A Personal Letter from Belgrade, Serbia - Written during the current NATO bombings in Yugoslavia

Internet publication URL: www.independentliving.org/docs6/rajkov1999.html  

by Gordana Rajkov

War ceases to be an abstract political issue when you have disabled friends caught in the middle whom you can identify with, because you share the same dependencies.

Gordana Rajkov, respected disability activist throughout Europe, dependent on electric wheelchair and personal assistance, lives in Belgrade. We get sporadic reports from and about her situation in Belgrade. 


Thursday, May 13, 1999

Dear all,

Please read the following information, just to let you know that there is a serious threat that the US might shut down our communication channels to the world. So much for democracy, human rights and freedom of speech! It just adds to the problems of electricity shortages and telephone communication. So if you don't hear from me in the future - you know what is happening.

The air raid alarms just went on - so we'll see what suprise we will have for tonight. Hoping that I will manage to send this message through, I am also hoping it won't be the last one you get from me.

Warmest regards to all.



US shuts down Yugoslav Internet - For immediate release

BELGRADE, MAY 12 - We have reliable information that the US Government ordered shut down of satellite feeds for Internet customers in Yugoslavia, as a result of NATO air war against this country. This action might be taken as soon as later tonight or tomorrow (May 12 or 13, 1999).

This is a flagrant violation of commercial contracts with Yugoslav ISPs, as well as an attack on freedom of the Internet.

A Web site in protest of these actions should be up shortly. We will supply you with the URL. In the meantime, please be so kind to inform as many people as possible about this tragic event for the Internet community in Yugoslavia and Europe.

Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Saturday, 8 May 1999

Dear all,

This message is to inform you that I came back to my apartment after being a "displaced person" for six days. However, since I came back Belgrade has experienced lack of electricity supplies every day due to constant NATO bombing of power systems, so I can only hope that I will be able to send you this message before we are "cut off" again.

As my friend Damjan has informed you, I had to leave my apartment on April 30, after two NATO bombs exploded just six feet from my building. The elevator and water and electricity systems were repaired last Wednesday, so I decide to come back home, although some walls are still cracked.

We experienced the worst bombing so far that night when most of the people living in the city centre, felt "medium strength" detonations around 11 p.m., and then felt the strongest detonations of the past month at around 3 a.m. Most of us were jolted from our beds into the air. A mushroom cloud of smoke hung over the area for more than an hour - some people suffocated. The most worrying thing so far has been that the two rockets hit a residential area with absolutely no potential targets (one of the famous NATO "mistakes" and collateral damages). The rocket landed six feet in front of my building, and completely destroyed six families' houses and heavy damaged another five. That night, a friend of mine, Mimica (whom some of you should know), was staying with me with her little son, Luka, who is three and a half years old.

Mimica and I heard the rocket flying over the building and then heard the detonation. The power supply was immediately cut, the window panes burst, part of the ceiling fell on Mimica's head, the walls of the apartment cracked, and part of the balcony went missing. People in surrounding buildings were severely hurt and cries were heard from the rubble. Mimica went to help the neighbors pull some people out. In all this mess I was trying to calm Luka down by telling him a fairy-tale! Since I could not use the elevator with my wheelchair, we had to stay in the flat until the morning when friends were called in to carry me down the stairs. Most of this part of Belgrade (Vracar) had no water, a main waterpipe burst and my street turned into a torrential river. I had to "evacuate" to Mimica's flat.

And finally, just when we thought we might catch a few hours of rest, an earthquake of 5.5 on the Richter scale struck at 6 a.m., adding insult to injury! So I think the only thing we have left on the list of potential catastrophes so far is a tornado and then we will have gone through the whole list.

Since an escalation of attacks has been announced by NATO, we can only assume that every night will be worse than the last. This was proven last night when the Embassy of China and the Hotel Yugoslavia were attacked.

Thanks very much to all of you who have responded to Damjan's message and sent your words of concern and good wishes. I do appreciate your attention very much, and I know, as some of you were saying, that there are people "out there" who are fighting to stop the war in spite of media campaign that is going on.

I am very anxious what this night might bring, as we were without electricity all day today after NATO's attack last night. Therefore, I had better finish this message and try to send it while I still can.

Keeping the memories of your friendly faces in my mind all the time, with all my love.



Friday, 30 April 1999

Dear friends,

Gordana Rajkov has asked me to send you an e-mail to inform you that she is alive and unharmed: she had to leave her apartment this morning as last night one of the "smart" NATO bombs struck a house on the other side of street in which Gordana lives. The building in which Gordana's apartment is situatued shook severely, causing glass to break and shelves in Gordana's place to fall over. The water and electricity are off in Gordana's street at the moment, so she had to leave her apartment. Gordana luckily received no injuries and now is in her friend's place. She has no access to a computer at the moment but you may send her mail at my e-mail adress:ddtatic@EUnet.yu (that is, as long as I am in my home - three nights ago, there was severe bombing in my neighborhood too: fortunately, my place still has water, electricity and phone lines (e-mail connections)...

This is it for now. Take care,

Damjan Tatic 


Monday, 29 March 1999

My dear friends,

Many thanks for your nice messages and the concerns you have expressed. I feel so happy to get your short messages, it is as if I am seeing you again and in this way, breaks up this "isolation" I am in.

I am fine, as much as you can be in situation like this. A friend of mine is still staying with me, and we are trying to spend our time here in as useful way as we can. Sometimes some of other people come to visit us between air raid alerts. Most of the time we watch the news, and trying to find out what is going on. Sometimes I go on the Internet to view CNN or BBC news, and this reminds me very much to the American film "Wag the Dog" with Robert de Niro and Dustin Hoffman. Have you seen it? I would like to be optimistic and to believe it is going to end soon, but ...?

Friday and Saturday (particularly nights, March 26th & 27th) were the hardest experience till now. NATO missles hit the suburbs of Belgrade some 10 - 30 miles from my house, so we felt quite strong detonations. Big fires were raising up against the night sky and from my balcony I saw flames and smoke as the missles hit a fuel depot and chemical and pharmaceutical industry. It looked so unreal when on the radio they gave a chemical alert instructing people to take precautionary measures against chemical accident. Windows were closed and wet towels were at hand! I was quite concerned as my aunt and my nephew, Dusko, with two small children live in this part of town. Apart from the military targets a number of civilian buildings were hit these nights as well. One of the most sacred Serbian Orthodox monasteries, Gracanica in Kosovo that existed for 612 years and is under the protection of UNESCO, was damaged on Saturday night.

I haven't been out since the attacks started, as the air alert state is being given all the time. I almost cannot distinguish the alarms for air raids warnings from the announcement that they had ended. Today ( 6th day of NATO bombing in Yugoslavia), the air raid warning started at 10.30 this morning and ended at 7.40 in the evening. Already at 9.10 this evening alarms announced it again! I really wonder how people with small children are managing. A friend of mine who has a 2-year-old and lives on the 5th floor is bringing him down to shelter all the time, and now the child has caught a cold. In less than 2 hours time, you can not even go home and have a wash or prepare some food and then again back to shelter! It is always more difficult during the night as you can hardly go to sleep knowing that air raid warnings are on.

I am staying at home not because I'm so worried about the air strikes, but I am really concerned to go out having in mind that electricity supplies could be cut off and it's not a very pleasant game to be carried up to the 3rd floor. In addition to that there is no petrol (gasoline) and taxis, and of course public transport is not accessible.

My phone and e-mail connection now become my main means of communication with people. And all the messages that I am getting from my friends expressing their concerns and good wishes, are new encouragement for me in this difficult situation. Unfortunately, since we are advised to open the windows (to prevent broken glass) and to turn off the electrical equipment during the air raids, I cannot spend as much time using my computer as I would like to.

I'll finish now, and I'll keep in touch as long as the e-mail works.

Don't worry too much. You know I am fighter and I'll be okay.

All my love,