Across Continents

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Dinner in Karaburma

A small flat in an apartment block. Homely. I’d taken a bus from the centre of Belgrade out into the suburb of Karaburma. It’d been evening rush hour, packed. I’d reckoned on about fifteen stops but, pre-occupied with jostling for space, I soon lost count. Slowly the bus began to empty, until finally all the remaining passengers disembarked. I followed, to be greeted by my host as I stepped down onto the pavement.

Dinner was a substantial affair, chicken, pasta, potatoes and salad. Joined a little later by a journalist friend, we talked at length about what it was like to be Serbian, to live in Serbia. How it differed from Yugoslavia. Communism, it seemed, had provided more than just reassuring certainty, you had somewhere to live, a job, and the streets were clean. And a Yugoslavian passport had afforded considerable freedom to travel.

The break-up of Yugoslavia had meant de-facto confinement, for Serbians at least. Visas were difficult to come by. Evidence of employment was often required, barring what I suspected was a good number working ’on the black’. And even if you could get a visa, for many travel was unaffordable. They felt isolated. A generation with little knowledge of the world beyond their borders. Not an argument for returning to the old State. Perhaps more a desire for recognition that they had put their recent turbulent past behind them. They wished to be part of Europe once more.

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