used without permission, for "fair use" only

Citizens in Zemun Prevent Unjust Eviction

Neighborly Support to New Tenants

by Jasminka Oluic

Zemunske Novine, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, 8/5/97

The noise in the media regarding the municipal apartment in Captain Radic Petrovic street in Zemun still hasn't abated! Actually, the last day in July was supposed to be marked by the eviction of a Serb family from this apartment in Zemun. To the dismay of the Croatian lobby and all sorts of democratic, (in)dependent and civic associations, the court order, whose legality is still unclear (the decision has been appealed), hasn't been carried out! The eviction was prevented by the citizens of Zemun who had started gathering in Captain Radic Petrovic street as early as 10 am.

Zemun Wakes Up

The inquisitorial act of eviction, based on the hurried decision of a judge at the Fourth Municipal Court in Belgrade, was supposed to take place at "high noon" (twelve o'clock). However, the gathered people prevented court executors, who were some twenty minutes late, from approaching the building number 12 where the apartment is located.

Stevo Dragisic, president of the Serb Radical Party local organization and Aleksandar Vucic, secretary general of the Serb Radical Party were spotted in the crowd. They explained to the journalists that they were present as the citizens of Zemun, not as representatives of their party. To tell the truth, all the people in the crowd claimed that they were not members of any political party, but that they had had enough of injustice, and especially pressures which had been lately applied by certain "independent" and "civic" associations which work for the foreigners in Zemun.

Aleksandar Vucic had ready answers to the provocative questions by the journalists from "independent" newspapers:

"If a group of citizens who support the Croatian lobby in Belgrade shows up we won't touch them, as we haven't had anything to do with them so far. Yet, I am certain that a team from the Ustashe television, Studio B TV, will show up, film those two, or three members of the Croatian lobby, and then report that there were only a few of us and several thousands of them. We are here to show that this is a Serb city and that only Serb laws are valid here. These people gathered to show that they support the policy of Vojislav Seselj and are against those who terrorize us from the television and your papers," Vucic explained to the journalist from Dnevni Telegraf.

A woman who lives in Captain Radic Petrovic street interrupted the conversation between Aleksandar Vucic and the Dnevni Telegraf journalist and said the following:

"I was born in Serbia, in Zemun. I live in a flooded basement. And no one has so far come to check on me!? And you, woman, have been writing for days about nothing else but that Croat. As if you do not care about Serbs!? You've been writing the worst possible lies about the Serb people and the Serb Radical Party! Shame on you! I am not a member of the Serb Radical Party, but I can judge for myself if someone works in the interest of the Serb people or not. If I were you, I would ask myself: 'Who do I work for'?!"

Who is Interested in Real Truth

Another bystander interjected in the conversation. It seemed that the Denvni Telegraf journalist was increasingly irritating the people around her...

"You write for the worst, so called tabloid press, which doesn't care about the truth at all! All those newspapers, Demokratija, Blic, Dnevni Telegraf and numerous others, serve foreign interests. Those papers are against legal authorities, especially against the Serb Radical authorities in Zemun. All this is nothing but a baseless political attempt to discredit Dr. Seselj as much as possible. I wonder if you will print in your paper what I've just told you, or something more suitable to the foreign mentors of Dnevni Telegraf."

Another woman, aged about 60, who, as she said, cannot stand any more neither Studio B nor the so called independent newspapers, also interrupted the conversation:

"Woman, you haven't showed any interest in the conditions in which Serbs live? I am a pensioner and I haven't received anything from my former employer. My daughter lives in a rented basement apartment with four small children and a husband, but you don't care about that. Studio B and Dnevni Telegraf do not care about Serbs at all! You wholeheartedly support the Croat who wanted to get a second state-owned apartment by cheating, so that he could sell it and get rich. Instead of being happy that finally there is someone who has stood up against stealing you attack him and write lies. The Barbalics do not have a right to live in this municipal apartment. But, thanks to you, they are trying to win that right by force. They should be ashamed! You as well! My name is Rajka Vukanovic and I am not a member of the Serb Radical Party, but I've had enough of being quiet and getting out of everyone's way! Do you think that the whole Serb people should be forgotten so that you and those like you could satisfy Western powers?! Well, that won't work! This is Serbia and Serbs deserve at least some rights enjoyed by the Croats. My daughter is raising three future soldiers and, if necessary, they will defend Serbia!"

I Also Moved out of a Municipal Apartment in 1994

Another woman, a brunette from Nikola Tesla street, also got involved in the conversation:

"If I had to move out of a municipal apartment - the same should apply to the Barbalics! I had lived in a municipal apartment until 1994 when I received an eviction order. I was mad and protested, but no one cared. None of you journalists wanted to write about that! Look what you are doing today. You're trying to find some legal loophole to return Barovic's protégés to the municipal apartment. Well, that won't work! There is at least a trace of honesty left in the Serb people. If I, as a Serb, had to move out of a municipal apartment than the Barbalics will have to move as well, and no neurotic lawyer is going to help them keep something which isn't legally theirs. Although I am certain that no one will print this, I just had to say it. Everything else is up to your conscience!"

Another man, who had left a large house in Slavonia [in Croatia] trying to save his life, also joined the conversation:

"Do you know what I left in Slavonia? I was wealthy, and what do I have today? A Croat today enjoys my house. In return, I am supposed to get 10,000 kunas [roughly $2,000]!? That house was mine, and is worth at least $120,000. And you are supporting by force a Croat who doesn't even have a right to live in this apartment. What do you really want? It seems you want to implement the old motto 'Serbs on trees' [i.e. hang all Serbs, originated by W.W.II Croatian fascists] or, even better, 'Serbs on Serbs'. You should visit my place, so you can see where I live today. I am an invalid from the last war [in Croatia]. Don't be afraid to visit. Thus, you can write about that as well!"

Dnevni Telegraf journalist wasn't interested in these stories and turned the other way. She walked over to [Nikola] Barbalic who was standing alone in the middle of Captain Radic Petrovic street, observing the crowd and, naturally, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the court executors and journalists.


Which Court Decision?

Suddenly a commotion went through the crowd in Captain Radic Petrovic street... The people moved closer to each other and formed a living wall... The court executors had arrived.

Trying to get through the crowd, whose goal was to defend the law, the court executors began to loose their composure.

At that moment someone started shouting the well known "Voja, warrior".

Then, Radic Petrovic street filled up with the voices shouting "Serbia, Serbia, Serbia..."

Realizing that the people won't let them through, the court executors went to Aleksandar Vucic and requested that he use his authority to let them through. Vucic responded that he could in no way order the gathered people to disperse, because he hadn't organized the gathering in the first place.

"The people will decide, not us," responded Vucic.

Banana Man Shows Up

About twenty minutes after the court executors had left, Nikola Barovic, a.k.a. Banana man, showed up in Captain Radic Petrovic street. He was accompanied by a tall and slender lady who later demonstrated that she was not really a lady by showing a finger to someone... To the questions by journalists Barovic, on whose face one couldn't notice traces of his skating injuries, said the following [Nikola Barovic represents the Barbalics. In a TV show about this case he responded in kind to Seselj's offensive remarks regarding his father: he offended Seselj and finally threw water into his face, after which the show was interrupted. After the show, Seselj ordered his bodyguard to beat up Barovic. Later Seselj said that Barovic had "slipped on a banana skin. He fell. Then he slipped again. And so on. Several times."]

"The fact that the police has again failed to show up to assist in the implementation of a court order demonstrates that the Serb Radical Party is simply an uncontrolled group, under the control of the ruling Socialists! This is another proof that the Socialists have chosen Zemun as an example of revenge against the citizens who had demonstrated against electoral fraud. They chose Zemun as an urban environment, to show that terror will be implemented if the citizens persist in their resistance to the regime. I expect that the Socialists will do everything in their power in order to demonstrate terror in Zemun. The real culprit here is the regime, not the out of control group which calls itself the Radicals. The Radicals are not in charge here, and consequently have nothing to do with the case! The Ministry of Internal Affairs [the Police] and the Prime minister are in charge in this case! Today, they demonstrated that they are a fascist government and that the ministry is under the control of the fascists!"

The arrival of lawyer Nikola Barovic and Barbalic only angered the crowd and they started whistling in protest.

Several women stood at the end of Captain Radic Petrovic street, away from the crowd. After noticing this journalist, they interjected that no one had asked them anything although they lived in the neighborhood. For us, that was sufficient reason to approach them and start a conversation:

"I won't tell you my name, but I live in this street. I can tell you that this is a shame! It is horrible what they are trying to do to compromise the local authorities in Zemun and especially the president of the municipality, Seselj. Since the Radicals came in power, Zemun has again become a bustling city. Everywhere, something is being built, something is going on, people are happier, you can see that in their faces. Those who are not happy can go back where they came from. There are a lot of people like that..."

Her neighbor interrupted with the following words:

"I am a refugee and live in the next street. I saw a group of people in front of the building number 12 and thought that they were from the Independent Zemun Civic Association, so I went to ask them how come they were not ashamed to protect Croats who had cleansed us Serbs without remorse from our homes in Croatia. However, I've just heard from the lady here that these people have come to prevent the eviction of a Serb family, and I'm glad because of that. I am glad that the Serbs in Zemun have finally woken up. It is time that we finally say: you can not do to us what you did to us in our homes in Croatia. I support Seselj with all my heart and soul. Only he can save Serbia."

Translated on 12/5/97