Tag Archives: Serbia

Floods in Serbia – update

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Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic supporting flood victims in Serbia and Bosnia
http://www.tennisworldusa.org/Novak-Djokovic-and-Nenad-Zimonjic-support-the-flood-victims-in-Serbia-articolo18025.html

Novak Djokovic foundation’s call for help:
http://blog.novakdjokovicfoundation.org/good-news/inspirational-stories/call-for-help-help-the-people-and-children-suffering-in-floods-together-we-are-stronger/

The rain has more or less stopped since this morning, thank God, that is indeed very good news. The bad news is that only now we’re becoming aware of how cataclysmic the situation is, mainly in the town of Obrenovac, swallowed up by water. Nobody still knows how many victims will be found and what is that water hiding down there. Many people were separated in rapid evacuations as boats and helicopters couldn’t accept whole families at once, and there are many of those that are still desperately searching for their loved ones. Belgrade people are carrying everything they can to the evacuation points to ease the lives of the victims of the flood at least a little bit. And the Sava is badly threatening both Bosnia and Serbia, thousands sand bags are constantly being filled to try to defend what is still left to save. The next 3-4 days if not even weeks are still critical, but we have to hope for the best and help each other. It is so wonderful to see that many people are doing all they can the way they can in order to help. Famous people are starting campaigns for the help of Serbian people and we are really thankful for their efforts and proud of them.
We’re especially proud of Novak Djokovic, who is not only a great tennis player but also such a wonderful person and a big humanitarian. He’s currently playing at the tournament in Rome and together with his Davis cup colleague Nenad Zimonjic is doing his best to help his country. Nole was born and raised in Belgrade, less than 2-3 miles from where I live and I will always admire his hard and rocky road of determination and dedication to his dream that brought him to the place where he is now. What I will surely admire even more is the fact that he always had time and energy to be there for common people, always underlying that he is just one of us. It’s been years that we are cheering for him as he’s playing all over the world, and he is cheering for us right now. He truly deserves all the best in life.

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Novak Djokovic signing camera after today’s win against Milos Raonic in Rome and writing words of support to Serbia – #Support Serbia – I love you!

Floods in Serbia

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source: http://www.balkaneu.com

My relationship with water has changed a lot over the years. It started with that cozy, warm, happy feeling instilled by childhood baths with lots of foam and those nice colorful toys that keep you company in the tub that seems big like a whole lake to a little child. Then it was transformed into an immense joy brought on by some special spark only summer at the seaside can start, especially for those born relatively far away from the seas, lakes and oceans like myself. This harmony lasted for quite a long time, until I had my first panic attack in water, somewhat far from the coast which made all that agonizing swimming back in panic one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as I was convinced I would drown. It’s needless to say that since that moment I never ever swam further away from the last place where I could still touch the bottom with my feet, even though I used to swim really well. As the time passed, I learnt that there was another much darker face to my teenage summer seaside joy, the one embodied in pain, frustration, sadness and even shame when you get totally deprived of it by the willpower of your own nerves, just like in one famous curse which goes more or less like this – “May you first have everything, and then nothing.” We can agree that going to the seaside can be a too long trip for only partially recovered agoraphobic, but I live in the capital of Serbia that lies on two large rivers, the Danube and the Sava, yet for quite a long time I haven’t set my eyes on them at all. As my condition grew worse, I developed a fear of bridges. More precisely I think, of being trapped on a bridge. Or even more precisely, of not being able to get back to the other side of the bridge fast enough to reach the comfort zone. It’s not about heights, surprisingly I don’t have that fear. It’s not about water either because I never really think that I could end up down there falling of the bridge. It’s about the delay of “teletransportation” to my “safe place”, no matter how ridiculous that may sound to someone who never experienced it. I just need to get back home in no time, and bridges can mess badly with this. Agoraphobia brought also some undefined fear of staying for too long in the bathroom, which turned the joy of a long bath into pure hell, so as of now I think I could say that I’m on not very good terms with water in general. Nevertheless, I never had any particular problem with rain. Rain means umbrellas, bad weather, traffic delays, mud, wet feet, bad mood for most of the people. For an anxiety sufferer, that long, boring, slow and never ending autumn rain can ironically have an element of pure relief, because it calms your nerves, makes you slower and sleepy, almost sedated. It sorts of evens out the storm within you, taking you more towards the state where you should normally be.

All of a sudden, rain got a whole new meaning. It’s been 3 days that it unleashes all its devastating anger on my small, already badly devastated country. It’s not a simple rain, it’s something like a constant 24 hour downpour and there is no way to switch it off or anything to tame it with. They say that we haven’t had such rains in 120 years, or to be more precise, ever since we started measuring the quantity of rain per square meter this has never been recorded. What should have fallen in entire 4 months landed in only 3 days, turning some nice Serbian towns in horrific looking fields of mud covered with many meters of rain. It’s not normal anywhere in Europe, let alone on Balkans and in Serbia.

Rain started meaning trap. There is some primordial fear of that moist that sneaks into your clothes, shoes, skin, into houses, cellars, yards, into everything people have ever had or know, moist that can ultimately in the worst case scenarios even end somebody’s life. Here in Belgrade it entered our big apartment building cellars and formed quite large ponds in the suburbs, but I don’t think that we have even remotely become aware of how heavy the situation was and how much tragic it turned out to be for some people elsewhere in Serbia until we saw the news. Even when the water was 1 meter high, some people still hoped they could stay in their villages and protect their homes. When it went up to 3 meters, cries for help were incessant. Right now, there are places where water is more than 7 meters high. The center of some smaller towns resembles Venetian canals, you need boats to move along what once used to be streets. There is no safe water or electricity there, people are getting evacuated, and some of those areas are turning into ghost towns. There are wonderful people who gather humanitarian aid and give everything to help others in trouble, but there are also those who make money on the misery of others and sell bread, water and milk at prices five times higher than normal. There are both an angel and a devil in human soul, it’s always been like that and always will be. I’m personally not in any danger right now, but I don’t like how I feel. I feel immense uncertainty and fear. When you have PD, it’s as if all your emotions have been turned to the loudest of the volumes and it seems that someone has broken the volume knob, because there is no way to turn that horrible noise down. Empathy is heightened to the point when you almost literally feel other people’s pain, as if you had no steady emotional life of your own, as if you had simply turned into a mirror of emotions you’re bombarded with from the world around you. I wonder where those poor people will go. There are shelters for the night, two, three and that’s fine. What about later, when adrenalin goes down and when it’s not going to be enough to have only that dear life saved? Maybe you can start from the beginning with only your naked skin at your disposal when you’re young, but how about those who physically and mentally can’t do that any more? We’ve been in bad economic crisis even before, what’s going to happen now? They also say that if water goes up only let’s say 30 cm more near some important electric plants, there will be power outages for the whole country for sure. That resonates 1999’s bombing power outages. Once we were without electricity for 4 days and nights without break. There is a lot that you can survive, there is no question about it, but for how long and how many times? Where is that cracking point, the ultimate limit? Rain dissolves mud, all sorts of waste and sewage and it threatens to contaminate all our water sources, and even though they say Belgrade’s water is still safe, will it stay safe? “Normal” people started panicking. I’ve been out today for 3-4 times in my neighborhood and I watched people passing by, carrying tons of water in bottles in their hands. I could almost start laughing out loud. Presumably they are the ones who are not afraid of anything, they live normal lives, and now some remote threat of water going bad makes them make supplies for the months to come, depriving that way of bottled water those who really need it, people in completely flooded towns. It’s selfish self-preservation at work, nothing to do about it. You can tell them that boiled water is still great water, but they will buy whatever they can find, as though some really limited quantity of water can save their lives. The problem is, if the rain makes it up to 7 meters high even here, nothing will be saved. And that can be and still is life, just fully deprived of all material possessions.

It’s still raining outside. And the level of the Sava is rising, 10 cm every hour in the town of Sabac. People from everywhere are trying to save Sabac with thousands of bags of sand. It’s night and they are working without a pause. I do hope they will make it. I’m no longer indifferent to rain, it started rhyming with pain. Dear God, please stop this rain. Stop the pain. May all those efforts to save lives and property not be in vain.

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The flooded town of Obrenovac, near Belgrade. Source: http://www.novosti.rs

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More from Obrenovac. Source: http://www.rts.rs

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Road from Sabac to Valjevo. Source: http://www.svet.rs

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Water destroyed the bridge in Koceljeva. Source: http://www.rts.rs

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Water threatening an electrical plant. Source: http://www.vesti-online.com

Hope

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If you’re living in a Spanish speaking country, or if you simply speak or understand Spanish, don’t misunderstand the word written on this small wooden stick. Even though “NADA” means “NOTHING” in Spanish, in Serbian it means “HOPE”. How can this very same word have two so much different meanings in two different languages is a question that has only recently occurred to me. It’s truly amazing how something that means nothing to some people can still mean even everything to some other people, for hope is sometimes everything that you’re left with when all else fails.

When you speak your own language, you hardly ever think about the origin of words or the structure of sentences, unless you research linguistics. Usually you simply use your language every day to convert your thoughts into communication messages and spread them to the world around you for some reason. Perhaps you want to explain something or you need to be understood; maybe you want to get something, or simply channel your emotions. Basically you want to reach out to the others and you need a tool for that. This is what languages serve for.

When you start learning a foreign language, especially at an older age, you’re much more prone to the analysis of those first awkward words and phrases you’re more or less successfully putting together. Those incomprehensible strings of sounds or letters usually begin to remind you of something that you already know so that you can create associations, or you simply dissect words into smaller pieces in order to memorize them in an easier way. You’re aware that you’re dealing with something both strange and foreign to you (stranger doesn’t have to be strange 🙂 ) and you’re looking for a way to make it sound more natural and familiar. As you make progress on this amazing path, newly acquired familiarity of those previously unknown linguistic terms grows stronger and your job of expressing yourself becomes easier, up until a day comes when you realize that the foreign language lost something incomprehensibly magical about it that used to be there at the beginning, that something that set you on this journey at the first place. You might not consciously know it, but that’s the moment when you instinctively realize that the foreign language has become for you just another tool in the big bag of useful things that help you live this life, simply another way to say that same thing that has been materializing itself in some corner of your mind. This is more or less what happened to me as well with Spanish and all other foreign languages that I speak or understand. When I say or read “NADA” in Spanish, it automatically means “NOTHING”, while on the other hand in each and every context of my native Serbian it has always been and always will be only one thing – HOPE.

Now what’s the word hope doing on some silly wooden stick, you’ve surely been asking yourself by now. It’s a result of a phone call I had this evening with my aunt, person I very rarely speak to and person who knows very little about my life, my dreams, problems, interests, goals… She doesn’t truly realize how hard it is even for perfectly sane people to live in the crisis ridden Serbia of today, let alone how even much harder this can be for those suffering from any chronic illness. She thinks that I have some good job and some satisfying salary (this happens when you have to hide PD from your family) and she usually asks if everything’s ok at work. Tonight I replied that nowadays here in Serbia it is much harder than it used to be, to which she replied that I have no right to complain as it’s that way everywhere in the world, no one is immune to crisis. Maybe, but also maybe not, I answered. If everywhere in the world things were exactly the same, people would stand equal chances to accomplish things in life, which means that they would then never move just for the sake of having a better life. If that were true, her son would be living in Serbia today, together with all other talented, educated, special people who left this country for good. She added that even though things were not good here, we must have hope. Because you know how they say, hope dies last. Yes, great saying, I replied, but you know what, if it really dies last, then it means that after everything else dies, hope will eventually have to die as well. It dies last, but still dies, right? Hey, she shouted, how can you say things like that, we must have hope, we simply must have it, because if a man has no hope, man dies. To avoid further unpleasant debate on whether then man equals hope as man dies when hope dies, in which I personally don’t believe :), I simply agreed that we must have hope and I promised to be hopeful, after which our conversation drifted in some direction totally irrelevant for this blog and eventually ended with best wishes for some better future. I hung up and realized that I definitely don’t have any more hope for some better working environment in my country, yet I’m still not dead. How can one have hope in a place that has been artificially kept alive for almost 25 years, years of sanctions, stellar inflation, horrific economic crises, place where homes and lives were destroyed in bombings at the end of 20th century? How can you have hope in a country of people with permanent physical and psychological scars, country whose boundaries have changed so many times in my lifetime and are still changing in this last, seemingly terminal phase of extremely unsuccessful transition? I know that there is always hope in people’s hearts, but even hope gets consumed, it’s not infinite. It also comes with an expiration date, usually the better was the shape you were in when you started hoping, the longer you’ll endure bad things and consequently the longer your hope will last. But at some point if you have unsuccessfully hoped for too much time (and believe me, 25 years is a pretty long time), you’ll have to ask yourself if there is any sense in doing it any longer. It’s a rational, logical conclusion in given circumstances, yet people feel they must consider you crazy if you decide to give up hoping.

While I was contemplating on all this, my hand ended up in my sweater jacket’s pocket and touched the familiar wooden object. It’s not just about any piece of wood, it’s actually a medical spatula used for examining patients’ throats, one of many new, unused spatulas we have at home, which my father brought from work when their sterilization dates expired. They were no longer good for people’s mouths, but they are great for mixing something, or for just about any other domestic purpose you can think of.

Now what was this particular spatula doing in my pocket? I live in an apartment building on the second floor, which in my case means that I need to go up and down 5 entire flights of stairs to get in or out of my living space, so I often use the elevator. It’s been more than two months since the elevator’s outer door can’t close properly to ensure that it can normally move up and down away from my floor. We’ve been calling, asking and literally begging the maintenance service which we pay pretty dearly every month to come and fix it, but nobody seems to care. We warned them that this is also a potentially dangerous situation and that someone might get hurt, but still nobody cares. We’re in the middle of the crisis. There is not enough money for the spare parts. Call only if the elevator doesn’t move AT ALL. If instead it’s still moving “somehow”, it means that it’s still working, so goodbye and have a nice day. So what do I do? I enter the elevator, the outer door closes on its own, I close the inner doors and push the desired button. I hear the familiar “click” sound, but the elevator doesn’t move. I take out the spatula from my pocket, stick it into a narrow space between the inner doors and thus make some pressure from inside on the outer door, slight pressure which is just about enough to move it a bit and create the necessary closing contact which sets the elevator in motion. And this is what I’ve been doing every single day for more than two months, because 5 flights of stairs are not always an easy option for someone in my health condition. The feel of that wooden stick in my pocket set a wave or ironic, nervous, miserable laughter. I laughed out loud like crazy for a minute or two. Then I took out a ball point pen and wrote “NADA” on it. For if it is sane and acceptable to have hope in a country where you have to carry spatulas around to set elevators in motion, then I’m an irreparably delusional human being.

But hey… let’s hope… to begin with, for the return of Hope.