Saturday, March 11, 2006

What a time to be in Serbia

Last night I was able to meet Mila Djindjic (the easiest way to pronounce Djindjic is to replace the Dj's with a soft "g" or "j" and the "c" with a "ch" -- just say "ginger" and change it to "ginjich"), the mother of the slain Serbian prime minister, Zoran Djindjic (his picture is below).

Last week, she approached the reporter I'm consulting and invited her to sit with her at a public event. Then Mila agreed to an exclusive interview. That interview will air on Monday here in Serbia.

Today, Saturday, I set out to explore Belgrade and when I looked up and saw the Serbian government buildings, I decided to take a look at the spot where the prime minister was shot. I called the news team's director, Misha, and he talked me in the direction of the correct spot -- plus he let me know that just moments earlier the reports started coming from The Hague that Slobodan Milosevic was dead. Misha warned me to be extra careful on the streets because there was a chance there might be demonstrations or other occurances.

I took some pictures and video from the steps at the backdoor of the government building where Djindjic got hit by the assassin's bullets. I made a few shots in the direction of the building a block away and the third-floor window from where the bullets came. Almost immediately, the policeman at the end of the block whistled me toward him. I asked him if I could take pictures and he shook his head and waved his finger in the international sign of "Don't even think about it."

I circled around the building, walked up the street and walked into the park between the government buildings (see the view in the direction of where Djindjic was shot) and the building where the shooter was laying in wait. After I snapped off some shots and rolled some video, I went to the front of the "shooter's" building and tried to gain entrance. I wanted to look out that third-floor window (it's in the center of the picture below). The building was locked -- it has something to do with engineering, but I'm not sure exactly how. The security police in the parking lot told me to come back on Monday when the building is open.

I walked around the building again and discovered a swank restaurant adjoining the building. There was a tall, young man doing some maintenance outside, so I approached him and asked him if he speaks English.

"A little," he said. When I mentioned the window from which the assassin fired at Djindjic, he pointed it out to me. I somehow let him know that I was trying to get inside the building. At that point, the young man invited me inside where he showed me a wall that had once been an entrance to the main building, but it was plastered over now.

Then he walked me all the way through the restaurant to a table for four in the far corner. He spoke mostly Serbian, but his occassional words in English made it possible for me to understand him. He was showing me the table where the three key conspirators met every day for a year while the planned the assassination. The mastermind, Dusan Spasojevic, sat in one chair. Across from him sat the head of a secret military-style unit, Milorad Lukovic ‘Legija’ -- the man currently on trial for the assassination and, next to him, the man believed to be the trigger man.

Then the man spoke in Serbian and told more stories that I couldn't understand -- except for the words "cosa nostra," "mafia," "my father," and "my boss." If ever I wished I could speak Serbian. So I called Boske and asked him to talk to the restaurant man and have him repeat the story. Afterwards, Boske told me that the man bought the restaurant after Djindjic died and repeated what I thought I had heard about who sat where.

Then the man asked if I wanted something to drink. He served me a Coca Cola Light (Diet Coke) in a glass with ice. While I sipped, he used sign language and Serbian to make it clear to me that he had been one of the many "usual suspects" the police rounded up after the killing. He was in jail for 13 days. He told me more, but I didn't understand it. Then he showed me a newspaper with picture of Spasojevic on the front page. Spasojevic, by the way, had been killed by police shortly after the Djindjic killing. The story was in Serbian, so I couldn't tell what the story was about, except that it also had pictures of singer, Svetlana Raznatovic, known as "Ceca." She's a very popular singer and the widow of another notorious strong arm, Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan. My new friend mentioned that Ceca had been arrested also.

Then it occurred to me that I had the tools with me to discover what he was saying -- eventually, at least. I whipped out my little digital video camera and a table-top tripod and sat them and my friend at the table where the conspiracy took place. He agreed to an interview profided I would not broadcast it in Serbia. I told him the video would be for my friends and family to view.

I asked him to repeat the stories he had told me. He did and he said much more.

Tomorrow, I'll go to the TV station where I have an interpreter assigned to me. Tomorrow, I'll learn what my friend had to say. Tonight, however, I'm going back to the restaurant for dinner. He assures me his girlfriend will be there and that she speaks English. It should be interesting.

In fact, I must get dressed now so I can begin part two of my adventure. Posted by Picasa

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