Every morning, I go to a hotel downtown Dubrovnik and write. I sit in the empty restaurant that overlooks a beach where crowds of people bathe and suntan. After sunset, they flood the crammed and crooked streets of the old town and enjoy their dinners, legitimately unworried. They don't want to be heartbroken by this town's heartbreaking past and nobody sane could blame them. They paid for their two weeks of careless enjoyment a.k.a. the remixed new age happiness, and their money brings profit to local people, most of whom have spent years trying to forget and move on. Somehow, all that seems like the joint triumph of Apple, Elle and the Economist, a triumph that came at a price. The price is the loss of authenticity, the right proportion of buzz and quiet, of drama and poetry which has emanated from every corner of the town for centuries. This is now gone. The loss of the town's omnipresent poetry has been tragically predominated by the loss of its prominent poet, Milan Milišić - the first civilian victim of the Serbian siege of Dubrovnik in 1991. He was a Serb, so his tragic death symptomatically echoed the thousand-times' repeated memento: if you set out to destroy others, you will destroy yourself in the first place.
I believe that to its many writers, Dubrovnik of the 1980s must have been the same what Paris of the 1920s was to Hemingway, Joyce and Fitzgerald. A moveable feast and a lifetime inspiration, a place of passionate debates and unshakeable friendships fostered by clashing ideas, but shared ideals. Thinking of this, I wonder whether in today's world, one can find a place of similar quality anymore. I could somewhat sense it when I lived in Kosovska Mitrovica, the oppression that generates hope, the shadow of a tragedy that challenges intellect, and the insecurity that nourishes talent.
The more I read about Milan Milišić, the stronger nostalgia I feel after an era I could not experience, but, strangely enough, I also feel a unique kind of a connection with him and his intellectual companions. One of them asked me to go and put a rose on his tomb, so I did. Milišić was a persecuted anticommunist, so I am convinced that if he was in Prague on the 21st of August, he would put a rose on the 1968 invasion victims' memorial.
Walking back from the Orthodox cemetery of Dubrovnik, I pass by another crowded beach. I think of all the shameful and unprecedented aggressions that take place in the world today. In most cases, these, too, will go unpunished, and the world will slowly forget - who could blame it?
I am a writer, so being worried or heartbroken when overlooking a sunlit crowded beach is my job. It makes me slightly less worried if I can at least write about it. When you have the time, take a minute to think of innocent victims - we wouldn't possibly be here without them, we wouldn't have the lives we have, worried or not. If you missed the 21st of August, don't panic. Today is a pretty good day for it too.