“I don’t even know the national anthem.”
The last people I met in Bosnia were a Roca reader named Dagmar and her former boss, now friend, Milan. The pair – both Serbs – work in sales in Banja Luka. We met at a trendy café with 90s American rap playing in the background and spoke over beers and espresso.
To both Dagmar and Milan, Bosnia is hardly a country. And if it’s not a country, Milan asked, why should it stay together?
“This is something that was forced to happen, like anything that is a forced marriage, it cannot work,” Milan said. “Do you know of any other warring factions that had a bloody war for four years and then were made to live together again?”
Milan and Dagmar agreed that Bosnia is cursed because the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war forced the country to stay together. According to them, the US and EU forced laws, a national anthem, a flag, and more upon the country without consensus from its people.
“I don’t even know the Bosnian national anthem. If they played it right now, I wouldn’t know it,” Milan said.
Dagmar added, “And you feel nothing about that flag.”
“If the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks decided to have a flag with a penis on it, everyone would wave it because it’s a joint decision,” Milan said. “But no one cares about this flag because it was forced upon us.”
He continued: “This country is perfect for politicians. It’s like Mecca for them. They can do whatever they want because you have foreigners who are sort of running things, and the politicians can just do whatever they want.”
“They have their own little barns for the people, their sheep. Their own cattle. And as long as you feed them the narrative of lies, of nationalism, of threats from the other side – for politicians, this is excellent.”
Milan likened Bosnia’s politicians to an abusive spouse.
“They build all their careers in not letting go,” he said. “If you have a husband who is violent and keeps tight on his family, doesn't let go, it doesn't work.”
The “marriage” worked best right after the war, Milan said, when 60,000 NATO troops were in the country and people were doing their own thing.
“Things were much better than now because there was a bigger division. The country was separated. We all did our things. We had our own passports…Nobody cared.”
“But then, forces from outside, they enforced a lot of these things. By basically forcing a system upon the people – it doesn't work. The more you push, the bigger the resistance.”
Among the policies allegedly forced on Bosnia was a law prohibiting genocide denial. Milan said no one he knows follows that. “I would never call it genocide,” Milan said of Srebrenica. “You can put that on the internet. It was terrible, but you would not call it genocide. Although under the forced law, I cannot say that.”
Milan’s proposed solution was clear: Split the country and let the Serbs and Bosnians go their own way. It’s also a solution that many politicians have floated and that many in the US and Europe fear could result in another war.
“There's a famous Kurdish saying,” Milan said before we left. “May you live in interesting times.”
“Unfortunately, we do.”
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