Predrag Lucić

Predrag Lucić was born in 1964 in Split. His paternal grandfather was a Partisan whose stories about Partisan battles were often told in the family. Unlike Predrag Lucić's grandfather, his grandfather's brother was a member of the Croatian Home Guard and during the Second World War he went missing in Bleiburg. That family heritage burdened the family significantly. Predrag Lucić's father went to Germany to work, where he remained until his death in 1991. In 1984 Predrag Lucić started his studies at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, where he studied theatre and radio directing. He returned to Croatia in 1988 and in 1989 he started collaborating with the Nedjeljna Dalmacija newspaper, working on a satirical supplement called Feral. In 1990 he, together with the supplement, now called the Feral Tribune, moved to Slobodna Dalmacija, where he reported both on the build-up to war and later on the war itself. In March 1993 he left Slobodna Dalmacija and, together with a group of his colleagues, started Feral Tribune, a now independent satirical political twice monthly magazine. He was the editor-in-chief of the first few editions of the magazine. In December 1993, Feral Tribune became a weekly publication. From then and until Feral's demise in 2008, Lucić worked as the magazine's editor, as well as authoring articles, editing the magazine's Internet pages, creating photomontages and writing and editing various sections. He also founded the "Feral Tribune Bibliotheque". He published works of poetry and prose, as well as dramatic texts in various magazines, such as "Fantom slobode", "Sarajevske sveske", "Naše pismo" and others. He is a member of the Croatian Writers Society and the Croatian P.E.N. Centre.



crome_0149_predrag_lucic_eng,version2,07.02.2013,Darija,Translation crome_0149_predrag_lucic_eng,version1,12.12.2012,Documenta,Transcription Good evening. Thank you for agreeing to talk to us. Please introduce yourself by giving your name and the date and place of your birth. My name is Predrag Lucić. I was born on February 12, 1964, in Split. Where do your parents come from, your family? My father was born in Pokrovnik, a village on the way from Drniš to Šibenik. He was born before the Second World War reached this part of the world, in 1940. My mother was born in Zenica, during the war, in 1941. What did members of your family do? My father was a barber. He was trained and worked as a barber, here in Split. Later he went to Germany as a 'gastarbeiter', mostly working on building sites. Was he married at the time? Yes, he was married. And your mother? My mother worked as an accounting clerk, at the shipyard in Split. Before that she had worked as a bank clerk in Doboj. The two of them met in Doboj. Is that why she came to Split from Doboj? Yes. They got married and they came here. I was born in 1964, and my brother was born some time later, in 1978. Was your family, either side of it, in any way affected by the Second World War? Yes, both sides were affected. My grandfather was called up for army service. He was a member of the 8th corps. He fought with the Partisans, he took part in some of the toughest fighting. He'd been trained as an artilleryman before the War, at the School for Reserve Officers in Sarajevo. The knowledge that he acquired during his military service in the King's Army was valuable in the battles for Knin, Mostar, Široki Brijeg... He saw the end of the war on Sveta Katarina. When did he join the Partisans? In 1943. This is your grandfather on your mother's side? No, that's my grandfather on my father's side. My grandmother says that the war changed him completely. That he had been a different man before the war. That he'd even made bread at home, though this wasn't usual in a patriarchal society. After everything that he went through, mildness wasn't exactly the dominant streak in his character. Grandmother would always defend him when he was a bit nervous. She would say: "Let him be, my child, that's what the war has done to him." He's been through quite a few nasty battles. He received two medals for bravery. However, he never wanted to become active in the military. He didn't want to join the Party. None of that interested him. He was of a different mind-set; he actually came from a traditional, Catholic family. He went to war because he was called up, not because of his personal beliefs. ////In 1943.??/// Not because of his personal beliefs. But he did an honest job. Now... His own brother was in the Croatian Home Guard [armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia] and his fate remains unknown to this day. He disappeared somewhere near Bleiburg. Many stories have been told in our family about his possible whereabouts. In fact, nobody has any proof. He never made contact from anywhere, for anybody to conclude with certainty that it was really him. [mobile phone ringing] Excuse me. [mobile phone ringing] [humming noise] So, my grandfather's brother was never back in contact after the war. Nor did he ever appear. That remained a sort of family trauma. I think it still is. Although, even if he had survived all of it, today he would have been at a late stage in life, nearing the end. I think there are still some family members who are hoping that he'll appear from somewhere, that he'll call. My grandfather, despite the medals for bravery that he received from the Partisans, had huge problems after the war. Because of his brother who had fought on the other side. He didn't like to talk about it. We know about it from the stories of other family members. Some from my grandmother, some from the uncles. Anyway, OZNA (The Department of National Security) often paid a visit. They wanted to know if there was any information about his brother. Presumably, they resented the fact that my grandfather didn't want to become active in the army after the war, and that he only wanted to mind his own business. He wasn't a supporter of the new regime. Although he'd risked his life in the Partisan army. The war, of course, also hit the part of the family from my mother's side, in Bosnia. They were Serbs living in the area of the Independent State of Croatia. They had to flee, and so on. My grandfather worked in a Partisan bakery for a while. He didn't carry a gun, but he was a supporter of the movement, so to say. Where exactly? Hm? Where exactly? Somewhere in Srednja Bosna. During the war they went from Zenica, then they took the route from Ilijaš to Breza, and afterwards to Prnjavor up there in the north of Bosnia. Their house was burnt down. The house where my mother lived with her grandmother. I think it was some Circassians who did it. Along with many other things. It's a sad story that my mother has been carrying as a trauma throughout her life. My grandmother didn't live to see the liberation. She died on May 8, 1945, as a result of typhus and all of the horrors that she went through. I was born 19 years after the end of the Second World War, but, through stories that I heard from an early age, the War seems to me like something that has determined the lives of both of the families. Then after the war, when the 'clean-up' started in 1948, following the Informbiro Resolution, my mother's uncle, who had been in the Partisans and who worked in today's Banovina building, in the same office as Branko Mamula, later Admiral Mamula, was playing cards in front of the Hotel Park. He played for money. That was his passion. He played against an OZNA officer and he beat him. He cleared him out. That card game ruined his life. Seven years of Bileća and Goli Otok camps followed. A family was destroyed. His wife returned to her family in Novi Sad. His son, who was born after he'd ended up on Goli Otok, was picked on by other children. Children, as cruel as they can be at that age, always called him the son of a traitor, a Stalinist, and so on. You know how word gets around amongst the kids. Then after he did his seven years, he joined his family in Novi Sad, his wife and child. Shortly after he came back, his son died in a fire. That was yet another story that started in the Second World War and the post-war period. Sometime at the end of the 1950s it all ended tragically for him. Those are some of the stories from my immediate family that I remember from childhood. Let's move on. What was life like for your immediate family, your father, mother, yourself and your brother, during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in Split? My parents were proletarians. When they got married, they had almost nothing. They lived as tenants. That was the reason why my father went to Germany. Here he had worked as a barber, in the private sector that existed in those times. But there was no chance for him to earn enough money to buy an apartment. Also, my mother's earnings in the shipyard weren't good, and she wasn't on the list of those eligible to get an apartment. He went to Germany to earn the money that they needed to buy an apartment. He would come home for a couple of months; he would take a longer holiday. Later he was coming two or sometimes three times a year. Anyway, from when I was five years old, he was away in Germany. He died there in 1991. Shortly before the war started here. He worked until then? Yes. He died aged 51. How did you live in terms of material wealth? Well, what took him to Germany certainly wasn't prosperity. When he started working there, things got better. We managed to gather the money for the apartment. Well... I did have some things that other children didn't have. Apart from the other children of gastarbeiters or sailors. I would get some toys, jeans, some records and similar things that weren't about in Yugoslavia at that time. Could you say that there were some differences in the class sense? Well, there were class differences in Yugoslavia, we shouldn't deceive ourselves. There was a privileged group that, in the sense of housing and high salaries, lived much better, in a material sense, than other people. Although, that difference was nothing in comparison to what this predatory capitalism brought us. But when we're talking about Yugoslavia, or Yugoslav society, I believe we need to tell that story honestly; that it wasn't an ideal society, but that some aspects of social security were very well provided. Of course, there were all of the faults that the people have in their character, and that such a system, that was rigid in some aspects, entails. It did rely on the holy trinity: Party-Army-Police. We shouldn't demonise Yugoslavia, as has been fashionable in the past twenty years, as a land of blackness, prosecution and inequality. But at the same time, that social aspect of the system shouldn't be idealised. What was childhood and youth in Split like in those years? Youth, in particular. Can you compare it to the present times? What was it like, in terms of new books, records, things that were of interest to young people? Well, in that respect Split was a big town. There were a lot of sailors who were bringing a lot of things. Then there were the gastarbeiters, and the people who travelled abroad. I think that we had all of the things that reached the biggest Yugoslav cities. We had even more of certain things. Heroin, for instance. But I wasn't a consumer, so that whole story didn't fascinate me. Split was an open town, an open-minded town. I think people gladly came here. It had a certain fine Mediterranean spirit. Of course, not everything here was fun and games. We shouldn't idealise Split of that era. It had its social divisions. And there were... Some things were simmering here too. Things that would explode in the 1990s. Were the differences between nationalities, or differences amongst people noticeable at the time? I think that those differences, if you wanted to see them and if you were paying attention, could have been seen everywhere in Yugoslavia. I think it's a notorious lie when today somebody says: "We didn't know who was who and what." Everybody knew everything. It was only that some people paid attention to it. And some didn't. To some it was really irrelevant what a certain man was in terms of nationality or religion. And then there were others, many of them members of the Party... We saw it later, in 1990, when those supposedly big communists became hard-core nationalists. Actually, even earlier, in the 1980s. So you see... The question of nationality was, at the same time, something that was taboo, and yet in a certain way was also emphasised. In fact, socialism was quite firm with nationalists, and not only of one ethnicity, as they like to say today in Croatia, or in Serbia, or wherever. I think it was harsh towards everybody. There isn't a nation in this area whose nationalists, or people accused of nationalism, didn't end up in prison, or weren't on trial, and so on. So-called nationalistic songs were forbidden everywhere in Yugoslavia. And everywhere you could end up doing two or three months in prison for singing something of that kind. Although, I think that was nonsense. To prosecute people for verbal delicts. I also think that nationalism was in fact cultivated through the education system, and through that socialist dogma that always talked about national liberation. The War of National Liberation. The story told that the Partisan victory also brought national emancipation to all people and nationalities in Yugoslavia. How correct - or not - that is, is a different story. There is a national aspect in reading history... I mean, there wasn't only a class aspect, but also a national one. This template, from which nationalism later bloomed, was already in-built. It was a part of the system. That is a paradox. To young people today, that sounds unreal. But it really was that way. When did you start university? In 1984, in Belgrade. Which faculty? Faculty of Dramatic Arts. Theatre and Radio Directing. What was that like? Well, first of all, I was of course fascinated with the change of life. OK, I'd done compulsory military service before that. But it was then that I actually started living on my own. That happy student life, in a big city where you can't decide where to go first, what to see. Which film, concert, which bar to go into first. However, I felt a certain shadow over those years; a feeling of disintegration in the air. Serbian nationalism was then starting to manifest itself openly. Both where you were expecting it, and where you weren't. It was present in the media, in everyday life. It appeared mainly in the form of rage against the Albanians. Because of what was then called 'the situation in Kosovo'. A certain anti-Albanian sentiment was predominant. But at the time that wasn't an exclusively Serbian story. That was present in other areas of Yugoslavia, too. Using state propaganda, happenings in Kosovo were presented purely as "Great-Albanian chauvinists are trying to break our Yugoslavia apart". Well... What was true, and what wasn't... In those years it was impossible to find out, because people either kept quiet or spoke so that nobody would hear them. Naturally, things later exploded the way they did. Since you attended the academy, I suppose you were a part of a cultural-theatrical milieu. In what way did nationalistic ideas manifest themselves in that circle? There were some fantastic people, who have to this day remained citizens of the world, in a way. They represented that better part of Belgrade, cosmopolitan Belgrade. There were also people who were getting into the whole nationalistic story. Naturally, I was annoyed by that. Not because they were Serbian nationalists, but because they were nationalists in the first place. That seemed hollow to me. Is one more annoyed by a talented nationalist or an untalented one? Untalented people are always more annoying, in every respect. You feel sorry when you see a talented man who's obsessed with things that are basically narrowing his perspective, shackling his openness. In the end of the day, I think that's how one's talent gets limited too. Quite strong passions are involved there. When a man is overcome, it's hard to let go. We saw many examples - I won't list them now - of people whose minds were sapped by their obsession with nationalism. How long were you in Belgrade? When did you finish your studies? I finished in 1988. I was there at the time of the 8th Session of the League of Communists. That was quite an interesting experience. The evening after the 8th Session I went to an Azra concert. At the House of Youth. The first song went "they're coming, red as blood / sharp and brutal as sweat." That could have been applied to daily politics. The evening before the concert, there was the 8th Session. On the way to the House of Youth, in front of the Assembly, there was a Belgrade Television vehicle. They were covering what was in fact a sort of putsch in the Serbian Party. I started to grasp the whole meaning of it whilst I was in Belgrade. Immediately? Through talking to people who knew more than I did about contemporary Serbian politics. At that time I wasn't particularly interested in Milošević, Draža Marković, Stambolić, Buco Pavlović and others. I'd just read what was in the newspapers. Some of it was clear to me, but a lot wasn't. Some people from Belgrade who were more liberal - that is to say those who weren't into nationalism of any kind - were actually warning me that what had happened was a very serious matter. And that there could be consequences for every aspect of the future. Not only in Belgrade and in Serbia, but also in the whole of Yugoslavia. In those circles, the most popular publication at the time was Danas, that was printed in Zagreb. Those newly emerged Belgrade dissidents - people who were suddenly banned from stating their opinion about Slobodan Milošević, Stambolić, Buco Pavlović and so on - in any official media in Serbia, they published in Danas. ???/////Olako obećano brzini./////??? At that time, Bogdan Bogdanović, Mirko Kovač and others gave interviews and wrote texts mainly for Danas, which was a respectable weekly magazine at the time. Now, about that nationalistic vein that existed... I saw it in historical supplements published in Duga, and so on. Or through an emerging insistance on the "old glory of the fatherland", the glory of the mediaeval kingdom. The emphasis on the Orthodox Church and so on. And of course, that story of Serbia being a the permanent victim in Yugoslavia. One that loses in peace what it gains in war. Something along those lines. How Serbia - in both World Wars - liberated the Croats, the Slovenes, the Albanians, the Muslims and the Macedonians. And look how those nations were now repaying her. Of course, that story had no connection with reality and it was also irritating. And it was becoming ever more loud. After Milošević got into power, the nationalists started feeling empowered. Someone looking at Belgrade might have had a superficial impression that they were the only ones to be heard. One could also hear other voices, but you had to know how to listen. I went home for the holidays, it was the 1st of May or perhaps the 29th of November 29. I went from Belgrade to Split. There were people on the Riva basking in the sunshine. "The 8th Session? Milošević? What are you talking about? Who are those people? Why would that be important to us?" Of course, people who then refused to hear anything about this, being apolitical or through genuine disinterest for what was more or less a boring Yugoslav political story, with time became fanatical about those same political stories. And then you couldn't keep them away. When I became tired of the stories about Milošević, Tuđman and all that, that was all that they wanted to talk about. During that time in Belgrade, did you feel like a Croat? Huh, I felt like an Albanian. I felt like an Albanian every time I read some nonsense about the Albanians. Since you're asking about the theatrical circles; there really were some great people. In the end, some of them are today important in the renewal of cultural cooperation between Serbia and Croatia. But there were also some proper chauvinists. And they were particularly loud at that time in Belgrade. They felt like they could be. There were some theatre pieces... Of course, not only in Serbia. But there were more in Serbia than anywhere else. Pieces that glorified the nation and that played to the basest nationalistic passions. Of course, I mostly avoided those shows. There were so many better and more interesting things to see. But I'm not going to pretend that I didn't notice. When talking about theatre in those years one thing was particularly sad. A show that had picked up more or less all of the prizes in Novi Sad came to Belgrade: "Derviš i smrt", performed by the Albanian Drama Theatre from Priština. With a fascinating performance by Istref Begolli as Ahmed Nurudin. Directed by Vladimir Milčin. The show came to Belgrade, where the theatres were always full when any show came from Zagreb, or from anywhere else. There really was a certain established curiosity. It was simply incredible to me that there were only 40 people in the Yugoslav Drama Theatre who came to see a show that was coming from Sterijada Festival with such a reputation. Of course, at that time that anti-Albanian hysteria in the Belgrade media became just that - hysteria. Why did you leave Belgrade in 1988? Why did I leave? Because I was at the end of my studies. I only had my final thesis to do. I finished the one for radio directing. I still had to do a graduating theatre piece in Split, for theatre directing. For of certain reasons that are not relevant to this story, that didn't happen. So I did my show in Tuzla. That was also an interesting experience, Tuzla in 1989. I had sat through all of the courses I had to do at university and I didn't really know where and what I would do in life, where I would end up. It seemed somehow normal to me to go back to Split for a start. Besides my family and friends, there was another thing that drew me to Split. It was called Feral. Feral was then published as a satirical supplement in Nedjeljna Dalmacija. As soon as I started university, I became their associate. Viktor Ivančić sent me a letter after he and his colleague from the paper Fez - Velimir Marinković - won a prize called "Seven Secretaries of SKOJ". Then Nedjeljna Dalmacija invited them to prepare one issue of Feral themselves. Feral had already existed. At the beginning, it was edited by Ćićo Senjanović. Then there was talk of discontinuing it, the editors were changed. Nobody was entirely happy with it. Then Viktor and Vele started doing it with full sails, with the same energy that that student paper Fez was done, which at the time collaborated with other youth publications all over Yugoslavia. So their pilot issue of Feral worked out. They accepted a full time engagement on it. Viktor was absolutely horrified. Suddenly they had to fill an entire page every seven days. That seemed an incredible amount to us at the time. He sent me a letter asking - if I had time and wanted to - whether I would write something or suggest something that would be good for Feral. That's how I started contributing whilst I was still a student. That story with Feral grew with time. It managed to hold on, despite various pressures that existed, but that weren't mentioned in the press. There were also some legal actions. By official duty, the state's attorney would sue you for offending the President of the Yugoslav Presidency, or the Yugoslav National Army, Brotherhood and Unity, or whatever. To me, Feral was a really good thing. Something like a rock band, or a theatre group. Something that you were working on with a full heart and sincere belief, which to many people was incomprehensible. At the end of the day, I think that Feral pushed some boundaries that were well established in that era of publishing and society in general. In that era? It's still the same... Yes. Those were the 1980s. Viktor and Velimir's Feral started in 1984. Was that dangerous in a sense, in the SFRJ? With the risk of legal action and so on? It was. Viktor had the most problems. He was there all the time. I was just an external associate. Viktor had the most problems. There were various threats and pressure applied. At the end of the day, there were those legal actions too. Because of those, he had problems doing his military service. When they finally did let him serve, he was the oldest person in the military barracks after the barracks commander. So, in terms of age, there was the lieutenant colonel and then him. That year when he finally went to serve in the army, in 1988, Boris Dežulović and I took over Feral. By the third issue, we managed to get it banned. But... You feel good when you're 24 and your paper gets banned. Particularly in a certain system where things like that were unimaginable. That was in fact the first time in the history of Slobodna Dalmacija that some of its publications were banned. What was it banned for, specifically? In Feral, we were making fun of the Serbian meetings of support for Milošević. We transposed that story onto the relations in the then 'community of municipalities'. For those who don't know what that was, Split, Solin and Kaštela constituted a 'community of municipalities'. Solin, and Kaštela in particular, wanted more autonomy. In our story we made Split play Serbia, and Solin and Kaštela were like Vojvodina and Kosovo. The district attorney ordered all of the issues to be confiscated from the kiosks. There was a trial. We were defended by Mirko Franceschi, a fantastic advocate, who made a fantastic speech before the judge, Branko Šerić, who is now a notable lawyer. He ended by referring to Nušić, the one who said: "Does one use a sabre on satire?" The judge Branko Šerić cleared us of responsibility. And a lot had been put on our backs: insulting the system, insulting Brotherhood and Unity, devaluing all efforts that the broader social community was investing into resolving the situation in Kosovo. The list was sufficient for a good hundred years of imprisonment. Of course, nothing came of it. At that time the system was in its last throes and in fact those moves by the district attorney in Split, who was particularly diligent - he even banned the youth publication Iskrica a few times - seemed almost tragicomic. It was obvious that things were breaking down. Naturally, one couldn't sense that it would end as it did. But people who travelled a bit more, who read more and who looked about themselves a bit more could sense that it would be hard to avoid war. Do you remember the moment when you thought that the war would happen, that it was about to start? Well, I had that feeling for quite a long time. I'd had it since the time I was in the army. In 1982 to 1983 I was in the engineering unit in Prokuplje. It was clear to me then that strong national tensions existed. With certain people. And that those were very flammable. I also saw that the so-called social community and the JNA were approaching it in a completely idiotic way. They were pretending that the problem didn't exist. An example: some soldiers get into a fight. There are fists flying and there's swearing. And then the security captain gathers the entire barracks together and makes a speech. And then he explains to us how we should behave. He says: "If you're to swear at each other, don't bring being a Serb, Croat or Slovene into it." Basically, the man told us to swear at each other, but without national attributes. I think that that's one simple and descriptive example of the attitude towards that problem. Just don't mention the question of nationality. Pretend that it doesn't exist. Pretend that the national differences don't exist. And everything else is OK. Swear at each other. Do everything else. Just don't touch that. In fact, the national question wasn't sacred at all. Being silent about it was sacred. Have I bored you yet? No, no. On the contrary. So that means that from 1982 you had a feeling that it would end in war? Well, yes. My mother used to think that I was crazy when I would say that. She was always saying: "Don't. Don't go against the system." I was terribly annoyed with everybody, from Milka Planinc, Admiral Mamula, and so on. I was terribly annoyed with all of that rotten and boring political story. In comparison to the rest of your generation, were you more or less interested in politics? I don't know. Perhaps I was more political. But what did being political mean at the time? It wasn't a matter of talking about a change of system, or talking of Branko Mikulić and all of those politicians at the time. In fact, it was about rebellion. At the time after Tito's death there was a certain counter-cultural spirit of rebellion that was present through rock music, through films and theatre, somewhat through literature. That was present in our daily life. Some people of my generation lived for the latest record by Azra, or Pankrti, Lačni Franz or Haustor. It was almost a question of identity. You were different. It was instantly known that you didn't belong to the quiet and tame crowd who were members of the Socialist Youth League. You could already see that lot soon taking the places of those fat-asses on television. Were they the mainstream? Yes, they were the mainstream. Naturally, there existed something else that was contrary to it. It existed in Croatia, and it existed in other parts of Yugoslavia. And that was the whole conservative story. What that meant was something even more conservative than the mainstream. It was the dominant idea of religion, nation, and return to the old values. Of course, in the early 1980s you didn't hear about the possible break-up of Yugoslavia. Only through jokes and allusions. In particular in Croatia after 1971, that story wasn't publicly present. In fact, people who felt that national tumult were in a way subversive. That wasn't pervasive. But that isn't the story that seemed most important to me at that point. Although it was in fact becoming ever more present. As the nationalists in Serbia became ever more loud, the same was slowly happening in other parts too. In Slovenia, the nationalists became emancipated fairly early on. Those nationalist stories were becoming ever more common. It wasn't something that I was driven to join. But I was interested in why it remained such a taboo. Why did some people not have access to media? For instance, Miko Tripalo, Savka Dabčević and the whole team that was deposed in Croatia in 1971. In the same way that in Serbia, the more liberal of the communists were later removed. Why were their names always mentioned in a low voice? So I started - through the youth publication Iskra and through Nedjeljna Dalmacija - to create a space for some normal discussion about it all, to see what really happened in 1971. And the newspapers had just started mentioning 1948. That means that in the 1980s, they were shyly mentioning 1948. As for 1968... "We'd better not talk about that." That means, as we were heading towards the end of the 1980s, all of those stories suddenly started opening up. And instead of a more or less normal dialog about the subject, both inside respectable republics and on a Yugoslav level, what we actually got was confusion of tongues. We got howling and shouting. So after those legendary 17 or 18 years of the "Croatian Silence" we had a "Croatian dissonance". Then you understood that many of those people didn't in fact have anything to say. But I still insist on their right to say their own nothing. So that after all of the nonsense that has happened to us here, there is some progress. If indeed in this grand 'shopping centre' there is still a chance of forming some kind of human society based on principles other than national-religious identities or capitalism-feudalism. I still stand behind a man's right to say his own nothing. Or something that doesn't really amount to much. When it comes to the young people of the 1980s, the 20 to 30 year olds, you mentioned a group of alternatives - let's call them alternatives - those who lived for a new Azra record, and some others who were mainstream, going to school and then university and so on, and then the more conservative ones... Were there any other cultures or counter cultures that were evident? I'm asking about sports supporters, lumpenproletariat... Were they visible? In Split, for instance? What was youth culture like in the 1980s? There were other groups. Supporters movements have been strong for as long as I can remember. From what I read, they seem to have been strong throughout the entire existence of Yugoslavia. They were a sort of a pressure valve. They allowed people to let something out in a group, that they otherwise wouldn't have been able to. Those national and nationalistic energies were bursting from the stands in the stadiums. Do you remember the moment when the war started? When suddenly there was a war and that was that? When did the war start? I don't know... In my professional biography, aside from my satirical writing in Feral during the 1980s and later, I mention that I was not only a war reporter, but also a pre-war one. It's more or less the same thing. It started simmering here in Dalmatia after the marking of the Battle of Kosovo and the consecration of the Lazarica Orthodox Church in Knin. That was when the national tensions grew. For the first time, there was shouting: "This is Serbia!" I was a young reporter in Nedjeljna Dalmacija, and I mostly got to cover that bitter terrain around Knin. I was watching how things were getting worse week by week. How people were losing their sense of reason. And I saw the power of propaganda... When they are fed something through television and newspapers, people take it in and become somebody else. That was important to me, and not only so I could write a good story for my newspaper. Not only for that. I was interested, as a human: "For goodness sake, what's with these people?!" There was a man in some village around Knin in 1989, who was showing me his axe that he had in his car, I think it was a Lada, and telling me that he never went anywhere without it. I asked: "Why? Has any trouble started here? Is there any physical violence? Has it come to that? Are there fists in the air?" He said: "No, no. I just don't feel safe here anymore." I said: "Well, why? Who are you afraid of?" They always had a story, they always turned it into someone else. For instance, a cousin came from somewhere and he didn't feel safe. Somebody gave him a wrong look. That's how those stories slowly start and it's incredible how comfortable people can feel in that anxiety that they've created. In the end it becomes the meaning of their lives. I could talk about that for many hours. I drag on about it now. I haven't managed to explain it to myself entirely. Actually, it was some time before the war when I figured out that I'd be on the losing side. I think that those who lost in this war are all of those who didn't want it to happen in the first place. I think that all of those people are losers. I remember one man... The place is irrelevant, his nationality and his religion and so on are irrelevant. He said to me: "Don't you start trying a reconciliation here! Do what you came here to do. Write. And then go to Split and publish what we're saying. Don't ask us too many questions and don't try to reconcile us. Don't start with "Why this? Why that? How did you do this and that up until today? How come you suddenly can't do the same now?" Then it definitely became clear to me that those people who up to that day have live more or less normally together, or who at least tolerated each other - they didn't have to love one another, but they tolerated each other - those people would very soon point a gun at one another. Does the story with Feral at that moment stop being a rock band and becomes something tougher, more serious? Was there some sort of change? I think that that certain craziness, that was the energy that drew Feral along, was still functioning. Feral has actually never been a joke, or ha-ha-ha, plain humour, three kids making fun out of this and that. Feral was also an attitude towards the world. Feral's satire has always had a certain bitter note because I think that Viktor, Boro and me were all aware of what was coming. I think that certain premonitions of what was coming were more visible in Feral, a satirical supplement, than they were on the so-called serious pages of our weekly and daily newspapers. We never took ourselves too seriously and I think that that's one of the secrets of our survival for so many years. When the war came, we had the experience of being pre-war reporters, who got stuck in journalism due to the force of our curiosity. Naturally, since you've been seeing it all up until then, you asked to be sent to the most troublesome areas. It was normal to keep doing the same thing. To see what was happening with those people. Of course, the most hard core nationalists from that period were the newly-converted ones, who before that had been in the Party. Who were telling us what SUBNOR was, what SSOJ was, and what the Mother Party had to say about it all. Naturally, they suddenly started telling us how we should think from the perspective of the Mother Nation. They're always, damned foetuses. They always need some kind of womb so they can feel comfortable and secure. To have warm water around them. So for us, nothing had changed there. We went on with our story. Public sensitivity became greater. As the war broke out, there were a lot of people who thought that... When the war broke out in their heads, not around them, then they had ideas of what things should be like. That meant a "no" to our kind of newspaper. Basically, they just wanted to be given orders, to have them fixed on posts. Something along the lines of: "To whom it may concern!" The whole business of Feral drove people like that crazy. At the same time, we had a certain background as people who spoke their mind about Slobodan Milošević and the Serbian nationalists on time. When more or less nobody else in Croatia dared. So for those people who embraced the whole nationalism thing, or who were earlier on slowly taking it in, we were - in their own words - some sort of national heroes at the time. Because: "You said to Milošević... You said to the Serbs what needed to be said." I mean, we weren't saying or writing those things about the Serbs because they were Serbs. But because the Serb nationalists, who at the time were the loudest, paved the way for all that later happened. At the same time, for my part, the survival of Yugoslavia as it was, in those circumstances, was not something that I wanted. I mean, if they thought that Yugoslavia would survive, and could only survive if it followed the scheme: the Party - the most dominant - the army - the police, and if it had comrade Milošević with his proxies running it all... That kind of Yugoslavia, no thank you, we didn't need it. In general, the question of states is not something that is a field of interest to me. I'm just trying to make clear what things were like. And, in the end of the day, how misunderstandings with some of our readers arose. Or, with their perception of how suddenly we "great fighters against the Great Serbian nationalism" sold out to communists, Serbs, masons and god knows to who not. When did that change occur? When do you become infamous in your neighbourhood, in your street? In that sense. It started with the whole madness... When the barricades around Knin appeared, as an intro to the war. The Croatian response to Serbian nationalism was equally loud and equally daft. Then of course there was our response to Croatian nationalism, that people were unable to understand. They treated it as a national treason. Of course, they were encouraged by Dr Franjo Tuđman and his faithful HDZ members who used every opportunity to point out that we were, in fact, enemies of Croatia. And that we were the followers of ORJUNA members from Split, that we were all children of members of the military (JNA), officers of KOS, and so on. Of course, those stories were so daft that you didn't feel the need to refute them. I mean, Miroslav Tuđman had to refute that he was a child of a military man. [laughter] I didn't have to. I wasn't hurt by that. Even if I was, so what. Are there situations when it's dangerous to be a child of a military man, in adverted commas? You carry that stigma of being the national enemy. The enemy of the nation, of the HDZ, of Croatia. But we have to be aware of the fact that Tuđman's story didn't appeal to everyone here. As much as what Milošević offered didn't appeal to many people in Belgrade and in Serbia. So they actually never managed to succeed in their own plan: to make the whole nation breathe as one. To unify everyone and to have us all in alignment. It then happened that Feral acquired new readers in some people who were previously perhaps annoyed by us. Who had thought that we were slagging off the communists too much, the Serbian communists, that we were making too much fun of the Army, of Brotherhood and Unity, and all of the taboos. Those people who didn't flock to the nationalists, who didn't overnight become nationalist, suddenly found themselves in disfavour under the new rules. Their lives changed drastically just before the war and during the war. Some of them who even wrote indictments against Feral at the time of Yugoslavia and socialism, recognised in Feral - particularly when it became an independent paper in 1993 - the only place of freedom for them too. For them who used to hold power, and who were suddenly disempowered. The only place where they could recount what was happening to them and make what was happening to them seem a priority, without any malice, without mentioning who did what to whom before... Regarding what you asked me about the additional work of the Feral time, it probably existed even before Feral became an independent paper. At the time when Slobodna Dalmacija was being stigmatised. That was when we started working on more than just that satirical supplement, on top of those four pages that Feral had. We wrote stories, interviews, commentaries, we touched on subjects that we would later deal with in Feral. About those early-war happenings, when someone's human rights were brutally infringed, when people were forcefully taken from their apartments, from their work, and so on. That was when you could once again see the curse of this job, in just the same way as when that man told me: "Don't you try and reconcile us." Or when you see a woman who was born here in Split - her, her husband, her son - being chucked out of their own apartment. One of those people who never placed any importance on nationality. She cries and she asks you: "What did I do wrong? Is it my son's fault that I'm not of the same nationality as you?" By chance, I was of the same nationality as those who threw that woman and her family out of their apartment. That's when you start feeling sick. You feel ashamed in the name of the whole town. Of the whole country that's letting that happen. At the same time, you were working for a newspaper that represented one of the very few addresses that those people could turn to. You must know that at the time Slobodna Dalmacija stood like some kind of a substitute for a parliament. Anything could have been read in it. That was where Aralica published his insane writings. There were nationalistic, conservative commentators. OK, let them be. But there were also texts in which facts were twisted. In which the expulsion of people from their own apartments in Split was presented as liberation of those apartments. In Slobodna Dalmacija? Yes. There was a meritorious widow of a Croatian soldier that some ex-occupants were not welcoming towards, and then they were tauntingly called by Serb names, Uroš and Miloš. It was in fact me who wrote an article to counter what had been published in Slobodna Dalmacija the day before. There had been no listening to the other side. The side that at the time was threatened. That was only possible in Slobodna Dalmacija. Not in other newspapers. Could you have read in any other Croatian newspaper in 1992 that someone had been evicted from their home, that a civilian had been beaten up, that he had ended up in Lora, that he had been killed, and so on? You could only have read that in Slobodna Dalmacija at the time. Of course, along some other things that do not speak in Slobodna Dalmacija's favour. The publishing of the so-called list of KOS members. Haranguing against the imaginary snipers on the tower blocks. All that went along with that war psychosis, that a part of Slobodna Dalmacija was not immune to. But there were people inside, amongst the editors and amongst the journalists, who wanted to write fair stories about what was really going on. Who didn't want to go along with state propaganda. That's how in Slobodna Dalmacija you could have read the first text about the abuses in Lora. The famous text by Zvone Krstulović about the case of Đorđe Katić, that was published in 1992, in Slobodna Dalmacija. Those were the first writings about what was happening in the town. About the terror brought upon civilians, upon the families of the one-time military members who had stayed here. Upon civilians of the wrong nationality. That was eventually written about on the pages of Slobodna Dalmacija. Then HDZ came in, and we resigned and started Feral. Naturally, everything that we and some of our colleagues at Slobodna Dalmacija had been writing about until then couldn't be read anymore in Slobodna Dalmacija after it was 'liberated'. It was normal for us to continue to do it in Feral. That weight that you've asked me about, and that I've been talking so much about, could mostly be felt in 1995, sometime after Operation Storm. Then there were again some misunderstandings with some of our readers. With people who'd been reading Feral for all of those years. They were calling us up. They couldn't understand why no joy could be felt in Feral regarding the liberation of the country. Where was all of this writing coming from and why, the stories about what was happening in the villages around Knin, Drniš and so on, in Lika, on liberated territory. At the time - alongside the Croatian Helsinki Committee and the International Red Cross - Feral was the only place those people could turn to. The families of the people in those areas who'd been mistreated. A man comes to you to tell you about his father and mother who hadn't left for Serbia after Storm, who had stayed here, and who were having the liberators or somebody in the name of the liberators mistreating them. You start feeling terrible. You're there and you're just a journalist. Sitting in an office. And it's terrible that that man has nobody else apart from you that he can tell his story to. That's something really terrible. Amongst all that euphoria, probably not even their neighbours or their friends wanted to listen to them. At the beginning, nobody wanted to believe that there were crimes being committed, that there was plundering on a large scale. Although everybody could see people who were coming back loaded with things, with war and post-war plunder. Nobody wanted to believe that there were houses being set on fire. At the beginning it was easier for people to believe that it was all Feral's invention, that we were looking for problems because at all cost we wanted to be different or because we had even darker intentions concerning the Republic of Croatia and the victorious army. Were you subject to any form of violence? Physical or... No. Amazingly, I wasn't. There were, of course, some comments, threats, provocations when I was going around the town, but it didn't happen that someone attacked me. Were you a direct witness of violence, of infringements of human rights, or anything similar? In what way? Directly? Well, of course. As a war reporter, you see it. There was one incident... At the very beginning of the war, in Slavonia, in Čepin close to Osijek. It was one of the more horrible sights. There was a guy in camouflage uniform. A member of the Croatian Guard. Although, there were all sorts of uniforms at the time. Some were bought in C&A, some were worn only once for parading, some were of course serious. In the middle of the road, he was kicking a policeman with his feet. A policeman who was wearing a Croatian Ministry of Interior uniform. He was giving him a serious kicking. Hitting the policeman's head with his feet. The traffic had stopped. The drivers were either sitting in their cars or they got out. Nobody dared to stop it. Nobody dared to stop it. This guy was completely out of control. Naturally, me and Viktor Ivančić, who also witnesses it all, and Željko Maganjić, a photojournalist, described that episode in one of our reports from Slavonia. A few days later I asked Kramarić, the mayor of Osijek, if he knew about it, and what was it really about? He said: "I know." What happened? A petty criminal, that this policeman had ran afoul of officially, now found an opportunity to take his revenge. Of course, to my question: "How are you thinking of resolving that?", there was no real answer. Or at least there was no answer that could be used in practice. What were the bright points in Split in those war years? In the 1990s in general, when we're talking about that period from 1991 to 1995? There were things... You know how in a war some people show their worst face, the worst side of their character, and some show the best of themselves. When the war broke out in Bosnia in 1992, refugees started coming. They were wandering around. It was the most normal sight to see other people taking them into their homes. "Why would you sleep in that gymnasium?! Come with me." That was really happening. As much as there were brutalities towards the citizens of Split, the turning of heads away from what was happening, there were examples of quite the opposite. There were examples of human solidarity that weren't just for show. Life, the master-director, makes sure not to make the whole story pathetic. Split was not a town that was directly involved in the war. It wasn't on the front line. It was some sort of a suburb of the war. Where those from the background got to have their ball. And they are always worse than those on the front lines. But sometimes there was also joy in the town in those dark years. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to survive. What helped you to survive the war? My friends and Stefanel. Feral and Stefanel. Stefanel that at the time was run by Miro Bogdanović. Where people gathered even during the sirens and during blackout. People came there and it operated as a sort of a release valve; it was a place for hanging out, joking and drinking. For everything that the young enjoy. Could you compare, on any basis, Split today, Split in the 1990s and Split in the 1980s. Is it a more relaxed town, more tolerant? And in what way? In short. Of course, it was darkest in the 1990s. Actually, that never became clear to me. Why some people feel such need to demonstrate their love for the country, their patriotism, through violence, through humiliation of other people. And why they feel invited to behave the way people from other towns that were really hurt - people from Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Zadar and so on - never behaved. I'm even inclined to think that, when all of that happened in 1995, the burning down of houses, the mistreatment of the old people in villages, the plundering... I don't think those were people who had had the same thing happen to them in 1991 when Krajina was established, and who were then taking their revenge. I don't think it was a question of revenge. I think that the cases of those who had had their house burned down later going out and burning other people's houses are rare. I think that on both sides it was done only by hooligans and pyromaniacs. Thugs. When it comes to the 1990s one mainly remembers Split by those dark things that were happening. Although, of course, there was also Slobodna Dalmacija and there was Feral, there was the work of Nikola Visković, Tonči Majić, Miro Bogdanović and all of the other people who remained... Human. There was resistance. Resistance to that infective madness. And in the 1980s, Split was a town that could hardly imagine that it would sink so low. I think that it will take a long time to recover from it all. What is stereotypically being said is not the real problem. It's not the change of the inhabitants, not that the wild people have come and thrown out the tame ones. The savages didn't come from somewhere else. They were already here. Those who went wild, they went wild here. It didn't come from Bosnia, or from Herzegovina, or from the Dalmatian Hinterland, or from the islands. And it didn't come from Australia of New Zealand. As for Split in the 2000s... A confused place. A town that cannot find its place in this predatory capitalism. OK, it's not an exception in that sense. But I think that some things are felt more strongly here. At the end of the day, the bad city management that we had throughout these 20 years paved the way for this caricature of government that we have today. Today when you hear the name Split, I'm afraid that the first association is not even Hajduk anymore, but Kerum. Mrduša Donja. Mrduša Donja. In your opinion, when did the war end? It hasn't ended. I don't think that it's ended. People are more or less behaving as if it's still going on. It will end, perhaps, one day when people in Croatia and people in Bosnia and in Serbia, everywhere where there was war happening, decide so. Of course, this doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen easily. When they finally become capable of listening to other people and to their experiences. When they are capable questioning what was presented to them as the one and righteous truth. When they are capable of looking one another in the eye and of talking about it all normally. I think very little has been done, almost nothing, in order to make that happen. All of the states are playing with those who were hurt the most in the war. Everybody's only mentioning their own nation's sufferings, their own victims. Everybody's only looking for their own missing. We now have the first of the generations that have been formed in these systems, who do not remember anything from before, who do not have anything to compare this with. Apart from something that's happening at this moment somewhere abroad. But those are some completely different experiences. That means that they cannot make this comparison with the 1980s, the 1970s and so on. They are taught to see everything through a prism of nationalistic-religious identity, and to interpret everything through it. That way of thinking is very hard to break, once it takes root. All in all, I think that one fair lesson in history, in all that was happening from 1991 until the end of the war, until today - because the manipulations with war are not stopping - would only be a start. Some kind of a start. I'm not sure to what extent people who went through it are really interested in it. Or how tired they are from everything. It's been 15 years since the war. Life is now hurting them by other means. They're impoverished. They've been humiliated in all possible ways. So perhaps they don't even want to deal with that story of war. How much it will interest the younger generations, that remains an open question. I hope that some, who are more curious than us, will appear. Some who are more open than us. How interested are your children, for example? Well, they're interested. Perhaps because it's talked about in the house, it's commented on, because I write about it. Because that story is an integral part of what I do in the newspapers. And in the "Melodies of the Fight and Transition". They can see it at home, from a perspective that is not usual. Other children mostly don't have that, so my children are perhaps more interested. I'm interested only in encouraging their curiosity and openness. So that nobody can sell them their hollow stories and one-sided interpretations. That's it. Thank you for talking to us. Thank you. Have I bored you? No. It was good. You can cut this, shorten it as you like...