All Posts Tagged ‘War

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Forlorn

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curricula024Back in the 90s I went to Bosnia Herzegovina as a reporter during the Balkans war. I contacted with a local journalist hoping to obtain some good sources and information about what was going on in Mostar, taking advantage of my knowledge of the language. So I left the group of foreign correspondents who were working in the area with a translator, based in Medjugorje, where the Spanish troops had their headquarters.

The local journalist began giving me valuable information, but to my disgust and horror, very soon I could realize that he didn’t want to help me with the info, he only wanted to be alone with me to abuse me. I managed to escape unharmed, but I found myself alone in the unknown and I had to go back to my hotel in Medjugorje.

The road was completely dark and deserted and there was the danger of the possible attacks of the Serbian militias stationed on the mountains around. I was feeling forlorn and scared. I only wanted to hide in a safe place for the night.

I finally arrived to Medjugorje and found my hotel. Some of my colleagues had organized a dancing party. I was not in the mood. The war, the attempt against me, the scary trip to Medjugorje, had been too much for me. Besides I found scandalous organize a feast  then and there.

Next morning, very early, I went to the church of the village were they say there are apparitions of the Virgin Mary and miracles. I attended Mass and gave thanks to God to have saved me the day before.

Forlorn

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A powerful forgiveness

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papá021

My father, Luka Brajnovic,  had to endure very difficult situations in his life. In 1943, when he was just 24, a young journalist , a civilian, a pacifist, trying to survive in the middle of a cruel war, he was a direct victim of the violence. the train in which he was traveling, fell in an ambush. There was an intense shooting. Many travellers died. He survived but was taken prisoner. His captors forced him to walk three days without food or water. He was convinced they were going to kill him. In his diary he writes about the third day:

The thought of death appears natural and even as a lifeline. Here in a desert and unknown place, they will bury bodies who were loved, but the souls cannot be buried, not here, not anywhere. If they kill me, they may do so with the best of intentions, thinking they do an act of justice. But would that be really justice ?. Whom have I done wrong? Whom I wished evil ?. However, I reject these thoughts because  I don’t want they discouraging me. Forgive. Forgive everyone. Also to those who commit the injustice and those who, with the injustice,  have caused this chaos .

When they arrived to the headquarters of the guerrilla, they told him he was sentenced to death. He dug his own tomb along with 17 other men, and was in front of the armed guerrilla men who were going to shoot him when a guerrilla chief, who was a journalist like my father, gave the order to take him away from the line. He saved his life. But then began a long story of suffering as a prisoner.
Reading my father’s diaries, I’m deeply impressed by his sense of forgiveness, something he kept all his life and now I understand why that man who seemed so fragile had such an inner strength.

Lately I’ve been busy building a new blog dedicated to him in Spanish. Anyway if you want to take a look is in brajnovic.info

Mad Libs

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Perfect Shoe

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Run!, Run!. She didn’t think twice. They had just heard the sound of the launching of a missile and her guide knew it was aimed towards the place where they were standing.

A man in a nearby house called them: Over here! Over here! and showed them the entrance to a basement into a barn. He closed the entrance just when all exploded. They reached safety just for a second. She was lucky to have worn that day the perfect shoes to run really fast.

Down there, several families were sheltering from the bombing. They were sitting on the floor at the light of some candles, frightened. Women, children, men, elderly. A family in a corner was saying quietly the rosary. You could hear some sobbing. But mostly was reigning a deadly silence.

Those people were exhausted and frightened. They had to run to the basements every day. They looked at the newcomers, with their cameras and recorders, indifferently and sadly. Many reporters had visited before their village, taking pictures asking questions and promising they would tell their story, but nothing had changed. The journalists came and went, but the villagers had nowhere to go. their only option was stay there trying to survive.

When the bombing  stopped, the news team went out from the refuge and began to take pictures of the demolished house in front of which they had been just minutes before. In the middle of the street, a lone shoe lost by someone who had run like them in search of shelter was a reminder of how near of death they had been. A family was already in the damaged house trying to recover whatever had been left of their belongings.

The reporter climbed the ruins to see the destruction. She knew the language, so she talked with the family affected and their neighbours, to describe the whole episode better in her news report.

Later, before night, the team left the village and their frightened inhabitants. They had to continue their trip to complete their job, but it was not easy. Somehow, in their hearts, they wanted to know what would be the fate of those poor people who helped them in that critical moment of danger. Leave them behind was hard. It’s always hard.

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Saved by the Bell

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Fragile Tune

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The world was in war. But he was young and he fell madly in love. His heart was full of sweetness. She was good, smart and beautiful. His first and only love. They knew that life during a war was uncertain. They knew about death, suffering, and destruction. He had been taken prisoner and almost killed recently. So they decided to get married as soon as possible and live together the precious moments they could share. They didn’t want to lose a moment no matter the difficulties. They were extremely poor and they had to endure together cold and hunger. But they were happy just to have each other.

He had a nice tenor voice and used to sing to her beautiful melodies; ancient love songs he had learnt from his father.

But their time together ended soon.

The war was stronger than them. At one point, they found themselves in opposite sides of a closed border. He couldn’t come back to his country, and she couldn’t go out with their small daughter. The war ended, the border got sealed and all hopes of a fast solution to their case vanished. He began a life in exile and tried with all his means to bring her out without success.

Everywhere he went he learned new love songs thinking on his forbidden and beloved wife. And he sang them when he was alone.

Twelve years passed till they finally got a permit for her to travel out of the country. He had left his daughter as a four months baby, and he met her as a thirteen years old girl in the family reunion in the Munich train station.

Now that they were together again, he could sing aloud to his only love the songs he had learned during all those years. She smiled. She always smiled.

Years passed and they grew old together. When his battered body couldn’t bear up any more, he had to go to the hospital, almost unable to move and talk, and never came back.

***

It was a gorgeous day. Warm and sunny. Sunday morning. I was with him at his bedside. He had his eyes closed. The TV monitor was on, and they were broadcasting a concert by the three tenors (Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras). Luciano Pavarotti began to sing a Neapolitan song. “Non ti scordar di me” (Don’t forget about me). My dad said from his bed: “I know this song”.
He began to sing in Italian with his frail voice to me:

Don’t forget about me.
My life is tied to you
I love you more and more
In my dream you stay

Don’t forget about me
My life is tied to you
There’s always a nest
In my heart for you

Don’t forget about me

Don’t forget about me

It was one of the songs he learned in Italy for my mom fifty years ago when they didn’t know if they were going to get reunited again. But this time he was singing to me.

Don’t forget about me. Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll never forget about you. My life is tied to you.

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Terrible

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Open the first photo album you can find — real or virtual, your call — and stop at the first picture of yourself you see there . Tell us the story of that photo.

curricula024

Here Am I during the Balkans War in Mostar in front of a destroyed building after a bombing by the Serbian forces. What can I add? it’s all said by the image behind me. I was there as a journalist reporting about the war and the work of the Spanish blue helmets deployed in the area. The besieged city was a pile of ruins. The public parks had been turned in cemeteries. People was suffering a lot . I remember that the Spanish defence Minister came to visit the troops and took a walk through the streets. There were some kids without coats running around, right next to a park full of graves. The minister called them to give them some candies, and this way, have a photo-op with them. Pathetic. Some bystanders were warning to the kids: “don’t take the candies. He only wants the picture”. But the kids didn’t listen. Of course, the photo reporters were busy with other images of the destroyed city but the minister’s PR staff was working hard. I was In Bosnia those days, so I didn’t see it, but they told me that a newspaper close to the Government in Spain published the picture of the minister and the kids.
I’m sorry I brought this horrible picture, but it was the first one I found in which I appear. All my pictures are terrible. I have to find the box of my childhood pictures in search for something nice.

Snapshot Stories.

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Grandma for 15 days

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Sure, you turned out pretty good, but is there anything you wish had been different about your childhood? If you have kids, is there anything you wish were different for them?

Once, my grandma came to visit us. She got a visa permit for 15 days from the communist Yugoslavian authorities to cross the border. She hadn’t seen my father since the day he got imprisoned by the Italian fascists who invaded their town during WWII and began his adventurous life who ended in exile and immigration. More than 20 years of separation.
I was five. We knew we only would have grandma for a few days. So we were all day around her, while she was all time close to my father, her lost child, now found for a short time. They had a lot to talk about. We listened in silence.
She had a very sweet face with a charming smile and beautiful blue eyes. I remember I was happy just being close to her and looking at her. The only family I knew till then was my parents and my brother and sisters. A grandma was a big novelty. I experienced her love for us. And it was great!.
Those few days passed too fast. We had to say goodbye, knowing it was for ever. And nine months later, she died.
I wish I had an extended family at reach. We were alone in a strange country. No family, no roots near us. The usual in an immigrant family.

Childhood Revisited.

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Love and War

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Write a review of your life — or the life of someone close to you — as if it were a movie or a book.

A young woman gets married with an independent journalist in Zagreb in the middle of the WWII. For months before the end of the war she gives birth to a baby girl. When the war is about to finish the communists are approaching her city. Her husband, who has been persecuted by the fascists and by the communists because of his work as a journalist, find out that he is in the list of people to be executed by the militias of the communists. She advices him to go out of the country for a while until the situation calms down. But then the borders get closed and they get separated. He begins a pilgrimage from a refugee camp to another, and she tries to survive alone with her daughter in the new Yugoslavia, with the secret police after her trying to figure out where is her husband.

Four Stars.

 

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I have been there

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What are the top items on your anti-bucket list — those things you never, ever want to do, places you never want to visit, books you never want to read,

When I was a trainee in a newspaper, another trainee said she didn’t want to end her career without being in a war and in a big earthquake. I thought she was crazy. Why on earth would she like to witness so much suffering? I wished there were no wars and no big earthquakes at all. She ended making her career comfortably in politics and I was de one who went to a country in war as a reporter.
Jail is another place I hate. When I was a reporter in courts, once, the jail’s chaplain invited me to give a lecture about international politics to the inmates. It was in the nineties, so they asked questions about the Balkans war. I had a good knowledge of the subject. I have been there. The more interested was an inmate convicted of terrorism.

I only was inside the jail two or three hours, but it was awful to hear the gates close with a clank behind me. I felt trapped. Claustrophobic. Surrounded by dangerous men. The only woman in that place. I felt nervous, unsure, And I knew I was going to go out immediately. What an anguish! Nevertheless I managed to give the lecture and answer the questions with calm and it Wes a good session. The chaplain was satisfied.

life can lead you where you don’t like to go or deprive you from things you’d like to do. I don like lists. I prefer to have clear goals in life and go for them. Then deal with life brings which is usually full of surprises.

 

Kick the Bucket.

 

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Photo-op

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Tell us about a time when you flew into a rage. What is it that made you so incredibly angry?

Mostar. Bosnia. During the Balkans war. The Spanish defence minister was visiting Spanish soldiers deployed under the UN mandate. He visited a makeshift cemetery in a park in the middle of the besieged city. There were children playing around. It was winter. Chilling cold. Snow and ice. The kids without coats. Only wearing sweaters. Probably hungry too. The minister brought candies. Enough to attract them to have a nice photo-op. His official photographer began to take pictures of him surrounded by excited children. Bystanders were telling the kids not to go for the candies. That all was only for the picture. But they went anyway. They wanted the candies. Next day that would be the picture in the Spanish newspapers. Sad. Those kids needed help. Coats, food. Not a candy to become a convenient background for a politician’s picture.  Things like that have made me angry many times in my life. To the point of rage? I don’t thing so. I always could denounce these kind of things reporting about them. I needed to keep my mind cold and do my job. That helps a lot.

Daily Prompt: Mad as a Hatter.
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This is my age

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Do you belong in this day and age? Do you feel comfortable being a citizen of the 21st-century? If you do, explain why — and if you don’t, when in human history would you rather be?

When I was ten I made some calculations and I concluded that I would be too old to enjoy the  21 st Century. I was going to turn the milestone at 40!.  When the moment arrived I found myself with surprise plenty of strength to face the new Century. By the way, wasn’t so terrible the change, was it? At the end, one day after another, and the life going on like before.

So I’m a citizen of two Centuries. I lived through the Cold War to the fall of the Berlin Wall during the last Century. Then, just at the beginning of this one,  9-11 happened, and our lives changed again. A new kind of war entered the history.

I began my professional career as a journalist with typewriters, pen and paper, and type recorders and now I’m working with computers, tablets and smartphones connected 24/7 if I want. Maybe someone is watching in behalf of National Security, thanks to the new communication technologies (or a hacker is watching with who knows what purposes, by the way). But these same technologies make me able to connect with all of you and so many other people, something I enjoy every day.

We have seen amazing scientific and technical advances, as well as horrendous plagues and disasters in our world.

The poor remain poor, some of the rich are richest.

We are in times of changes with all the unrests around the world, some trying to topple tyrannies, some asking for social justice, some fighting fundamentalism.

But new kind of wars, moments of changes, revolutions had happened before. Is part of the history of the humanity.

This is why I would not go to another moment in human history. This is my age. There are a lot of good things in this world. Above all there are a lot of good people. I have to do whatever is in my hands to make this world better now and here, beginning with what is around me.

Daily Prompt: 21st Century Citizen.

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