Showing posts from July, 2011


A lot more to our visit to Dubrovnik than these beautiful pictures ... I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Medjugorje, for Mom

My Mother always spoke of this place and hoped to visit it some day ... I got to do that for her. It was a rainy day, and the St. James Church was packed with people, so I could only get this one picture. I did get to step away from the church and find the alcove off to the side, and lit candles for Mom, Kathi and Grandma.
The students I spoke with afterwards - Catholics, Protestants, Muslim, others - were very happy to have seen this pilgrimage site.

Medjugorje was on our way out of Bosnia and Herzegovina, heading to Croatia. We also stopped at a Serbian Monastery (photo below) and had intended to stop at a Muslim site as well (sadly, the latter was under renovation, so we had to miss that)

Mostar - a city destroyed, revived, still divided

The famous old bridge, or Stari Most, was destroyed by Bosnian Croat forces (aka, bastards) in November 1993; it has been rebuilt thanks to the World Bank, UNESCO, and Agha Khan Foundation. It thus has reconnected the two halves of this beautiful city of Croats and Muslims, primarily. Mostar in general was largely destroyed in the war and while there is a lot of reconstruction, there remains a great many gutted buildings (mostly on the Eastern bank, the Muslim half of the city).

We met with the Croatian Democratic Union today and found that the divisions remain between these two "confessions" - Catholic Croats and Muslim "Bosniaks" - at least from their perspective. Others work to promote the "unity" within the diversity (Muslim, Croat, Serb, "other") that existed under Tito; he remains a hero among many in Bosnia, especially Muslims and those from mixed families and non-religious backgrounds who found his "unity and brotherhood" wo…

Genocide, War Crimes, and Bosnia's search for Justice

On Sunday, we rode nearly 4 hours by bus to Srebrenica, site of the July 1995 genocide against Bosnian Muslims and now a cemetery and memorial to the victims.

After walking among the headstones and the graves of the 8,372-"plus" victims, one of our students, Ali, told me: "you cannot read about this. You can only experience it. You have to be here so you can 'feel it' yourself."

We spent a long time at the cemetery and memorial, including the warehouse across the street from the cemetery. In that abandoned factory, a makeshift museum has been constructed. It consists of maps, pictures, and a timeline of the massacres that befell Bosnians (primarily Muslims) from 1992-95, especially July 1995. And it contains artifacts and personal effects of a large number of the victims.

In these small memorials to individual victims, we can connect with each person: read something about their life, see their picture, and see a small personal item - pocket watch, wedding…

The Road to Sarajevo - Part 2 of "You can't get there ..."

10 pm Friday night. We've been on the road 12 hours, minus 3 hours or so of bathroom breaks, lunch, gas-fillup, but still ... 12 hours on the road. We are 20 Kilometers from Sarajevo and we pull into a gas station to make sure we're on the right road to Sarajevo. By chance, a policeman was at the station and said, "Yes, but you can't go any further. There's been a rock-slide on this road and no buses are allowed to pass."

Once I got this translated from Serbian/Bosnian, I could only laugh at this point. And laugh I did - a bit too much I think. At this point, what else could I do but laugh at the one-two-three-four "punch" we've been getting on this particular journey.

I immediately explained to the students what I was laughing about - and most of them joined me! As one told me, "better to laugh than to cry."

And still, we had an easy "Plan B" - take the winding, less-traveled road that would take about an hour (instead …

You can't get there (Serbia) from here (Kosovo) - go to Montenegro!

“You can’t cross this boundary from here [the Kosovo “border”/Administrative boundary].You’ll have to go to Montenegro and then enter Serbia from there.”Thus sayeth the Serbian policeman at the boundary/border, yesterday (Thursday) around 3:30 pm.The reason?We had a stamp on our passports that read “Republic of Kosovo”, which Serbia does not recognize as independent nation-state (nor do a small number of nation-states of the international community – Russia, Spain, Greece, and 6 other members of the EU).“Kosovo is Serbia.”What he was proposing was for us to “re-enter” Kosovo (1/4th of a mile back from where we came); return to the town of Mitroveca (where we just left 90 minutes ago); cut over to the West, and enter Montenegro (another 90 minutes-2 hours); then drive to the Montenegro-Serbia border (another hour); then drive until we catch up with the road we could have been on – only one hour from the point on the map where we were standing that very moment: the “boundary/border” bet…

"Tito Land" - Museum of Yugoslavia, Tito's Grave

January 1956, Cairo: Tito and Nasser at a party hosted by Yugoslavia's Ambassador to Egypt

"Communist Chic" - what the best-dressed Comrade was wearing, according to the exhibit at the Yugoslavia Museum

Tito and Jovanka (Tito's putting on his gloves; Jovanka, wife of Tito, is gorgeous as usual)

Balkans group in front of Museum entrance

Students at Tito's headstone

"Week in Review"

It's been "too darned hot" (as the song goes) to do much except plug along through the Dialogue, through our meetings with speakers (most of whom have been great!), and otherwise help students survive this brutal heat wave. These students have been "troopers" - amazing, really. No complaints. None! I don't get it ... are they really that nice? That understanding? That appreciative? (Yes is the answer - they're a great group, they are 23 great people.)

So, this week we have:
met with Special Prosecutor for war crimes and organized crime (see below)
had lectures (Mladen, Yiannis)met with two MPs of Serbia's Parliament, both of whom are with the progressive Democratic Party, and both of whom I hope to welcome to Northeastern soon! (see below)met with two women from CANVAS (below)visited the NGO Center for Security Policyvisited with Professor Radovan Bigovic, a Serbian Priest and authorsurvived the heat by heading to Usce mall (and some students ca…

Serbian Parliament; Democratic Party

No, not that Democratic Party, but pretty close!

On Tuesday, we had the honor of entering the Serbian Parliament; this beautiful building was the destination of so many peaceful demonstrators in 2000 when hundreds of thousands of Serbs fought (non-violently) to overthrow the "elected Dictator" Slobodan Milosovic. The two MPs (Members of Parliament) we met were among the youth fighting for democratic change. And now they are MPs! How the world turns ...

The Democratic Party (not the "Democratic Party of Serbia", which is something else entirely) is the leading party in the governing coalition in Serbia's Parliament. It also is the party of Serbia's President, Boris Tadic.

Right after our tour of Parliament (which included us going into the main Chamber) and our 70-minutes discussion with these two great young leaders, we had a meeting with two other great young leaders, two women who work for CANVAS, the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action & Strategy.…

Special Prosecutor for War Crimes and Organized Crime

We met with the office of special prosecutor today. Mr. Vladimir was a brilliant speaker, a passionate advocate for human rights, legal procedures, and justice. He gave us a great presentation and overview of his office and how they are pursuing war criminals and organized crime bosses; how they are attempting to cooperate with similar offices elsewhere (Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Hague); and how they face political battles inside Serbia - both from the politicians as well as the public at large.

Students were blown away by the talk; one person told me how she was "energized" by the discussion and excited to keep learning about Balkans' histories, wars, conflicts, and efforts at promoting justice and development after the conflicts.

Belgrade - the hottest city in Europe

Beograd (Belgrade) residents would say this anyway ... "hottest" as in "coolest"; but this weekend it's more the temperature sense - it's hotter than blazes here; hotter than any place in Europe; even hotter than in Cairo! 41 degrees C; over 100 degrees F.

Needless to say, there hasn't been much motivation to blog.

Yesterday/Saturday, students spent the day (another hot hot day) in Novi Sad, capital of the Serbian province of Vojvodina and Serbia's 2nd largest city. And it's on the Danube. And it's the home to the "Exit" Festival - an international festival that brings hundreds of thousands of people to Novi Sad.

Today, most students found their way to Ada, the "lake" (a man-made lake, engineered out of a bend in the Sava river). It was refreshing to get out of the hotel and out of the city, but too many of them ended up with "too much sun". We all met tonight for coffee at an outdoor cafe, and I raised their …

Wednesday - down to business

ever-so-slight difference between pictures :-)

We're in it, full-speed ahead.

Yesterday (Tuesday), we visited the B92 Radio & TV station, the best radio station of the '90s and 2000s (and now still the 'best', but holding the 2nd spot among the other 400-plus broadcasters in Serbia).

We met with Sasha, the CEO and one of the early founders of B92 (founded as 92 FM radio in 1989). We had a tour of both the radio and the TV studios and then met on the roof for a Q&A (the roof being the only space large enough to hold all 23 students plus Mladen, Yiannis and me). Sasha ended our discussion with a detailed history of the role of B92 as a voice of challenge to Milosevic (first and foremost, throughout the 1990s until 2000) and even as a challenge to "our former friends" (as he called the political opposition to Milosevic). In short, B92 Radio & TV are what you would expect from the media - a "4th Estate" as we'd say in the US; an institut…

Walking tour of Belgrade + Archbishop (Roman Catholic) of Serbia

We started our walk from the Hotel Slavija, up the hill to the St. Sava Temple. St. Sava was the 12th Century founder of the independent Serbian Orthodox Church. Other sites along our way were:
Library of SerbiaTheater Park the bombed-out ruins of the Ministry of Defence (thanks to NATO, 1999)Knez Mihailova streetKalamegdan fortressSerbian Parliamentand home of the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church of SerbiaAs the Archbishop spoke no English, and we spoke no Serbian (or German or Latin!), Mladen translated for the 90-minute discussion.

In one of the pictures of St. Sava Temple, I was aiming for the grandeur of the building, so forgive the fact that these people are in "miniature"!

Djokovic - "King of Tennis"

So say the daily papers here in Belgrade.

"In other news ..."

I'm here in Belgrade (Beograd), eagerly awaiting our students, who arrive tomorrow (Sunday) around 1 pm at Tesla International Airport.

And as soon as they're here, I'm sure they'll be swept up in Djokovic fever! He plays in the Wimbledon finals Sunday around 3 pm.