The day I met Julija she was playing cheerfully with her baby sister on the floor inside their room in Kragujevac, a small town in southern Serbia. When she saw me – a stranger -- on the doorstep, she smiled widely and stretched out her hands, offering a hug. As I held her, I could hear how difficult it was for her to breathe. I looked at her, she smiled and touched my face with her hands and only then did I see that Julija’s fingers were webbed.
The recent explosions that apparently destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria were yet another grim example of how the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) uses conventional weapons to further its agenda.
The ‘West’ is a concept that flourished during the Cold War. Then it was West against East in the form of the Soviet empire. The East was evil against which all democratic countries – read West – were called on to fight.
The United Kingdom has been accused
of “sleepwalking” into the Ukraine crisis – and the accusation comes from no less than the House of Lords, not usually considered a place of critical analysis.
The 100-year anniversary of World War I (1914-18) may have come and gone, but the role of Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip – the assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – remains controversial in the turbulent history of the Balkans. For some he was a terrorist, for others a hero.
Waters have receded in Serbia after the worst flooding the country has seen in 120 years, and something new has surfaced, apart from devastated fields and property – censorship of the internet.
In the early morning hours, as hundreds of people grab their breakfast at a busy bakery in Beogradska Street in the Serbian capital, a very special basket quickly fills up with croissants, rolls and breads. It is the ‘solidarity basket’.
This year, summer in the Balkans has been nice and warm, leaving behind a land of plenty, and enough food on the table. Except that people are talking about tomatoes “that don’t taste as they used to,” watermelons that are too watery, cabbages that are hard to slice through and onions that do not sting your eyes.
The global economic crisis has not hit Serbia for the first time, but this year it has bitten into Serbian culture. State subsidies for theatres, festivals, films and exhibitions have almost hit the bottom. State support for films is down to zero.
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church publicly crossed a line recently when two of its top clergymen took part in a Belgrade rally with messages amounting to direct threats against the lives of government officials.
Up to a quarter of women in Europe have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives, according to the Council of Europe. But despite the widespread nature of the phenomenon, more often than not we ignore it. A short video launched last month in Serbia managed to break this silence.
On Apr. 19, Serbia and Kosovo put years of animosity aside when their prime ministers Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaci initialled the first ever agreement between Belgrade and Pristina that should lead to normalisation of relations between the two former enemies.
Stojan Kovacevic spent last weekend going about his usual routine in his tiny dwelling in the village of Grocka, near Belgrade: cleaning the kitchen and bedroom, going to the local green market and watching TV.
Renato Grbic is a simple Belgrade fisherman, who grew up on the shores of the Danube River in Belgrade, but he performs an additional job that he is not paid for.
A popular Serbian proverb quips that when it comes to politics there are as many opinions as there are people in this central European country of seven million.