Please, introduce yourself
with your full name
and the date and
the place of your birth.
My name is
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
My father is originally
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
One moment, I apologise.
If we could just, the glass...
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)
we will jump cut it.
You have already mentioned,
but I will expand on my question.
Where are your parents from originally,
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
The political orientation
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
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 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
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
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 was very useful for my
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
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
It was my mother's
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
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
My father, as he returned
from work, saw it.
Well, I shoved it to him, bragging
about my interesting drawing.
That made him
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
particularly valuable and
I grew up in Skrad in
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.
the end of the 1950s,
the beginning of the 1960s,
Then I joined some labour actions,
I was even in charge of the local ones.
I was really
At that time
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
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
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
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
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
mostly of social-democratic
I saw it as
an annoyance, a nonsense
and "what do some
but we went through the revolution and
we are now building something else.
Our topics are
Who is that Pera Živković
with his 6 January Dictatorship?!
And what does it all mean?
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
that those young
people must have
the same feeling as I did
when my father told me about
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.
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
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
Yugoslavia held in
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
If not, if the norm is
applied, that someone
who supported and
not to mention the crimes
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
I don't even blame it
on late Josp Broz,
but that manipulation led
Yugoslavia into the Soviet Union.
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,
There is one
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
They saw it as
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Belgrade and Zagreb,
contacts with their
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
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
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
If you completely falsely and
inappropriately, as a working collective,
get the access to decide on
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."
Then they'd start to
study that and to
talk to certain
politicians and professors,
And then they'd slowly
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
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
But, I often engage in conflicts with
my peers because some remember it
as if it
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.
For that purpose, and it is
convenient, because this really
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
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
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.
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
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
is something that still
gives me the chills.
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,
But no, there
is that air.
This is the political substance which
will poison you if you enter it,
even on a
Did you have any
knowledge or information
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,
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,
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:
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,
That is how and when I understood how big,
how long-lasting and how serious
the problem with
Albanians in Yugoslavia was
involved in that direction.
The other person who was very
interesting and important to me
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
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,
And, so, a bunch of
Of course, those weren't the only
or the most important friendships
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.
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
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.
Were you informed
of the events from the late
1960s and early
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
of your actions?
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
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
conflicts in Serbia,
and everything is at one point finished,
we will live in a society
where it won't be
to take political stands
or give political statements.
Can you tell us more
about the conditions
detention in prison?
Were there any
particular forms of
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
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
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
Not to mention...
There was the basic
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
was for the others.
To get those privileges, one
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
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,
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,
off the hook.
What is maybe interesting,
since there were many of us, let's say
about thirty political prisoners,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
You can't do that, it is the freedom of
speech, it is some work of art,
but still a work of art by its status.
It was easier to
defend it then.
It seems to me that the rehabilitation
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
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.