Zero Degree of Separation

About 15 years ago, Turbe is a door to the second half of the war. A battered snake of houses at the foot of Vlasic Mountain, it usually only open one way to disgorge refugees from Krajina. Crossing the Bosnjak-Croat front lines is one great matter for outsiders... If they were quite, it is manageable. Crossing the Bosnjak-Croat lines is something else... Impossible except in a few checkpoint areas including a road to Sarajevo. Sometimes the scene of fierce fighting, Turbe is also a trade point for corpses exchanges and a waste-chute the Serbs used to dispose of those they continued to purge from their territory... The Bosnjaks and The Croats. It is a never-go cross point for outsiders. When Zlatko asked if I want to go across the Serbian line with him, I thought he was only joking. He is an officer in the government army. We were standing together on a crest of ground overlooking to the Serbian line. A ceasefire had been organised so that the Serbs can bring back some of their dead bodies from failed attack of previous week. Zlatko and his four friends wearing purple sashes over their smocks, tuned in to the Serbian net on their Motorolas and stood up above the tranches at the foot of Vlasic Mountain. The Serbs come out from their line and begin to search through the scrub for their dead bodies, responding to the shouts of Zlatko and his friends... "Left a bit, a bit more. Are you blind? Can you see him?" They shouted. There look like to be about twelve corpses but the Serbs only managed to find four. The rest lay in a minefield and are abandoned to the earth. "I'm going to meet them." Zlatko said. I was stunned for a while. Bosnjak soldiers talking to the Serbian soldiers on radios and across trendchlines happened all the time but to cross into their lines is something never heard of. Finally I agreed. We crammed together, six unarmed men in a civilian car begin to drive out through Turbe... And along the road, everything seems to be reversed and we crossed to the line. Driving for few miles, passing by some Serbian soldiers who stand by the roadside. We reached to a building which few Serbian officers sit down there around a fire. "Stay in the car. Don't come out or say a word or do anything until I call you." Zlatko said to me while he and his friends were getting off themselves from the car. Few minutes later he come back and invite me to come out. Lots of things I wanted to ask but that was not the time to voice them out. I greet the Serbs and sit slightly near the group and listening to them. "We were still missing nine from that attack." the Serbian officer said. "We can see seven in the gully among the mines. Are you sure you haven't got the others? One is almost hidden behind the rock. We definitely don't have anybody as prisoner from that night. You know what happened. The boys didn't even make it." Zlatko replied him. "Yes. I know." the Serbian officer answered. They were talking like two good friends. It appeared that all of them knew one another since before the war. Perhaps having either been to school together or served in the same JNA unit. "What about the five of our guys from last Wednesday? We heard some were taken alive." said Zlatko. "No. No one else. You know how the line there. If I heard anything, I'll let you know." the Serbian officer replied. "Same channel same time?" Zlatko asked. "Yes same channel same time." the Serbian officer replied. "Let us have some drink." he continued. Then the conversation changed, they begin to talk about their other friends... "How is Drago?" Zlatko asked the Serbian officer. "He is wounded." he replied. "How is Mladen?" He asked Zlatko. "He left to Novi Sad last month with his family." Zlatko answered him. Zlatko's brother has been badly injured few days before, he has been shot on head by a Serbian sniper. That news seems genuinely to upset the Serbian officer... "I'm so sorry." He said while shaking his head... What actually defined this two groups? Race? They are from the same race. Culture? They have the same culture. Religion? No one present has the first clue about the tenets of his own faith... Be it Orthodox or Islam or Catholic. They are Southern Slavic brothers, have been sucked into conflict by the rising of long-dead banner raised by some peoples whose only wish is 'power', and in so doing had created a circle of fear and death in the Balkan regions... Feeding off its own evil like cancer. Rendezvous such as these were not avenues in which to see division and hatred. The war is about polarity and separation... And me? Who do you think I'm? I'm a Northern Slavic guy who has been born and grew up among the Southern Slavic peoples. Although my blood has nothing related to them but for me they are my brother because I was born and grew up among them and I went through the same thing what they went through. We shared the same joy and the same pain. They lost many of their family members in the war, so was I.

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