Monday, November 29, 2010

Branko’s Bridge in Belgrade

We trudge across the Old City of Belgrade until we reach the river Sava. The city-line breaches and buildings veer off to two sides along the river like a zipper, leaving a gulping slab of concrete thrusting ahead. On the other side is the Usce Shopping Center - Usce means confluence, celebrating the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube where the founders first settled. To the right of the shopping center stands a high rising glass-front building; Usce Tower, formerly known as the CK building.

View accross Branko Bridge
towards the CK building
      “Are you ready to cross the bridge?” Draga asks with a pressing hint of urgency in her voice.
     “Ready to cross a bridge?” I reply. “What’s the big deal?”
She stops dead in her tracks, looks at me from under a indignant frown, palms turned upwards. “This is Branko’s Bridge!”
     “Okay,” I say slowly, “Who’s Branko?”
     “Where were you in April 1999?”
     “Panama, if I remember correctly. South America somewhere.” She starts walking again. “I was right here, together with hundreds of others, preventing NATO from bombing our main bridge.”

CK building on fire during the NATO attacks of 1999
 Milosevic didn’t want to either relinquish Serbia’s historic cradle Kosovo or stop killing Albanians, and the allies bombed his capital to persuade him. It took no great effort to mobilize citizens into forming a human shield, believing they were not an instrument of war but rather bold martyrs defending their homes and infrastructure.

     “It’s a hell of a thing to have your town bombed,” I say.
     “And it wasn’t Milosevic’ town, or NATO’s town. It’s our town. This city is us,” she says slowly. “That’s why I was on this bridge. I had a sign on my back with a bull’s eye painted on it. It said I’M THE TARGET.”

The allied forces shot 12 missiles at the CK building but the bastard wouldn’t budge. Though heavily damaged, it stood as proud that day as the Serbian citizens on Branko’s Bridge. Suddenly I’m filled with pride, as one of this city’s many white angels leads me across the Sava.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...