I think I can still hear the tinkling of ice cubes in my glass.
I’m drinking whiskey. Or maybe he is drinking whiskey. It’s a long time ago. I’m trying to knit the snippets together.
“But this isn’t about the village. It’s not what I ought to be writing about. I ought to be writing funny anecdotes about villagers and their escaping donkeys.” I tell myself firmly and turn my attention to the clouds in the sky instead. Villager O had explained to me that castle clouds predicted thunder.
The clouds are no longer just castles. They have taken on fortified proportions. A rumble in the distance. Villager T walks past with his horse and donkey. The sun has changed his face. His hair no longer grey, it’s white. “Cold isn’t it.” I shout. Our ongoing joke. We tell each other it is cold when it’s hot and visa versa. “Freezing!” he shouts back. The rest of the villagers don’t seem to get our sense of humor which makes us even worse. “Best get the fire on when you get home!” He laughs.
I listen to the hooves disappearing round the corner. And I am alone with my thoughts again. Write what should not be forgotten, a quote by Isabel Allende. But I’d really much rather like to forget this episode. I think I can still hear the tinkling of ice cubes in my glass.
Summer, 1995 Croatia.
I’m drinking whiskey. Or maybe he is drinking whiskey. It’s a long time ago. I’m going to knit the snippets together. There is a war going on not far from here, Bosnia to be precise. This area, Split, Dalmatia is calm. I’m sitting on a terrace of a café. No tourists.
Lots of NATO around. It used to be UNPROFOR, UN protection force, but they’ve recently changed their name to NATO. I do voluntary aid as well as research for my thesis. I’ll be here for five months.
He’s a UN monitor. We’re talking about recent events. Srebrenica to be precise. ”That is all exaggerated bullshit.” he tells me. “There was no massacre.” I think for a moment he is trying to take the piss out of me. But he isn’t. I’m perplexed. ”All of it. All the atrocities against the Bosnian Muslims, all exaggerated. Greatly exaggerated.” he leans back in his chair.
I am thinking about the survivors of the Bosnian camps I got to know back in Holland. The ”Never Again” thing which was played out more or less live in front of TV cameras. The pictures of men behind barbed wire. It caused me to get involved in doing something, anything, because being a witness to ”Never Again” albeit on tv made me feel as if I was compliant. I point out that the camps were no exaggeration. He is a monitor, he is supposed to be neutral. “All second hand accounts.” Irritated.
I notice suddenly that he slurs. I am outraged, he notices, it fuels him and he leans forward. I can smell the alcohol now he is so close to me. ‘You think those Muslims have done nothing?” he pauses, stares at his glass in front of him. “Have you ever had to deliver a son back to his mother in pieces?” his voice is menacing. His jaw clenches. “You know what they did to him before they cut him in pieces?”
He describes what they did to him. Graphic. I’m feeling sick. But he’s a monitor, he’s supposed to be neutral. I am sitting here talking to a UN monitor who denies Srebrenica happened as well as the Omarska camps and he’s unstoppable.
He continues describing the undescribable. ”He’s drunk.” someone intervenes, people try to calm him down. “He’s seen a lot.” someone else adds. I put the glass of whiskey which is in front of me to my lips. Maybe it’s his.
The ice cubes have melted. I down it in one. Snippets. I’m thinking about the soldier I met when I was working elsewhere, in a refugee camp. Lots of soldiers around. They came back from the frontlines to visit their families which had been displaced. I still remember his face. He looked Like Ron Wood. Front tooth missing.
”See this ring?” he asked me. He held his hand up to my face, a big golden ring. ”I cut it off a Serb’s’ hand” He grinned, then laughed. They said a lot of things to wind us volunteers up. I hoped that was all it was, but I decided then that I didn’t want to talk to any of the soldiers anymore.
The atrocities in Srebrenica nor the camps weren’t exaggerated. Mass graves were discovered. You can’t exaggerate mass graves. Today was the burial of yet more identified victims of the Srenbrenica massacre which took place 18 years ago. The total of identified victims stands at 6066. Another 2306 remain missing.
One atrocity doesn’t out rule another. I should have said to that UN monitor that evening. I can still hear the tinkling of the icecubes in my glass.
I’m drinking whiskey. Or maybe he’s drinking whiskey.