will have a very hard time.
April 12, 1999: 5.00PM
I looked at other news networks and was shocked by some of them. Something
on BBC made me so bitter that I had to react.
"Serbian media reported NATO attacks overnight on Sunday, including an oil
refinery in Pancevo, north-east of Belgrade; a car factory in Kragujevac.
Yugoslav officials say NATO bombs killed six civilians, including an
11-month-old baby, in the town of Podujevo in Kosovo. There are also reports
of a NATO missile hitting a passenger train en route from Leskovac in
southeastern Serbia to the Macedonian capital, Skopje. The Yugoslav Tanjug
news agency reports two dead and many injured in the incident. A NATO
spokesman in Brussels said the alliance was aware of the reports and was
checking them, saying: "We cannot confirm it at the present time." NATO says
the bombing campaign has been successful in slowing the Yugoslav military
What military machine?
Oil refinery, car factory or passenger train?
Or You think that 11-month-old baby from Podujevo was responsible for ethnic
What's the matter with You people?
April 13, 1999: 10.00PM
I would like to say something about the lies that come with this war
campaign against my country. These lies hurt me much more than the bombs,
and that is why I want to talk about them.
Whether you want to admit it or not, we all lie a bit. The difference
between us is what we lie about. It is our conscience that draws a line that
we do not cross. Those who have no conscience at all are the people that
create lies I'm talking about. These lies were some of the breaking news in
the past couple weeks, but they go way back in the background of this
>From the alleged "bloody massacre in Racak" a few months ago, the
"concentration camps in Pristina's stadium," the alleged "rapes of Albanian
refugees" and "100,000 refugees missing" to the latest "Serbian invasion of
Albania," those lies were meant to last, and create a devastating effect in
the media's picture about the Serbs.
So now, it is possible for NATO to bomb a passenger train and say "It
happens." It is also possible for British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to
justify the attacks with facts given by one of the KLA leaders.
There seems to be no one thinking about NATO's right to launch attacks on
civilian targets hundreds of miles from Kosovo, without U.N. Security
Council approval. What law gives NATO an excuse to ask Yugoslavia to
withdraw from its own territory? Would U.S. withdraw their army and police
from Texas, and let the Russian army in, just like that? OK, it's your
choice. But I'm still proud to be a Serb in Serbia. And I am not what NATO
and KLA war propaganda say.
April 7, 1999: 8.00PM
Your question was bothering me since the first day the fighting with KLA on
Kosovo started, and it was long before the U.S. involved itself and a few
other NATO countries into this bloody mess. The answer to your question is
not an easy one. First of all, let me say something about KLA.
KLA is illegal organization that chose war as a way to fight for the
independence of Kosovo. Some media call them terrorist organization because
they kidnapped or killed hundreds of Serb civilians (remember the bomb in a
Serbian cafe in Pec? - 5 kids 16-19 years old died!).
All those incidents were reported to International Observers while they were
on Kosovo. As in any other organization of such kind, not all KLA people
wear uniforms when they go to 'action'.
Therefore, when you see a dead Albanian civilian, it is very, very difficult
to say who he was, while he was alive. On the other hand, the Serbian Police
and the Yugoslav Army were very clear: "Those who choose to fight will bear
Please let me underline that when the fights were at their peak, ALL ABANIAN
VILLAGES THAT REFUSED TO FIGHT WERE LEFT INTACT.
Just before the bombing, there were literally hundreds of Albanian villages
with their own, local police and they didn't have any problems with Serbian
authorities. Those Albanians who decided to fight had to realize that
Serbian Police and Yugoslav Army will strike back. If you go back a few
months, you'll find a village Racak with many 'civilian' victims. Do you
know that KLA was shooting at the investigative judge when she was visiting
All around this 'peaceful' village the KLA dug the trenches, so it looked
like a fortress. The Serbian police may be over-reacting, but you tell me
what happens in the U.S. if someone pull the gun on the officer of the law?
The U.S./NATO bombing was a drop that filled the glass. The KLA understood
that it is a time to attack, and the great majority of Albanian civilians
was caught between KLA, Serbian police, Yugoslav Army and NATO bombs. I am
sure that every normal person would also leave everything behind and join
the endless line of refugees.
Before I finish this difficult letter, let me say that I am sure that
President Milosevic and the leader of Kosovo's Albanians Mr. Ibrahim Rugova
will find a way to organize Albanian autonomy within Serbia, so we can all
live our lives in PEACE. But KLA, U.S. and NATO must back off.
April 7, 1999: 7.30PM
I spend several hours every day at a lake that is less than a mile from
where I live. I always take my family with me.
You see, the weather in Belgrade is very nice, the spring is already here.
The lake I'm talking about is about 5 miles long, and it used to be part of
a river long time ago. It is a large recreation area now, and being almost
in a center of a town, it is very popular. There are football, basketball,
mini-golf play-fields, a bike road, hundreds of small cafes, and miles if
During the summer, several hundred thousands people go there. Most of the
cafes are open all night. Every person that visited Belgrade and didn't see
the lake didn't see a thing. The name of the lake is Ada Ciganlija. I had a
few beers with other people that took their kids to the lake, my son was
riding a kid's bike and throwing stones to the lake, while my wife caught
It was so nice and quite, that I can say "now, my batteries are full"; and I
can go through the night's bombings.
April 6, 1999: 1.30PM
Last night was a shameful night for all NATO countries. It became obvious
that this campaign became a personal vendetta of NATO toward my country.
Almost all of the targets from last night were civilian targets. The only
goal of this bombing is a total destruction of Yugoslav economy.
U.S. is well known around the world for its fair laws and fine lawyers. I
wish that some of you lawyers are reading this mail. If you also think that
this immoral act has no legal excuse, please contact me immediately.
April 4, 1999: 4.20PM
The German division of SFOR [U.N. Stabilization Force] from Bosnia blew up
the railroad that connects Belgrade with Bar in Montenegro.
The railroad officer that maintains the railroad was shot from the back.
I don't know what to say.
April 4, 1999: 9.50AM
I had another sleepless night.
US/NATO bombed several 'major' targets this night. A fuel tank in a largest
central-heating plant in New Belgrade was hit. It kept burning all night,
and a heavy smoke cloud soon covered the city.
For the third time since the bombing started, the Sloboda factory in Cacak
was bombed. I've got a vacuum cleaner that was made by Sloboda. I am sure
that U.S./NATO officials are convinced that this will reduce Serbian ability
to go to war.
They probably think that the Serbs will fight with vacuum cleaners from
their well-heated houses.
April 3, 1999: 3.20PM
Last night, just before 1a.m., the center of Belgrade was bombed.
I heard a hissing sound as missiles flew over my home, and a couple of
second later a series of explosions. The Yugoslav TV showed pictures of two
buildings being hit: Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs and Serbian
Ministry of Internal Affairs. I thank U.S./NATO officials for being so
precise, since next to Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs is a maternity
hospital where my son was born.
This morning, a delegation from the Russian Parliament visited the hospital,
and was shocked by what they saw there. I just hope that U.S./NATO officials
know what they are doing and that it's worthy. I don't.
April 2, 1999: 11.20PM
I started this mail last night, but I was too tensed so I'll finish it
Last night in Belgrade was a spooky one. The situation was very tense since
we all felt that the end was near. There is an old saying in my country that
says "every stick has two ends". Until this morning, we didn':t know which
end of the stick will be ours.
Last night, I was not an optimist. When I took care of my family, I put
Scotch tape on the windows, just in case. (For the first time since the
bombing started). The news on TV was coming very fast. Although it was very
good, I didn':t feel good about it. The policy of U.S./NATO so far has
proved that we can expect any kind of development. Yesterday, President
Milosevic appeared on TV with Mr. Ibrahim Rugova, a leader of Kosovo's
Albanians. They shook hands and asked for an immediate stop of the bombing.
I knew this was bound to happen, and I wrote about that on Sunday.
Now we can draw the line and summarize the results of U.S./NATO bombing. The
bombing was initiated as a pressure to the Serbian side to accept the
foreign troops in Kosovo. U.S./NATO promised to destroy Serbian weapons and
means to fight the war. The results are the hundreds of thousands of
Albanian refugees from Kosovo. Great success, without any doubt.
Before the bombing, the clashes were local, and now, when the Russians are
on a drill firing ballistic missiles, it almost became global. Great
success, without any doubt.
Before the attacks, the U.S. was a synonym for democracy, freedom, safety
for the world peace and nuclear disarming. Now, the NATO-Russia treaty is
cancelled, Ukraine and Belarusia has revoked its non-nuclear status, U.S.
flags are being burned all over the world. Great success, without any doubt.
Looking back on the results of U.S./NATO bombing, Serbia suffered just the
material damage which can be repaired in no time. But the damage that the
U.S./NATO did to Albanian people and to itself is such that it seems that
they were working for the Serbs all time. It clearly indicates that the NATO
supreme command is far from being able to plan, organize and lead an
operation like this, regardless of their hi-tech equipment, GPS missiles and
laser-guided bombs. Another round of the negotiation between Serbs and
Albanians will happen again. I hope that both sides will come to their
For the benefit of us little people.
April 1, 1999: 5:44AM
I hope that our kids will live in a world better than ours. I am sure that
they will be brought up with a will to love, not to hate. Anger and hatred
never brought any good to anyone. By the way, my kid's name is Luka
(harbor), he is 2=, and he already knows all letters, both Cyrillic and
He keeps asking me all kinds of things when I work with my computer and
learns with the speed of light.
Re: Education . I graduated from Belgrade University as an electronic
engineer. I never worked in any other company but my own. When we were a
communist country, private enterprise was not very welcome. But I survived
and managed to make a few good contacts ( USA, Canada, UK, Korea). To make
business in Yugoslavia was very difficult, and it seems that it is going to
be even worse.
When I was a kid, I trained in swimming. In 1981, I was a champion of
Yugoslavia on 100m butterfly. I have a sister that spent one year in the
U.S. as a student. I visited the States several times with her and traveled
from Chicago to Seattle and back by car (25 day on the road).
I learned English by reading Charlie Brown and The Wizard of Oz ( my
favorite). Also, I still have a selection of Don Martin from MAD magazine.
So I know something about your country, and I know how beautiful it is.
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