I have visited Yugoslavia (as it then was) three times in the 1970’s having been from its toes to its head spending most of my time in the republics of Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. As a political science student I studied the rise of Marshall Tito from Partisan leader to President until his death in 1980. After his death his presence and repression could no longer be leveraged to keep the country whole as it broke apart in the midst of violent conflict in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I recall as a teenage traveller in Yugoslavia there were different ethnic groupings including Muslims. Slovenia never seemed part of Yugoslavia and had more in common with its Alpine neighbour Austria. The Serbian and Croats rather remind me of the Russians and Ukrainians today namely being at each other’s throats. I wondered back then what the fate of Yugoslavia would be when Tito died in 1980. It was the end of Yugoslavia that the Partisans had claimed in 1943. It did not end peacefully. As early as 1941 the Croatian Ustaše, a ultra nationalistic and fascist organization murdered Serbs, Jews and Roma. A very understandably sore point was the discovery of the death pit in Golubinka where the Ustaše buried and covered in concrete some murdered 600 Serbians. Is it any wonder the hatred of the Serbs toward Croatians festered and grew until Serbia become a murderous and ethnic cleanser? As a traveller and student of Yugoslavia this was all so saddening.
The film starts with Nataša Urban as narrator and director explaining the 1961 solar eclipse that all were encouraged to see as it wouldn’t be until 1999 for the next solar eclipse of Yugoslavia. The narrator remarked who knew there would be no Yugoslavia in 1999.
Urban weaves a personal picture of Yugoslavia from WW2 until its total dissolution. We hear from relatives, parents, and friends what life was like. If you are not a student of Yugoslavia you need not get lost in the fascinating and complex details of wars and ethnic cleansing. View the documentary as a warning, bolstered by a collection of personal experiences about how conflict and hatred can destroy a country and traumatize its people.
Perhaps in addition to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” there will be one day a song “Don’t Cry For Me Yugoslavia”. If you have travelled in Yugoslavia perhaps you will shed a tear about its violent demise. I returned to Croatia, specifically to Dubrovnik for the 4th time in the early 2000’s and was shocked that the Serbs had shelled it. After hearing about the Golubinka massacre in this documentary I think I understand it but don’t condone it.
This Norwegian film shows at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival on March 31st and April 2.