by Tamara SKROZA
First messages written in the book of condolences set up in front of the headquarters of the Democratic Party were characteristic for the messages of gratitude that followed: “Zoki [Zoran], it was an honor and pleasure to live with you for the last two and a half years”; “Dear Zoran, Thank You for showing that even we can have a better and more beautiful life than the one we had in the past”; “It was a great honor to live in Your and our Serbia”. Some of the messages were longer, almost short stories: “One sits, thus, on a balcony, drinks coffee, talks to friends, feels good; nothing indicates that trouble looms. And suddenly, darkness, everything turns black, everything in turmoil; in a flash everything is drenched in blood, everything is wiped away. You are no more, no coffee, dreams and friends are gone too. Enormous queues are forming from somewhere, friends are terrified. And in the midst of that scene, it comes to you – thank you God, for a lesson, thank you for this trial”.
GRATITUDE: As days went by, the number of stories was on the increase: “In the future, somewhere on planet earth: Children, open your books on page 15. Today, we’ll study Serbia, one of the most developed and most peaceful countries in Europe. After a big, i.e. a huge tragedy, Serbia flourished from the seed of the wordless last will of its prime minister, Dr. Djindjic… historians say that he was a Master of smile, a Wise Gentleman, Courageous like a lion, mourned by his people, people that still keeps his memory”. A bit later: “We, future fathers, will weep watching all of Them growing in the country You started. I know, it will be beautiful to watch that, but also so very bitter, knowing that we failed to protect the one who gave their world color and meaning”. Despite the outpouring of emotion in the days after the assassination, even those whose messages can be classified as messages of gratitude did not ignore the specific political moment. Nevertheless, there were only a few specific condemnations of political opponents of the murdered Prime Minister. Messages of that type seemed more like subtle reminders: “For those who haven’t been informed: you were and you remain the only true love of Serbia”. In that sense, self-criticism wasn’t lacking: “Forgive me for my criticism. You were better than the time and place you lived in”; “We trusted you even when we did not fully understand you, and only with your departure we understand fully how important you were”; “You always led me, sometimes I disagreed with your views, I miss you!”
Precisely the segment that could be called gratitude (in the widest possible sense of that word) included very personal impressions of the personality of the murdered Prime Minister. “To the quick one, the one who was always a few steps ahead of the rest”, “I will always remember your smile”; “Once in a while a man comes to this world under a star. You were such a man. Until now you shone on the Earth, from now on, you’ll shine in heaven”; “Dear Prime Minister, Njegos once said: ‘If s man comes wiser than myself, let them bury him at a mountain higher than Lovcen… Serbia has such a man!”; “He had guts, he’ll always remain in my thoughts and my heart”; “If energy had a name, its name would be Zoran Djindjic”; “When they shot at you, they knew they were shooting at God, God of reform”; “We love you, we appreciate you, you are our role model. You are better than Bush”. While some messages attempted to portray the late Prime Minister, others turned to the portrayal of Serbia – in some cases excessively dark, in others excessively personal. “In the land of the slow – speed is a sin, in the land of the ignorant – knowledge is a sin, in the land of the pessimists – optimism is a sin, in the land of the insecure – self-confidence is a sin, in the land of wimps – decisiveness is a sin… in the land of ‘righteous and heavenly ones’ you were the most sinful one. Fortunately, you infected millions with your sins. Thank you, on behalf of us, the little ones, infected by sin”; “We failed to protect you. We were blinded by the light you released in the tunnel named Serbia. Forgive us.”
The common thread of the messages of gratitude and hopelessness was hope: “Respected Prime Minister, thank You for enabling us, at least for a moment, to feel like citizens of the world and to be proud of being from Serbia”; “I remember the time when I met you on this spot after the demonstrations and asked ‘When?’ You said: ‘It will happen!’ And it did. Thank you!” Although the written messages and all the other places were drenched in emotion inappropriate for normal circumstances, we witnessed sparks of what is usually referred to as spunk: “Oh wise Zoran, say hello to wise Milos [Obrenovic, first ruler of modern Serbia]. A message from Vukovar said “You managed to bring closer two crazy nations!” Finally, unavoidable soccer fans contributed their rhymes: “You’ve left Zoran, treachery remains, you’ll always be loved by Delije [tough guys] from the north [side of the stadium]!!!!”.
HOPELESNESS: Cynics may have dismissed the assassination as yet another tragic incident, analysts described it as an event with wide-ranging consequences, but the ordinary people experienced the murder of the Prime Minister above all as a murder of hope. It may sound pathetic, but a subjective assessment indicates that most of the messages did focus precisely on hopelessness. Admitting that they frequently failed to understand him, ordinary mortals of the local sort, it seems, in the first few days after the murder recognized in the Prime Minister someone who always seemed to know what he was doing. One of the earliest messages said: “I don’t know. I feel naked”. Everything that followed only embellished on this basic message. “I could compare my emotional state to that of a small child who has just been told that someone had killed Santa Claus or Superman”; “Tito’s death was a beginning of an end of an illusion. I fear that shots that ended Your life mark an end of a great hope. You were too much of a man for our little pond. Only Your family deserved You”; “You were a sun that for a moment shone on our sky! Now, it’s dark again!”; “Zoran, it’s hard not to be pathetic in this moment! That is why I’ll resort to your favorite tool – metaphor: You were a locomotive of the Balkans and Serbia! Our decrepit train cars will have a hard time continuing without you!”
Many messages were even darker: “We did not deserve you… we failed to protect you. Nothing makes sense anymore”; “Serbia cry. You won’t have better occasion to cry for a while”; “On its way to another world, hope briefly stopped in Serbia”; “May they be damned”; “Instead of them suffering because you’re here, we suffer because you’re not with us”; “With you, there was hope for this people, without you is there any hope?”; “Without you, Zoran, this whole story won’t make any sense”; “They say that hope dies last… Could it be true that there is no hope left for Serbia?” Numerous messages of the sort “I feel as if my father died”, or “I’ve never been struck by anyone’s death so hard”, were followed by conclusions: “Mr Djindjic, you make me mad! Why did you leave us? What will happen with our young lives?”; “I’ve been suffocating for five days already, for days I’ve been living like a robot. I fear Monday, when everything is supposed to get moving again…”; “Where and how to find hope? How to continue with this damned people that kills its best sons and daughters?”; “Your life is the final thing that this bloody Serbia took away from myself and my family. Now I am certain that without you we are rushing to an abyss from which you tried to pulled us away. I will tell my two-year-old girl about you as a fairytale character, a hero from a fairytale that unfortunately does not end well for us”. Widely spread theories about “damned” Serbia were developed by some. “Who can civilize crowds when they want more and more, and have nothing to offer apart from malice, primitivism, and evil”. An interesting segment of these messages are those sent from abroad and by those who, apparently, are determined to emigrate in the near future. “You were a reason we believed that we won’t rot until the end of our lives in Canada! What now?”; “Now, this is not my country anymore. Now, I have no reason to stay”; “We were born here, where there is no life left. You are going to heaven, and we are heading as far from here as possible. Serbia is damned without you.”
Others focused on the future that awaits us: “The only inaccurate sentence you said during the last 15 years is when you said that You are not a system. That is precisely what You were. God save this people without you”; “Through thorns to the stars. God help us who remain surrounded by thorns”; “You’ll be better off there than with us! And we,… may God help us!” In that sense it is interesting to consider messages left by Prime Minister’s political opponents. A DSS member from Raca wrote: “With you hard, without you harder”. Nevertheless, conciseness was probably the chief characteristic of these messages: “They allowed us to fly for a moment and then they cut off our wings”; “When smiles returned to our faces, we had no idea we’d have to pay so dearly”; “Zoran, did you have to wake us up like this?!!!(thanks for everything)”. Although expected, mentions of Slobodan Milosevic were few and far in between and boiled down to the following: “Slobodan, Seselj, and Legija, I could have forgiven you everything, but never Zoran!”, “I feel a personal loss. As if S.M. came back while we were asleep and killed us all”.
PROMISES: Initially rare, promises that we shall continue what had been started multiplied in the messages once emotions cooled. “I hope you are watching us from somewhere… We shall show You and prove that we are not little confused children who always need a parent to feed them, dress them, educate them and civilize them. We shall prove to You that every Your step, every action, every decision, had a purpose. We shall prove to you that we are standing on our own two feet and that we know that we must fight for our sad country”; “You were sent to show us what we could be, if we wanted. I know and I want, now more than ever”; “You were our light after too many years of darkness. Now we are again stumbling around in darkness, but we shall follow the path of light you showed us”; “We shall fight to bring a spring to Serbia”.
These and similar messages were the best place for metaphors: “In basketball a player leaves the game a few minutes before the end of the game so that he can withdraw to the bench followed by an ovation by the fans. I want to believe that you, Zoran, simply had to leave this, already won ‘game’ so that we could show how much we love, respect, appreciate you and how grateful we are. Grateful to you, our best ‘player’ in our imminent victory”; “You were the engine of the Serbian car. That engine is not running anymore, the car has stopped. The engine was unique and there is no way to build another one. It is up to us to together push the car forward. We shall have to work hard to push it uphill, and work even harder to make sure it does not slide back”.
Even those who live far away, both “our” and “their” folk, offered messages of hope. Certain Marija from Livno [Croat part of Bosnia-Hercegovina] has this to say: “My former compatriots, don’t give up! They took away your body, but your spirit remains! Reading these messages, I became certain that the light will not be put out but will continue to shine even brighter!!!”. Misa from London at the same time states: “I am returning to Serbia because of you. There is no going back on that decision.” Igor, who is about to defend his Master’s degree in Germany says at B92 site that he is definitely coming back. Whatever the case, at the moment when a majority saw the end, it is encouraging that some wrote the following; “Thank you and take a brake. We’ll keep going. It’ll be hard, but we’ll persevere”; “Dear Zoran, I am nine-years-old. I am learning English, using Internet, I will accomplish everything you wanted. I will remember your goodness and decisiveness”; “If Serbia continues like this, some may think that the Prime Minister is still alive”; “We’ll keep going, there’s enough of us”. Besides, it was to be expected that the story that started with “Serbia, what a pity! Serbia, what a sin! Serbia, what a shame!” and continued with the conclusion that “the Romanians were smarter,” must continue with “Keep going, just as we agreed”. Whatever analysts and cynics may think about that.