Vanessa Herrick's Kosovo Report
Vanessa Herrick
is a Canadian journalist reporting in Kosovo and Montenegro. You can reach her at vanessa_herrick
Posted 07.30.08
Pristina, Kosovo



PRISTINA, KOSOVO | [EDITOR'S NOTE: Vanessa Herrick is a new contributor to the Log Cabin Chronicles. A Canadian, she's now based in Pristina, Kosovo, which just became independent of Serbia, much to the Serbs' anger. Look for some good stuff from Vanessa coming out of this potential international powder keg. These informal report will give a glimpse of what life there looks like to hard-working North American reporter who is a Stranger in a Strange Land...]

PRISTINA, KOSOVO | I'm back in Kosovo after two rather uneventful but restful weeks in Podgorica, Montenegro. I now speak five words in Serbian and about seven in Albanian.

Seeing as how I can barely differentiate, I made the crucial error of thanking an Albanian taxi driver in Serbian. This does not endear you to anyone in Kosovo.

Must be more careful.

As many of you have no doubt read, Karadzic, the Butcher of Bosnia, has been "captured."

I use the quotes for good reason.

The Serbian government has known for years where he was, and I would bet my life on the fact that they also know exactly where Mladic, Karadzic's right hand man, is.

How to explain why Karadzic has been free for so long, living happily working as a holistic healer (oh, the irony) in Serbia, thirteen years after slaughtering thousands of Bosniaks?

It's simple, really. Serbians do not think of him as a war criminal but a hero. This is, of course, not true of all Serbs, but enough of them that there are huge street protests right now in Serbia over the arrest.


I have a good friend, someone I adore, someone who has helped me enormously since I have been here who explained to me recently that Karadzic is not really a bad guy.

Not really a bad guy.

I was speechless. My initial reaction was to fly off the handle and launch into a righteous tirade about love thy brother blah blah blah.

But I have learned a thing or two in my travels.

The most important being that while I could never agree that this monster of a human being is misunderstood -- hard to misunderstand 8000 bodies -- I have not lived what these people have.

I cannot understand (thankfully) the generations of hatred.

I have never watched a member of my family be pulled from a car and shot in the head.

Perhaps that would provide me with some insight.

So I listened.

I shut up and let her explain her reasons for saying something so absurd. She, of course, does not agree with the slaughter but her point of view was that he is a scapegoat for the crimes of Milosevic. He was the philosopher, not the killer.

Something interesting happened.

When faced with my silence rather than the expected tirade of Western condemnation, she faltered. When I refused the bait, she couldn't muster up enough national bullshit to try and convince me. She stopped talking and we looked at one another for a while.

We then changed the subject.

Violence is a vicious cycle. One that is so entrenched in the culture here that there are actual cultural procedures to follow when you are killing someone, or avenging a death.

If a member of your family is killed, you are obliged to kill a male member of the family of the murderer.

This normally goes back and forth a few times, and once the mother of the initial victim decides to end it, she invited the initial killer (if still alive) to her home

And makes him dinner.

Welcome to the Balkans.