Lazar Stojanović

(Beograd, 1944. – 2017.), filmski i kazališni redatelj, kritičar, urednik, autor više dokumentarnih filmova, disident. Nakon studija psihologije upisuje filmsku režiju na beogradskoj akademiji (Fakultetu dramskih umjetnosti). Već kao student treće godine asistent je Aleksandru Petroviću na filmu ”Sakupljači perja”. Aktivno sudjeluje u masovnim studentskim demonstracijama u lipnju 1968. godine. Njegov diplomski rad na FDU, film ”Plastični Isus” (1971.), u kojem provokativno kritizira totalitarizme 20. stoljeća: fašizam i komunizam, naišao je na žestoku kritiku tadašnjih vlasti. Film je zabranjen, a on osuđen na trogodišnju zatvorsku kaznu (1973-1976.). Po izlasku iz zatvora teško dolazi do posla, a kada radi najčešće ne potpisuje svoje autorstvo. Posljednjih 15 godina pretežno je živio i radio u Sjedinjenim Američkim Državama. Tijekom ratova 90-tih godina prošlog stoljeća bio je aktivan u mirovnim i antiratnim organizacijama. Njegov dokumentarni film ”Škorpioni: spomenar” iz 2007. godine ponovo je podigao buru eksplicitnim scenama likvidacija Bošnjaka od strane srpskih paravojnih jedinica u Trnovu, u Bosni, 1995. godine.



Please, introduce yourself with your full name and the date and the place of your birth. My name is Lazar Stojanović. I was born in Belgrade on March 1, in 1944, in a family whose members were neither workers nor peasants, but my late father was a doctor and my late mother was a geography and history teacher. Their nationality is also Serbian. My father is originally from Sikirica near Paračin and my mother is from Kopljar near Aranđelovac. However, this never defined their political beliefs, nor did it represent the cultural matrix by which my late parents lived. What is your occupation and what do you do? I am an idler, or an unemployed director. I do all the things that irritate me and all the things that I love. It is a very wide span of things, from which one can come to a conclusion that I am not an expert at anything. It seems to me that regardless of the concept of a Renaissance man being impossible where we live, and that's why the knowledge funds and many different theories metastasized so much that it is impossible to comprehend them the way that people during previous centuries could. As long as we're motivated by our curiosity, we have the urge, and then it becomes our duty, to be well informed about what is happening in culture, science, political life and primarily in that certain social-psychological process in our immediate environment. So, if I can say so, 99 per cent of my time is spent on it. A for the way I make my living, which I still do, regardless of my old age, I have no pension, although I am at that age when I should probably have it. Trades I sell, services I sell changed significantly during my life. What I did the longest, were the media jobs, primarily journalism. So, I pursued them in all the media and in all capacities; from the field reporter to the main editor. Then it also included very different forms of writing like essays, like film reviews, polemics, prose, satire. I also wrote poetry, but I never published it. I was also actively engaged in graphic design when it was done with simpler and more primitive means than today. But at that time, it depended much more on the idea you had, on what you wanted to make. And, it goes without saying, I painted. I thought it would be something I would study in life, but then I quit, so I haven’t been doing it for decades now. And nothing is saved. It is something I pursued the longest, something I teach. Today, it is also something that is my occasional profession. When somebody hires me to write something, I do it. However, what I do more regularly, and it is directly the trade I sell, is translating, especially a less common form of translating, the simultaneous translation. I also performed it the same way I did journalism, in all capacities. Therefore, I initially went through all the stages of development within that job. From an escort-translator, the one that takes you around, who either does some patrol or takes them shopping, through a seminar-translator, who usually performs the consecutive, hears what somebody says then translates it at some seminars and meetings, to simultaneous translating, which entails this slight schizophrenia - it is when you listen and speak at the same time. It is something I do to this day. I find it particularly useful for one reason, which I think is rare, and it is, when I'm not able to do it anymore, when I'm not able to automatically say in the other language what I listen in one language, then I'll know I'm too old and I shouldn’t do it anymore. It is that one job. Of course, whenever there's a chance, whenever there's a budget involved, whenever there's a good will and the conditions, I do what I was primarily educated for, and it is to make an occasional movie or a theatrical production. Or something that I also classify as performance or theatre; I get politically engaged in a practical manner. I think that would be all. The things which brought me food in life, I changed jobs and professions very easily. And I loved them. What I believe I did the best in my life, was being a bartender. I was a very good bartender in England. People loved it. It is probably connected with my first college study, it is psychology. Because the art of working at a bar is not in how skilled you are or how successfully or attractively you mix those drinks and turn them into cocktails, but in the way you talk to drunks and how much they'd love you. One other thing, which is not a common profession but I invented it travelling through the Middle East and looking for the most convenient job to do. I traded semi-precious stones and small diamonds called bort. They are 0.3 carat diamonds. I mostly traded in India. The place where the cutting is the cheapest and production the best is Bombay and the market is the whole world. It was something I had to learn for that occasion. Then when I finished… For a long time, I worked for international organisations primarily for the United Nations, but also for OESCE before that, and so. When I finished that, sometime in 2006, and returned to America, then I took a good look around and thought about what I could do there, what was going well there. At that time, the real estates business was flourishing. Then I studied for that, passed the relevant exams. I was an apprentice for a year, got the certificate and the state permit, because this job is licensed by the state. A broker for the State of New York. I supported myself doing this for several years. Concisely put, the answer to your question is that whenever there is a need to provide for everyday life, I think about the most convenient profession and if I can do it. I learn how to do it and I do it well. And when there is an opportunity to do what I like to do and what I was trained for, I never miss such opportunity. One moment, I apologise. If we could just, the glass... Certainly, certainly. Besides, when you talk to me, my sentences are endless. It is like the ending in Joyce's Ulysses, no stops and commas. It will be a problem in editing, I know, but there it is! This is a 5-minute answer to a trivial question. (shrugs his shoulders) Don’t worry we will jump cut it. You have already mentioned, but I will expand on my question. Where are your parents from originally, your family? My grandfather, my father's father was a teacher in Sikirica, near Paračin, where my father was born. Then my father completed his medical studies and got politically active in the Party of Ljubo Davidović, in the Democrats, before the war. Because of that, he couldn’t get a job. The only way to get a job, because at that time, and it has since recently been so, the army was politically neutral. The political orientation didn’t matter. He was hired by the Royal army as a military doctor. And as World War II started, he was taken into captivity. There he treated... Being a bit headstrong, he was sent to a Russian camp as a doctor. There, he caught the spotted typhus. He was supposed to die but didn't. Then Milan Nedić conducted the exchange - sent the healthy doctors there, took the sick ones out. My father was sent back to Serbia in 1943. There, the Chetniks immediately tried to mobilise him, which instantly made him join the Partisans. At the end of the war, the Partisans gave him his rank back. Afterwards, he was a military doctor for the YNA, but not a member of the Communist Party. It all lasted until the end of 1950. At that time, he held the rank of major. See how little he advanced, he joined the war with the rank of captain. Since tuberculosis was his speciality, tuberculosis and all lung conditions, before that the internal medicine and so, then he was the head of the sanatorium in Skrad, Gorski Kotar, in Croatia. He was technically in the head position, but not by his military rank, though. After the Informbureau, in 1950 he joined the Party, believing that it was then a different kind of Party. In a way that was similar to the way I joined the League of Communists, thinking, after Ranković was removed, that it was some other Party. Then he was promoted to the rank of colonel. We moved to Belgrade. I finished high school and college there, while elementary school I finished in Skrad. That first service of his, I was born in Belgrade, but soon afterwards we went to Skopje, where he was the head of the Military Hospital in Skopje. So, the first language I spoke was Macedonian. After that, we moved to Gorski kotar, then to Belgrade again. Therefore, my experience of the country I lived in was in fact Yugoslavia, and not Serbia. And I immediately started speaking other languages that were spoken in Yugoslavia, because in Gorski kotar they speak a mix of Slovenian and Croatian. So, among ourselves we speak something that resembles Slovenian, and with foreigners something that resembles Croatian. I think it largely encouraged my interest in languages. When it comes to Slavic languages that are spoken in Yugoslavia, I spoke all of them. I don't do it anymore. It was very useful for my journalistic jobs. Especially when I worked as an agency reporter because I could follow Ljubljana's "Delo" as well as "Nova Makedonija"... As for my mother, her father was a farmer. But, an advanced farmer, in a sense of an agriculturally professional man. A very wealthy man who owned half of the village, that village Kopljari, who educated his children and was a very respectable citizen. I should probably say a peasant, but because most of the time he spent in Aranđelovac and Belgrade and Mladenovac, he is a citizen after all. To end up killed in World War II, by none other than the Partisans, for family and property reasons. A man who shared his first and last name, Vojin Gajić, respectively, was later declared a national hero. A pre-war communist who was helped by my grandpa out of some family vanity. There is that rule - don't ever do any good to anyone because it will come back to haunt you. He was slaughtered. Which is a rare occasion, for the Partisans to slaughter someone. I used that story, which is told by my, at the time, alive grandmother, his wife, in my movie "Plastic Jesus", which also caused some controversy. Certainly, when the political situation got settled, and it was 3 to 4 years ago, grandpa was rehabilitated and that is all right now. However, his murderer still has a statue in that village. It is a proof to our divided soul. It was my mother's father. She graduated from college. The first job she got, was a substitute, a teacher at a commercial school in Niš, where my father also worked. They got, so to say, involved, got married. Then the war started. However, it wasn't until after the war that they got the opportunity to have children. So, my parents were parents at a later age. They were 36 and 31 when I was born, then two years later, my brother. This is roughly the story about my family. What was your personal feeling and attitude connected to World War II, the Partisan Movement, the Independent State of Croatia, the Chetnik Movement by Draža Mihajlović, the government of Milan Nedić? Did your attitudes and emotions change during time and in what way? As a child, in elementary school already, I grew in an atmosphere of a fierce communist propaganda. I became aware of what was happening only after the Informbureau, after I turned six, seven years old. I learned early on what censorship was, what one is and isn't allowed to say. In a quite unusual way: one issue of the magazine "Borba" on its first page showed Aleksandar Ranković's photo, and because I loved to draw, I coloured it by adding Ranković moustache, beard and glasses. My father, as he returned from work, saw it. Well, I shoved it to him, bragging about my interesting drawing. That made him really furious. He turned white. He said: "Don't ever do it again. What you did is horrible." He creased the papers, and since it was winter, he threw them into the fire. It was a cognitive shock for me. If I, in an attempt to enhance a photo, did something that was forbidden because I changed it, damaged it or whatever, how come, when he threw the same thing into the fire he didn't do something even worse?! And I couldn't get an explanation, couldn't even to ask for it because my father was really overwhelmed because of it. So, for the first time, when I was five, six years old, I learned what was and what wasn't allowed. And, obviously, believed, just like anybody else, ethat this was the best of all the possible worlds, that it was one perfect country, that neither Russians nor Americans liked us, that dirty capitalists were there, and the state communists there. And that we were something special, something particularly valuable and particularly different. I grew up in Skrad in Gorski kotar, where I lived in great friendship with my surroundings. Primarily, because my father, a doctor, treated all those people and he was very loved and appreciated. But, come Sunday, all the kids, secretly, go through the grove to church on a mass, but not me. I could never understand that. Then, not in a sense of some hostility or tension, but differences occurred and I had to think about them. Of course, my solution to that matter was that it was all a bunch of nonsense. Who on earth believes in some church, some gods. And why would I? I tried to convince myself that I was superior in that matter, but socially and psychologically looking, I was inferior because all of them did it but not me. After that, when I was ten, I came to Belgrade. And it was only then that I realised, again talking with my kids, little thugs mostly. It was the time when all Belgrade was divided into blocks and gangs. I first went to school there, on Cvetni square. It is now the Eighth Gymnasium, then it was the Third??? Then, near the British Embassy I continued high school. The gangs here were in Mišarska street, then in Sarajevska street, then, of course, who'd dare to go to Dušanovac. It was there, out of sheer need for protest, and nothing more, no ideological content, there were many Chetnik outbursts among those kids. And I heard of the Ustashe and started to think about them only when I came to Belgrade, not while I was in Croatia. Something like that was unheard of during those years. So, if you showed any sign of affection, understanding, or even interest in that, something really ugly would happen to you. So, it wasn't something that could be seen. Certainly, in such a pattern, in that cliché that they were the national enemies, the fascist traitors and all that, it wasn't a matter to give it a thought. I was one hundred per cent committed to the Partisans. Those were my drawings. The Chetniks and the Ustashe went to some other compartment. Up until (thinking), the end of the 1950s, the beginning of the 1960s, that was my opinion. Then I joined some labour actions, I was even in charge of the local ones. I was really committed. At that time there were... I saw Milovan Đilas, because it was during those years, a man who was like my second father later in life, I saw him as a national enemy, as something not to make any contact with, or anything for that matter. Then the Party came with its self-management and with the attempt to define some sort of Yugoslavian form of socialism that would be different from the government socialism that prevailed over the entire Eastern Bloc. There was a tendency to develop self-management in schools, and among the youth. I was one of its proponents then. That was my first popularity in Belgrade, separating the school life, culture, studying and sports from the politics and ideology. There was no antagonism involved because I was also perceived as a part of this political trend where we were all doing the same thing, some in this, some in that department. But very soon, it became apparent in practice that there were ideological pressures aiming at influencing this sphere of social life of the youth. And one type of the youth resistance against such political pressures. So, this was something that I had already, aged sixteen, started to realise and experience. And to actively participate in, trying to widen this human sphere within politics. And I had no interest in the political sphere. When I came to college, I understood the post-war history better, as well as the pre-war history. Before that... My father's attempts to tell me what it was like before the war... Both my mother and my father took part in the student protests before the war and were very active democratic students, mostly of social-democratic provenance. I saw it as an annoyance, a nonsense and "what do some old people...", but we went through the revolution and we are now building something else. Our topics are completely different. Who is that Pera Živković with his 6 January Dictatorship?! And what does it all mean? It's worthless. Many years after, I realised that it's a matter of arithmetic proportions. If you are referring to something that was happening twenty years ago and you are only sixteen, then it's a remote past to you. If you are fifty, sixty years old and talking about something that was happening twenty years ago, it was yesterday. I am saying this because it always comes to my mind when I'm talking to young people about the events from the past, about the 1960s, the 1970s in these areas, because I know, by some psychological default, that those young people must have the same feeling as I did when my father told me about the events between the two wars. That is how I went through those times of opportunists. That is the time to be quiet and when one knows it is wiser to keep quiet. A man does what... Reads what he can get hold of, gives his best friend some forbidden book to read, but keeps quiet because he knows he'll be punished if he doesn't. Then, we hardly knew anything because it was forbidden to talk about Goli otok or the terrors during World War II. A lot was known about the fascist terror but not about that other terror that follows the revolution, the so-called revolutionary, which is something that is inherent to the revolution definition. One can hardly have a revolution without it, but it was kept hidden and it wasn't known. Not only in connection to the events in Yugoslavia, but before all, in connection to the October Revolution and the events in Russia because it was sacred. Regardless of the different political position Yugoslavia held in international relations, the attitude towards the revolution in Yugoslavia remained completely the same. Lenin and Stalin, whose policies we don't share, but nothing about the camps, nothing about the persecutions, nothing about the terrors. There was no opposition literature that would pour into Yugoslavia. It went on until the first shift of political conditions in Yugoslavia, which occurred in economy primarily, after Tito's speech in Split in 1962, when there was some more private initiative, the possibility to establish small businesses, for people to take out some items to the market, to sell them, and so on. Something similar to Lenin's NEP. It was a circumstance that makes one joyful, but not something that would change my way of life. But it was good. It remained that way until 1966, when Ranković was removed, when all of us said: "Wow!" I was a second-year student then. It seemed to be the end of the police governance over the country. It seemed that all the talk about humanisation, the spreading of democracy, the improvement of our property status, and above all, cultural freedoms, could be managed better and through the existing apparatus. Many years before that, even since high school, they pushed me into the Party and I refused to do it, at this moment I decided to join the Party and try to use this platform to advocate the ideas I believed in and this democratisation of sorts, primarily, I'd say, civil freedoms. At that time, I wasn't particularly aware of the serious threat to human rights but to those civil freedoms you'd find in any civilised constitution - freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of press, which I found the most important, and still think it may be the most important. As soon as I got involved, I began to act that way, I began to write that way. So, my friends and I reached the student movement in 1968. We consciously and explicitly talked about the Party being ours and not theirs and that our mission in the Party would be to act liberally. As many books had already been read by that time... I am not referring to myself only, but to the whole generation that was just hungry for what was coming either from the historic analysis, some Russian dissident literature or from what was forbidden between the two wars. Then we started reading everything that was illegal and dangerous to carry into the country, but was important to us. It was when I became engaged. I'd say I still do it today if there are possibilities and if somebody accepts what I do, regarding the protection of civil liberties, promotion of human rights and the attempt to, in that widely conceived world of human rights, to act and to try to improve that position. In relation to the rights that are wider than religious, ethnic and political prosecutions, including those relating to education, the health care, living conditions, work conditions, organising not only workers but every significant social group that has an interest that can be described as different than the majority. I would define all of it as some sort of democratisation. Because it never happened in Serbia, didn't even happen in Yugoslavia, although it seemed at one point, with Ante Marković, that such a possibility exists. Then it seemed once again, with late Zoran Đinđić, whom I knew well, that such a possibility exists on a political level, as an option for Serbia. It didn't happen. And it is still referred to as something we would like to see happening, but it didn't happen. That is more or less that evolution. I think that the important part of your question referred to people who were engaged on the fascist side during World War II, or at least to those who weren't engaged on the communist side. I spent a lot of time, especially in London, with late Borislav Pekić. I knew not only his story of a little man who tried to get involved in a democratic way, but not within SKOJ, and who was subject to repression because of it. I knew, because I cooperated with them, that there was a strong democratic opposition abroad, in our diaspora. The opposition that doesn't only come to what the Yugoslavian propaganda that time was claiming, to the Ustashe and the Chetniks. That platform seemed useful to me, operational. The values that it promoted were for the most part the values I advocated. The most important man in that story was late Vane Ivanović. The network that Desimir Tošić, who was then the main editor at "Naša reč", promoted was developed across the western world. That organisation was neither powerful nor wealthy, but it sure did function. And it was attractive to a very significant part of our diaspora. So, that story didn't come down to the Ustashe and the Chetniks. I tried to inform about it and promote that fact in Yugoslavia against the government propaganda. In the context of the values that the democrats advocate, one of the most important is the rule of law. For the basic elements of the rule of law to be available, you must have a legal system you can rely on, you must trust, if not the court proceedings, then at least in the purpose of those judgements and in the effects of those proceedings. When the review of the history began entailing a serious effort for the fascists of our history to be rehabilitated and perhaps to provide their descendants with that kind of ancestral assets that would serve them to strengthen their present position. Because democracy allows that. Today, we have prominently fascist affiliations in the political arena. My standpoint was that anything that was the revolutionary justice was also based on more or less imaginary, which I was also a victim to, verdicts, proceedings. Or there were terrors without any verdicts or proceedings. I strongly supported the effort to revoke the legal effect of those misjudgements in the interest of the rule of law. Not to rehabilitate the people prosecuted or convicted by those judgements, but to set aside those judgements and to leave to historians, who are the most competent in this, to discuss and determine what the political and moral responsibility of some of those people would be. Where those judgements didn't occur.... I am saying this primarily keeping in mind the setting aside of the Draža Mihajlović judgement, whose trial was quite irregular. It seems to me that any honest lawyer must proclaim that proceeding, that kind of judgement insignificant, of no value. But it doesn't mean that we are rehabilitating the war crimes committed by Draža Mihajlović! Somebody needs to deal with it. This should only open the road to a more serious dealing with this issue. That's why I was shocked when the professor at Law Faculty, Antić, also a counsellor to president Nikolić... A man who is a lawyer said that this is now the beginning of the Draža Mihajlović rehabilitation as a movement of personality, conviction and political activity. It isn't that. And when a law expert says so, it is something like the surgeon slaughtering his patient instead of operating him. This cannot be done. We are presently under a lot of pressure to rehabilitate Milan Nedić. He wasn't even prosecuted. Therefore, this isn't about the setting aside of certain judgements, or opinions, and so on. He was proclaimed a national enemy and his property was confiscated. Whether he is or isn't a national enemy, should be put for consideration primarily by the competent public, the historians, people involved with political theory, but it should be decided by a much wider forum. Much wider than Serbia. If this is the way we'll treat Petain, Quisling, a range of other proclaimed fascists in the world, then we can ask the same question in relation to Milan Nedić. If not, if the norm is applied, that someone who supported and promoted fascism, not to mention the crimes committed thereby, then such an attitude cannot be rehabilitated. If we refer to crimes, whether they were committed by Draža, Medić or Tito, I advocate and believe that it isn't hard to defend such a standpoint, that crimes must be prosecuted regardless of who commits them. Because when we open this question, then we have the perpetrator and the victim, and not policies. This mixing of politics and law proved to be very dangerous throughout history and almost always implied harmful consequences. I'd say always, but I don't want to offend the French Revolution. As for the Partisans, I understand and I became aware of it at the beginning of my studies, that like in many places in the world, the resistance movement against the fascism was taken under communist party's umbrella and turned into the communist revolution, where Dragoljub Mićunović also participated, so he witnessed the way those elections were manipulated. I don't have a good opinion of it, and I can't support it, and I don't think it was the right thing to do. But I am completely aware that the history isn't managed by moral principles. If you have a political situation where the government can be taken over, you do it. If, at the beginning of World War II, before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, there was a policy that Yugoslavia is a dungeon of the people that should be taken apart, and if those Germans are primarily treated as people for which you say: "It makes no difference if it's a local capitalist or a foreign occupier" Then, when the Germans attack the Soviet Union, you completely change that policy just to say two years later: "That Yugoslavia is something that we'll create and protect, only some other kind." I completely understand such political meandering. We see it every day, we see it at the top of this country and at this moment. People who said one thing five years ago are now doing and saying something completely different. I don't even blame it on late Josp Broz, but that manipulation led Yugoslavia into the Soviet Union. Instead, what could have happened, was for us to enter some structure where civil rights, human rights, civil freedoms and democracy are more respected than in that Eastern Bloc. Therefore, that chance was missed. That is the responsibility of the Partisans and the communists. And not personally. It is also a part of the history. But, what I've said, maybe I shouldn't have said because I think it is absolutely inappropriate to analyse history from the point of view of moral principles. Are we supposed to mention Rome, Nero as a good or a bad person? Well, no, history is something else. There, that's Partisans, Chetniks and Ustashe for you. I apologise, can I draw the chair a bit closer? Of course, go ahead, yes, yes. There is one more thing. Since we're talking about the Partisans, the Ustashe and the Chetniks, but not the Germans. I am usually inclined to treating soldiers as people who didn't voluntarily join the army, especially keeping in mind that Wermacht was not an extension to the German National-socialist Party in a way that, let's say Stalin's army was an extension to the Communist Party. That's why I think we should have much more understanding. I think that Gunter Grass had that kind of understanding for people who, against their will, went to war and often found themselves in situation to commit crimes they otherwise don't agree with. So, it is, like when we talked about victims and perpetrators. When you talk about occupiers, fascists, communists, certain forces and certain armies, one should always keep in mind and not automatically follow your initial instincts in these matters, that those people aren't here because they chose to do it. Did your family follow political events? Very much. I must say that it is something I am grateful for. Most of the civil world, as my parents were, weren't in politics, they tried to keep away. They saw it as something dangerous. Among our friends and relatives there were many people who got burned. Then, the usual reaction is not to follow those political events. It is one conversation that happened to me ten, twenty times later, when these political changes occurred. When people say: "I kept out of politics during those communist times. I am in no way responsible for it. I didn't meddle in. I tried to keep my distance." I usually tell them: "Well, you know, you've never read the first three, four pages of the newspapers, anyway. You would start reading papers from the page five." My family wasn't like that We read from the first page on. But it was never discussed in our family. What was your attitude towards brotherhood and unity? It seemed strange, when I was a child, that somebody would even point it out, broadcast and develop it by those visits and so on. It seemed natural to me, as you wouldn't advertise breathing or drinking water, there is no reason to advertise brotherhood and unity. After, I realised that first, once you introduce some freedom of speech into a society, then it suddenly gives voice to all the ideas you never knew existed. And second, that you will always be against democracy if you don't allow these ideas the opportunity to develop. Because expressing opinions isn't a violence but civil liberty. So, I had the chance to get to know some of those ideas and realise that on the one hand, advocating brotherhood and unity is an active policy trying to eliminate other policies. And on the other hand, I realised that it holds a way for all other political options to be prosecuted as being against brotherhood and unity, but it isn't necessarily so, because not all nationalists are fascists. And not all nationalisms are necessarily based upon hatred towards other nations. There is a kind of supporters' political rhetoric where, if you advocate the Serbian monasteries or promote the dynasties of kings in Croatia or Islam, as one source of basic cultural patterns of social life, the source of values, in let's say Bosnia, and you don't treat it as Christian converts or as an import of something alien to our Slavic body...??? If you do that, within this context, then you are doing something very valuable in terms of keeping, piling up and developing these cultural assets which then become the cultural assets and the fund of ideas belonging to the world, and not only to your community. However, whenever there's a repression that tries to eliminate such approach, you immediately get the resistance, which then chooses more aggressive forms. Then they say: "You won't let me pray in the streets, I will then proclaim the caliphate." As soon as you add violence into that equation, you find yourself in a political situation where you should think about the resistance strategy, the movement in relation to the system and the possibilities for your ideas to win. And then you have the war. You can have it the same way in any political order. We cannot define political orientation as national or international, as something good by itself, but in relation to what it creates. It is something I understood immediately and was really deep into it at the end of the 1960s, really engaged. And managed to maintain great relations with both sides. We were rather efficient, and it is something that was mainly done by me, in developing, within that margin of common interest between Belgrade and Zagreb, contacts with their younger nationalists. We believed that, due to having a common enemy and a large number of matching demands, like the freedom of press, assembly, speech and so on, then some of it was also done together. Later on, of course, the repression and the history chewed it up, but we are still good friends and have no problems of the sorts. Because it was that kind of nationalism. It wasn't the nationalism of Ustashe or Chetniks, which afterwards, as the conflicts and the wars escalated on this territory, got precedence. And about which, regardless on what side, I have nothing good I could say. Because the projects on the countries they offer, respectively, the projects on social organisations that they offer are directly connected to the crimes to be committed. Like it was NDH and like it was Nedić's country. Now that I've mentioned that, there was an active policy in NDH, belonging to a political organisation aiming at repressing certain other religious beliefs, certain ethnic groups, and one system of values that would equalise the citizens. With Quislings, whether it was Petain Quisling or Nedić, you don't have it, but how can I give as little as possible and commit as little crimes as possible, and preserve what I'm working with. Which doesn't lessen the crime, only represents a different political position. Today, we love to use different political positions to develop normative systems where we can say: "No, wait, Pavelić is a much cleaner figure because he led the movement that won, regardless of the crimes he committed." And on this other side, we say: "Don't, a man wouldn't even do it if he didn't have to do it by saving the Serbian people." Now, we completely falsely compare those two things which we have to deal with starting with the committed crimes, and not with the good intentions or good political ideas. As Dante said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They don't have any historical or political value. What somebody intended to do, is for the courts to solve. Or the psychiatrists. This is neither historical nor political problem. What was your attitude towards the self-managing socialism? Very positive, not towards the self-managing socialism, but towards the intent to develop a platform on this political idea. The first thing I was able to understand was that it wasn't Marx but Prudhon. And that it has nothing to do... It has to do with Lenin's text which explained that something like that existed in Russian tradition only as the collective ownership of something. I realised that there was a terrific potential for developing cooperation between people based on their common interest, which opens an opportunity within a society for people to build into it without obstacles. However, it never existed. And I realised it early on. If you don't have, and it is something basic, if you don't have the opportunity for vertical organisation, you only have the possibility for horizontal. If you completely falsely and inappropriately, as a working collective, get the access to decide on technological processes, it can only lead to ruin because you aren't an engineer, you are a worker. And thereby you don't have the possibilities to see how we develop it, who we will cooperate with within that process and what the position of this process in a wider social life is. That path is forbidden because it is discussed by the Party. Then you are tricked, then, instead of a bagel you can eat they give you a plaster bagel which looks like a bagel, but you cannot eat it. That experience I had, wasn't even remotely like that, because I was here and when you live in something you get used to it. However, I had numerous friends from abroad, and it is more than twenty people, who used to come here when they were young to study this self-management because they were really impressed, to write dissertations on it, and to, as much as possible, to take part in that process. Then I unmistakeably watched the development of a pattern of social behaviour with these people. They'd come and excitedly talk about that thing among the people that would kindly nod their heads and say: "Yes, Yes, certainly!" (nods his head) "It is important, yes, yes, yes. We have that. We know it's good." (sarcastically) Then they'd start to study that and to talk to certain politicians and professors, And then they'd slowly turn quiet. They'd realise it doesn't exist. Then they'd silently go away or they'd change the subject of their master's thesis in order to somehow fit it in. Or they'd simply write anything. They'd finish up and run as fast as they could. Those who stayed, stayed, at least those I know, only because they were married. And as a rule, they'd change their profession. In connection with this self-management, I had the chance to talk a lot with late Milovan Đilas about it. He is the author of that idea. That idea didn't emerge from anarchism but from Aneurin Bevan, from social-democratic ideas. So, the workers' self-management seemed to be the most suitable phrase. And they gave that task to a teacher from Slovenia, Edvard Kardelj. Then they removed Đilas, left Kardelj and that story became funny. It didn't exist in practice. But, I often engage in conflicts with my peers because some remember it as if it had existed. One of my friends said: "We were the ones deciding," because she was a teacher at a faculty "whenever we are to hire somebody, then the whole collective sits down and we decide." It is similar to voting for the major in Hong Kong; I give you the list, and within that framework you have your freedom. A huge breakthrough in the political practice in Yugoslavia was when there was no more voting for a list as a whole but when they'd add few more names to it. Then it means you have your freedom, don't have to choose this one, that one will do. It will be ten on the list of fifteen. And for years before that, it was - we choose ten, here's the list of ten. That's what we choose. For that purpose, and it is convenient, because this really directly reflected upon my life... The Socialist Alliance of the Working People is a massive political organisation which was established for the purpose of the elections, for the purpose of what I've just told you. I give you the list, and on the Socialist Alliance you choose the delegates from the list I gave you. Then again, I gather those delegates and they choose the higher level, and I completely control them. They are on the list I gave you. Of course, one wasn't allowed to talk about it. The way it reflected upon my life is somewhat bizarre. At the beginning of this conversation I mentioned that I am at an age to retire, and I have no pension. (sigh) Several associations contacted me. My diplomas and awards allow me to be a member of certain associations. And it's a wide spectrum, from translators' to philosophers' associations. There are at least ten. My late friend, actor Mića Tomić, a doctor and an actor, persuaded me to do it because he was a coordinator of some of those artistic associations. There was only one problem: all those associations were, according to the law, a collective member of the Socialist Alliance of the Working People. The idea of somebody signing me in against my will, automatically, collectively into some political organisation, is something that still gives me the chills. I cannot accept that. I haven't found anybody who would think or act in a similar way. It is probably the reason why I cannot explain my case to the pension fund. It cannot be resolved. However, I'm not even trying to resolve it. But I want to say, this connection between political associations and your basic life conditions is so strong that people don't even notice it. While breathing, people forget about the existence of air, they think it is empty, and there, well, breathing exists... But no, there is that air. This is the political substance which will poison you if you enter it, even on a massive basis. Did you have any knowledge or information regarding the treatment of political opponents in former Yugoslavia? What was your attitude towards it? My first experience of that kind... When we were protesting against that system... I'm using the plural because it was after all a massive student movement, a sort of rebellion. Saying that the Party was Stalinist and repressive, I thought I was speaking metaphorically, that it wasn't so. Then I joined the army, the guard, where it was even worse than I could imagine. It resembled the Party meetings in 1946. I had the chance to hear of, and also in my social surroundings and in my family, there were many people who were subject to political repression. But nobody talked willingly or easily about it, most of them didn't talk at all. My first wife's father, my father-in-law, the academy professor at that time, was an "Ibeovac" (a Stalinist), The father of my second wife, Nataša Kandić, was also an "Ibeovac". They said little, but it was very hard. They supported me because it seemed to them that at least somebody was protesting. People who were after the war persecuted as the so-called "landers", based on the system of compulsory deliveries of produce, In my grandmother's village, she is the heroine of my movie "Plastic Jesus", there were tens, even hundreds. And people who have, as former Chetniks, since I didn't have such contact with the Ustashe, I was too young to come across such people while I lived in Croatia, later on, I lived more in Serbia, and I saw more of these people. I found them every now and then. When somebody sees I speak openly, then they tell me: "I was..." A man in your movie crew appears and says: "You know, as a 'Youth' I was with Draža." And so... They told me about the repression. However, what I really learned about the repression, and in a wider context, on the territory of the whole Yugoslavia, it happened when I was imprisoned. There were several people who were extremely significant to me. That is why I treat the prison in my life as an additional university. There I initially made friends, it was very precious to me, with Adem Demaçi, who was... That is how and when I understood how big, how long-lasting and how serious the problem with Albanians in Yugoslavia was and got involved in that direction. The other person who was very interesting and important to me was late Đura Đurović. He was one of the leading pre-war masons and a member of the Draža Mihajlović staff. A lawyer, a Doctor of Law. Obtained his PhD at Sorbonne. An intellectual, a man who wasn't involved in any war activities, or anything, but as a prominent citizen he was called here, he did that. Draža also had one Muslim among his staff and... It was all slightly different in the beginning. He informed me of the numerous things that happened during the war and after the war to him, because right after the war, he was imprisoned for six years because he was a member of that staff. One of the most intersting aquaintances and friendships I had at the time was with late Vojkan Lukić, the third most important manager of UDBA at the time. He was the head of UDBA in Serbia. Penezić was a coordinator for political activities and what not, and Ranković was at the very top. When they removed Ranković, they removed all of them, as well. Penezić died before that. But, then I gained insight in how it functioned on their side. And it was sordid and completely improvised. It figures! I could tell you a hundred stories. But, also extremely repressive! For example, when they went to Bosnia after the fall of Užička Republic, and because they came from Serbia and most of them were Serbs, the locals took them in as brothers and immediately helped them, gave them food let them sleep, let's see what can be done next, and so on.. And then they wait for the dark to fall to... to kill it, the herd. And, so, a bunch of other things. Of course, those weren't the only or the most important friendships and associations I had then. It was quite an elite group, including the late lawyer Subotić, who was the president of the Lawyer's Association of Serbia. There was also late Mihajlo Đurić, who was an extremely precious and important man to me. We could talk about philosophy, literature and music. (smiling) A large number of Albanian political prisoners, with whom I developed connections I could later rely on in my engagement with Kosovo. Then the whole so-called "Bar group??? The new communists, which was really interesting, because people, believing that there were no constitutional obstacles, thought that by establishing the new communist party they were doing something very legal and that they would now change that society. What is perhaps the most interesting, you get some people who are actually politically persecuted, and convicted for the so-called economic violations, like Kojić and Elazar??? You get some respectful economists. Then you have a certain society I could compare to, even consider much better than the society which Josip Broz had while he was imprisoned before the war, with Moša Pijade, Porabić, who was translating Das Capital and so. I think I got the better end of the deal. It was excellent. Were you informed of the events from the late 1960s and early 1970s, student protests in Belgrade and Zagreb, the removal of the Liberals in Serbia the Road Affair in Slovenia? What was your attitude towards these events? I think I participated in these events. I even developed and led some of those activities. I think that the circle of people who took part in them are still connected. I think it was a decisive period of my life, and in the life of Yugoslavia, a very significant one. (shrugs his shoulders) If we start talking about this we will talk for three more hours. (laughter) So, it's some other story. - All right. Let's put it like this; what were the consequences of your actions? Expected. When you enter a conflict, you must expect either a victory or a failure. And if you are at least reasonable, you must know you won't win. That helps you develop certain strategies. Then you try to do something in order to, as much as possible, achieve your goal, trying to minimise the sacrifices and the dangers that threaten you. Within that framework, I was able to endure for twenty years. Even later. And later, it was less dangerous. I must say that under Milošević's rule it was considerably less dangerous than during Broz's rule, and now it is much less dangerous than under Milošević. I hope that with the resolution of pro-Russian and pro-European conflicts in Serbia, and everything is at one point finished, we will live in a society where it won't be dangerous anymore to take political stands or give political statements. Can you tell us more about the conditions of your detention in prison? Were there any particular forms of ideological indoctrination and re-education? Are you still in touch with some of the prisoners? Did you have a possibility to communicate with your family, friends? When it comes to maintaining the contact with the people who were also politically prosecuted or at least politically aware, so they qualified for it even though they were imprisoned for some other criminal activities. Contacts with those people, not as frequent as they may wish or as I would want, remained to this day. Only by dying, one leaves that contact. Those contacts are forever. It is not always with the like-minded people, far from it. But they are people who, based on their common experience, are like classmates or college friends, or fellow soldiers, who always remain that. As for the treatment, it wasn't any camp treatment like those in Manjača and those in the German camps during World War II or those in Stalin's camps. Or those in Yugoslavia immediately after the war, even in the time of buy-out even in 1946, 1947 and 1948. No. It was more or less a normal prison, but overcrowded, so that the number of the prisoners was more than double. Because there were many arrests in those years. I am talking about the early 1970s. Those conditions were really poor. Not to mention... There was the basic health protection. The food was neat, but not to go there, it wasn't something a normal person would eat. And it isn't something to be compared with what was eaten in the army, which I am well aware of, because from the army I went to prison, so suddenly the army looked like a luxurious restaurant in comparison to what was eaten there. Well, one can live with it. Alive man gets used to it, as Solzhenitsyn remarkably described in "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" Almost every day ended the same way as his novel - "It wasn't raining. They didn't make me work hard. I found two cigarette butts. All in all, it wasn't a bad day. It wasn't like that. It wasn't horrible. Once a month I could see my closest relatives during a 45-minute long visit. Every other month I had one package. Then, the strict and regular prison weren't the same. We called the strict one a sentence, for us, political prisoners, and the regular, with more privileges, was for the others. To get those privileges, one could qualify. When I had served more than half of my sentence they offered me this kind of privilege. My attitude was that I didn't go to prison to obtain privileges and ranks, that I wasn't here by my own will and that I am completely uninterested for it. You cannot sell yourself for two packs of cigarettes. If they offered something better and bigger I don't know, but they weren't offering. The most interesting thing is that there was a lot of physical abuse, beatings, prison riots and all kinds of police setups, but it didn't involve political prisoners. It considered some criminals, the usual criminals with whom the country, the police respectively, had some conflicts with And, what is more interesting, those from diaspora, who were kidnapped or caught somehow in this territory, who advocated the terrorism or organising against the state, therefore, those people who were liquidated by the Broz regime abroad, but if he caught them alive, he wouldn't liquidate them, but put them into prisons, but then they'd get beaten. It didn't happen to us, the political prisoners. Despite our protesting and speaking against it, and other numerous ways we expressed and practiced our solidarity with those people who were subject to those prominently illegal proceedings, we were off the hook. What is maybe interesting, politically interesting: since there were many of us, let's say about thirty political prisoners, not counting the Bar group and the Albanians I am not saying this because I don't consider them as equally qualified political prisoners, but because in those two groups, sometimes the interests were differently formulated. We used to consider creating pressure and pushing for separation and special treatment because there was no reason, and in some countries and in the pre-war Yugoslavia it was that way; if you are held responsible for those actions, they separate you, you are neither a thief nor a murderer but you did something else. So, we decided, I proposed the idea, that there were only a few of us, that it won't be good and that we won't be able to protect our interest, nor will we have the adequate influence or the authority in the prison surroundings if we wanted to separate. So, we, especially late Pavluško, Miširović and I mostly held great authority with the prisoners because we wrote their pleas and complaints, argued with the country instead of them. Not hiding that it was us who were doing it. We fought for the books and against the censorship, both for ourselves and for them. For example, we fought for the Bible to enter prison, and we never succeeded. The Bible as well as the Qur'an. We didn't succeed. But the prison state knew how to appreciate it. Therefore, our protection was perfect. We weren't protected by the police but by the prisoners. But, then you have to be with them, you're not supposed to have demands as a political prisoner, to act as a special species, "I've got nothing to do with thieves". You have to have more understanding for that... Have you ever received any compensation due to imprisonment and if yes, what kind? Did you get any sort of recognition for your suffering in prison, and if yes, what kind? No, never anything. But, I must say I never even asked for it. Because my stand is that they have to do it themselves, I shouldn't beg for it. At one point my friend, I was really engaged in the Roma issues and cooperated a lot with this man, was a delegate in the Parliament, he suggested that the Serbian Parliament rehabilitates me and conducts judicial proceedings for this rehabilitation. They refused to put it on the agenda. It was during Slobodan Milošević's time. They didn't want to deal with it. Afterwards, nobody raised that issue. Money sure is a nice thing, but I have everything I need in my life. I don't depend on somebody compensating for my troubles. And for sure, I won't beg for somebody to rehabilitate me. It should be their own doing. Rajko Đurić, that is the man in question, afterwards, on several occasions said it was the Parliament's shame that they're not able to support something like that. My case is convenient for such a matter; when you have people who were prosecuted for organising themselves against the state, organising the dissolution of constitutional order, for different forms of prominently political acts, then you primarily have to prove that it wasn't so. Here you have a prosecution of one movie. Although, that is the outcome of a range of activities, of a certain police attitude that it should be solved that way. There is also this recklessness "why don't we condemn him for making that movie?" You can't do that, it is the freedom of speech, it is some work of art, even failed, but still a work of art by its status. It was easier to defend it then. That, however, wasn't done. It seems to me that the rehabilitation shouldn't focus primarily or only on the people who had suffered the worst or the obvious forms of repression. I always say that the epression in culture involved something that had nothing to do with the legal system, and it is the career reprimanding. Many of my younger colleagues never got the chance to make their own movie just because they belonged to that generation or to that set of ideas or were engaged in June protests, then they couldn't get a job in television, of movie budgets, or space in the press to publish something of their own. I think, regardless of the repression, that I was in a better position because I did get such an opportunity and I used it. And it should primarily somehow, be acknowledged, at least admitted, that those people were broken in their careers for political reasons. And they couldn't keep their heads above the surface.




Mjesto rođenja: Beograd, Srbija
Datum rođenja: 1. 3. 1944.


Mjesto zatočenja: Beograd, Srbija
Mjesto zatočenja od: 1973
Mjesto zatočenja do: 1975

Zatvor povodom filma "Plastični Isus".

Mjesto zatočenja: Beograd, Srbija
Mjesto zatočenja od: 1984

"U Knez Miletinoj 40 kod Dragomira Olujića, imali smo veče posvećeno istoriji međunacionalnih odnosa kod nas, naročito pitanju Sandžaka i Kosova. Govornik je bio Milovan Đilas, koga smo tada prvi put pozvali. Upala je policija, pohapsila svih 28 prisutnih, držala nas četiri dana, a zatim odabrala one protiv kojih im je bilo zgodno da prave proces. Tako, na primer, Đilasa, Stojana Cerovića, Branislavu Katić, moju snahu, i mene nisu više uznemiravali. Pokrenuli su proces protiv Miodraga Milića poznatog kao Mića Doktor – našli su mu rukopis neobjavljene knjige i osudili ga na godinu i po. Milana Nikolića, Pavluška Imširovića, Dragomira Olujića, Gordana Jovanovića i Vladu Mijanovića kao prvooptuženog – njih šestoricu – optužili su da su se organizovali sastajanja u cilju rušenja ustavnog poretka Jugoslavije i da su tu svoju aktivnost sprovodili ilegalno. Taj proces je vodio sudija Zoran Stojković, koji je u vladi Vojislava Koštunice postao ministar pravosuđa. Priveli su nekoliko stotina svedoka na saslušanje. Ali, po savetu advokata Srđe Popovića, koji je bio autor peticionaškog pokreta koji je svetu otkrio naš problem što nam je donelo javnu podršku spolja, znači po njegovom savetu da odbiju da svedoče jer bi time sebi mogli da nanesu štetu, svedoci su, osim nekolicine, odbili da govore. To jugoslovensko pravosuđe do tada nije videlo i taj proces se bukvalno raspao. Stane Dolanc je poražen otišao za Sloveniju da bere gljive kasnije tvrdeći da je sve zaboravio, a u Srbiji je ostao Ivan Stambolić koji se prema tom procesu odnosio prema načelu da ne treba da sudi Partija nego pravosuđe. To je tada bio maksimalno liberalan odnos. Bilo je to 1984. godine. Osuđeni su Miodrag Milić i Gordan Jovanović, a ostala četvorica su oslobođena. Tu se država vidljivo raspala. [...]

Zašto su vas zadržali samo četiri dana?

Ja sam u to vreme već bio dopisnik iranske novinske agencije IRNA, i država Iran je tražila od države Jugoslavije izjašnjenje zašto je njihov novinar uhapšen. Radio sam za njih tri i po godine. Ja sam u životu radio razne stvari, ponajmanje me je hranio film. Filmove sam radio kad imam priliku. Znate, najuspešnije što sam u životu radio jeste posao barmena. Zatim, bio sam tražen prevodilac – još u mladosti sam prevodio filmove u Jugoslovenskoj kinoteci, na sluh, a u Americi sam u Stejt departmentu bio i konsekutivni i seminarski i konferencijski prevodilac, zatim sam, verovatno manje uspešno od toga ali često, bio novinar, pa još gori urednik, a verovatno najslabiji filmski i pozorišni reditelj."

Izvor: "NATO nema alternativu", Vreme, 1310, 11.02.2016.


Mjesto otpora: Beograd, Srbija
Datum otpora od: 1971

Film "Platični Isus"