The question that I was most often asked in Serbia was “What are your impressions of Serbia?” It took me a long time to figure out the answer to this question, and now that I’m back in New York I’m still not sure if I have a precise answer.
During my trip I was fortunate enough to be located in Belgrade which is the largest city in the Balkans region. I loved being located in a central city where I felt connected to the rest of the world. Belgrade was like any other city with movies, plays, restaurants, activities in the public square, bars and lots and lots of lovely cafes. As a tourist walking down the streets of Belgrade you wouldn’t necessarily notice that Serbia is a country that’s still suffering from the wars of the 1990s. But once you dig a little deeper you notice that even though the wars have been over for years, their effects are still lingering very strongly in Serbian society. These effects are even more easily seen once you travel outside of the city into the rural areas of the country. Unemployment levels are high and many individuals reminisce about how life was under Tito’s regime. While things were of course not perfect under Tito, it seems like people were a lot happier under his socialist government. I heard too many people reminisce about times before the war, when life was easier and more enjoyable for them.
During my trips to Potocari, Srebrenica, Tuzla, Sarajevo, Pristina, Mitrovica and Prizren, I noticed that people in the Balkans region altogether live in highly politicized environments. It’s as if the wars ended just yesterday.
Without a doubt, Serbia still has a lot of work to do in terms of facing the past and changing its regime. The overthrow of Milosevic was just one step in the right direction. While this step was essential to a better future for the Balkans, it was only the beginning.
Fortunately, Women in Black is the top organization leading the way in taking additional steps towards a better future for Serbia, and for the Balkans altogether. Let’s just hope that the people of Serbia start listening and follow in its footsteps.
Posted By Simran Sachdev
Posted Aug 26th, 2009