Katarina Juvančič: Letter to Friends in Bosnia-Herzegovina

O, you wretches!

They mistreated your brother, and you close your eyes!
An injured person calls for help, and you stay silent?A thug walks around choosing victims, and you say:
We will be spared, because we did not rise up.
What kind of city is this, what kind of people!
If injustice happens in the city, resistance must arise
And if there is no resistance, better that the city disappear
In flames before night falls!
(Bertholt Brecht, The Good Person of Szechwan)

Dear friends, dear comrades,

I read this important text by Brecht, and heard the song Which Side Are You On?, last year, when we went out en masse into the streets in Slovenia, because of the unbearable political situation and the human misery it was bringing. Every political insult (they were calling us zombies, actually) strengthened our ranks.

We were ready to fight for a better tomorrow at any price. Those who have nothing are not afraid to lose, because they have nothing to lose. And the fear disappears. Fear is a mechanism, which politics (in alliance with capital) uses to control people and turn them into slaves. Into robots. Even into killing machines. ‘Divide et impera’ until it hurts, even until death. Much death, much too much.

You inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina unfortunately know that well, all too well. I was still a girl when the inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina were turned into killing machines,  allegedly on the basis of ethnic hatred. I didn’t understand how it could be possible that people, who had been brought up in the spirit of brotherhood and unity, could start hating each other so intensely overnight. Neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother, person against person. Now I’m a bit older and maybe I have a bit more understanding of the mechanism that leads to nationalism and to all the other symptomatic -isms in their worst form, but I still haven’t been able to understand why people (in the sense of the ‘human race’), after 100,000 years, keep on going crazy so endlessly and how we haven’t learned a single thing from history!

We always keep repeating the same story and we chew it like instant karma (as Lennon would say) until it gets old and firm, then we spit it out into this world and on to other people as useless, stinking trash, not even remembering what it tasted like.

The taste of knowing history, the little authentic stories of little people, is the taste of knowing about yourself, about others, about the future, about seeking freedom and liberation from oppressive, exaggerated, manipulative, destructive and repetitive patterns.

In the history of humanity, even in the little stories of little authentic people, the most important things are deviations, subversions, resistances, revolutions; it’s a time when the world shakes, and when people can bring down the existing systems, which are ruled by injustice, manipulation, clientelism, gerontocracy, and the corruption of political and capitalist elites! You are those people!!!! You are that force which can change the course of history! With your loud, burning NO you have become the voice of freedom and justice, through emancipation from ethnic and religious divisions you have taken responsibility for yourselves, for your own lives, for the lives of your children, your neighbours, brothers and sisters. You have become part of the solution, not the problem!

Yugoslavia was broken up by political and capitalist elites (with the help of the west) in the most brutal way. For 20 years they told us it was best that way too. That the best thing was to divide up into ours and yours (according to ethnic, religious and other ideologies). According to them, it would have been best if we didn’t communicate at all, because allegedly everyone would be more peaceful, more financially stable, better and happier in their own place. They told us it was best for us to be ruled over by them, who knew how politics worked, by them, who are called war profiteers – the tycoon turbo-capitalists and politicians of the new age, who have robbed all the former Yugoslav countries over the last 20 years, while in the meantime the little people starved.

Literally starved! Of hunger! Humiliated, ashamed, manipulated, robbed, naked and barefoot.

But now we, the little people have had enough! WE’VE HAD ENOUGH! The spin from politicians and the media will always criminalise and humiliate us (the fact that a few individuals understand ‘resistance’ differently to the other 99% of demonstrators, who distance themselves from violence, suits the ruling decoration very well), but it is our responsibility to be active, to express solidarity with our comrades and comrades-in-arms in the struggle for a better life, to persevere with constancy and to find a platform that will unite us in our demands. And not to give in. In B&H. And in Ljubljana. And all around the world!

B&H, you are NOT alone, and you’re not the only ones! You’re a small, but very important, part of a global human movement in the struggle for a better life, in the struggle for the decolonisation and liberation of the humiliated peoples of this planet. In the struggle against the 1%, who by hook or by crook (but usually by hook) are appropriating and privatising the whole world’s resources and wealth (with the help of local sheriffs). And they are appropriating and privatising us, our spirit, our bodies, our houses, our services, our education, our future. This struggle is not simple nor short. This struggle is a process – a difficult one, a fucking tough one, but an endlessly liberating one too.

And so you need to be full of strength, will, warmth and good sense. To be able to tell the wheat from the chaff. Protests that express the combined power of the collective are dangerous, because it is well known that unity cannot be defeated. So the politicians and other hijackers of the resistance will do everything to (by hook and by crook) divide you again, separate you, push you back home, where you will keep on suffering silently, each to their own. Ethnically, religiously hungry (or, as my friend Damir Imamović says, hungry for many vitamins at once).

You have already seen through this game now. You said NO! And that NO must always be consistent and always loud and always uncompromising! Let nobody compromise your struggle! Let nobody steal your struggle (whether they’re from outside or from your own circle)! Don’t respond with rage and hatred, but peacefully ignore it! Ignorance is the greatest punishment for the ego. And love is the only motor of survival, as Leonard Cohen says.

B&H must not be ethnically or religiously or cantonally divided, even ghettoised, any more! B&H must become and remain ethnically and religiously tolerant, showing solidarity! First in your own heads and hearts. It all started there and it must always stay there. And that is essential if you want it to spread out into culture, into politics, into every head and heart, however stubborn and cold they used to be!

…I grew up in Yugoslavia in the eighties, in the knowledge that I was part of something bigger than a two-hour border-to-border journey (and they are physical and mental borders) on a Slovenian motorway. Respecting multiethnicity/multiculturalism and friendship, we were probably one of the last generations that the demons of narrow provincialism, stubborn and narcissistic nationalism and ambitious neoliberal parvenuism still haven’t completely killed. I hope that this concept of Yugoslavia is still there in all of us! If it is, then we have to keep it safe, and if it isn’t, then we have to look for it, because in these very moments it is much more valuable than it ever was before!

That’s why I’m writing you this letter. So that you know that you’re not alone and that many people are with you, not just in Slovenia but also in the other countries of ex-Yu! Your struggle is resonating in Tahrir, Taksim, Majdan and every other part of the world where people are risking their heads, voices, bodies and lives in search of a better life!


With a warm embrace, and everybody shout: ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

Katarina Juvančič

Originally posted by Katarina Juvančič and Dejan Lapanja, 14 February 2014.

One response to “Katarina Juvančič: Letter to Friends in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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