Sad Anniversary in Belgrade Today

UPDATE: The Serbian government asked everyone to observe a minute of silence at 12:00 noon yesterday. At the school, we paused before starting our afternoon classes and listened to the air raid sirens throughout the city. In Senjak, where the school was located, we heard at least three different sirens, although they were not that loud.

I also want to note that the Serbs separate governments from citizens and I have never felt any animosity towards me or my family. They are extremely kind towards foreigners and we feel very much at home in Belgrade!

Several long time expatriate teachers and Serb colleagues were meeting last night to commemorate the anniversary. They lived through the 78 days of the bombing and wanted to share their memories of that time. I might interview one of them to get their story of the school during the bombing.

Serbians will be recognizing the 1o year anniversary of the 1999 NATO bombing today. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) began a bombing campaign of 38,000 missions in Serbia in the spring of 1999, from March 24th to June 11th. The bombing campaign was in response to the Serbian government’s involvement in the then Serbian province of Kosovo.

The Former Yugoslav Ministry of Defense (B. Woodruff Photo December 2008)
The Former Yugoslav Ministry of Defense (B. Woodruff Photo December 2008)

Reminders of the bombing are present still today in Belgrade. On one of its busiest streets, the Knez Miloševa are two buildings that have not been repaired or replaced since the bombing. It is quite a shock to newcomers to the city. I remember seeing these on my first taxi ride downtown upon my arrival to Belgrade. It is a sad and tragic reminder of the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990’s. I am not sure why nothing has been done to these buildings. Perhaps it is lack of money, or perhaps Belgraders don’t want to forget. If any of my blog readers can enlighten me on this, please do so. The photo above was taken by a friend visiting us over the Christmas holidays. I took the photo below in April of 2009.

Different View of the Building - B. Kralovec Photo April 2009
Different View of the Building - B. Kralovec Photo April 2009

The building above is the former Yugoslav Ministry of Defense which was bombed on May 7th, 1999. It was built in 1963 and it was designed by Serbian architect, Nikola Dobrovic. The building is divided by Nemajina Street and the design of the building is meant to resemble a canyon with the street as a river divided the two sides. There is an excellent blog by a Swiss architect married to a Serb which discusses many of the buildings in Belgrade and it also has an indepth description of the NATO bombing campaign.

The Yugoslav Ministry of Defense Building In Its Prime
The Yugoslav Ministry of Defense Building In Its Prime

The anniversary will be marked by air raid sirens, church bells, and ceremonial gatherings. Around 500 civilians were killed in the bombings and many Belgraders are resentful at the NATO bombing. The BBC has an article about the anniversary here.

One thought on “Sad Anniversary in Belgrade Today

  • Serbs don’t want to forget it. There is no better monument than that, to make us remember what happened, everytime we pass by some of these sites. And to make those who did it remember too. That it wasn’t a bloody computer game. I think there is such building in Dorcol in Belgrade – destroyed building of Serbian National Library. Germans destroyed it in WWII, with all cultural heritage which was in it, some very important to us.
    I’ve been thinking about it. Should they rebuild it? Destroy it and make a monument at that site? A park? A new building? A monument in a park arround new buildings? Then, other day I was walking on Kalemegdan and saw monument our granddads erected for French soldiers, who fought with us against Central Powers, on Thessaloniki Front, in WWI. They’ve been fighting far away from their homes, with us, for our freedom. And now, nobody thinks of that as important. Almost nobody lived in WWI times. Everybody takes freedom as granted. Nobody thinks what would be if we didn’t free our country. So, after that, I realized that these buildings should stay there, as they are now.
    My only suggestion would be to preserve them somehow, so they don’t collapse. And maybe make some mural arround them, with their history on it; to show foreigners and kids born after 1999. what happened there and why is it still standing such.

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