Remembering War in Croatia

You have to be crazy to enter a war zone. I was. But I brought my Nikon 8008.

Credits: emperornorton

In 1992, I believed that I had been guided by the Holy Spirit to leave my wife for three months and help the peace groups that were struggling against the nationalists in former Yugoslavia. With her permission, I boarded a plane for Paris and took the train to Zagreb, Croatia by way of Vienna. The war had not touched Zagreb. But a couple of days into my stay, I got the opportunity to visit Osijek, a university town on the inland, eastern horn of the country.

The first thing I saw coming out of the train station was a house with a gaping hole in it. Next to it, the police station had lost only a few windows. A sign called upon Europe to help. In the email letter I sent to my Quaker meeting back in the United States, I wrote:

“Piles of broken clay shingles and plaster stand on the edges of the street. The medieval houses and socialist-era apartment buildings bear the huge abrasions and gashes made by bullets, bombs and heavy artillery shells. The guns have shattered the treetops. Most shops remain boarded up. What has happened here is so obvious and what cannot be told by simply witnessing the damage is readily told to you by the people you meet.”

Credits: emperornorton

At a cemetery, I met a Belgian Jesuit praying at the grave of a young woman who had died on the night that she became sick of the shelling and slept in her own bed. My host told me about a bomb piercing the walls of a condo, but leaving two sleeping children unharmed. A doctor showed me the remains of the apartment where her neighbor had lived, which the Serbs had randomly emptied with a shell. I saw these kinds of things again and again.

But they did not prepare me for Vukovar.

Credits: emperornorton

Vukovar and Osijek were towns that epitomized the Yugoslav ideal, where Croats lived next to Serbs, where everyone got along. Some say the nationalists in Beograd and Zagreb simply could not allow such places to exist. But it was the Jugoslav National Army (JNA) directed by the Serbian president Slobodan Miloševic that wreaked most of the damage.

There was not a single building in Vukovar that had not been touched. "The train station, the factories, the houses, the shops, the apartment buildings, the kiosks — EVERYTHING has been scarred or demolished by the heavy fighting. Ten months after the JNA overran this city, there is no avoiding the evidence of the destruction of Vukovar…

“Serbs live in Vukovar today. You cannot help but look around and wonder what they find to do. Vukovar has lost all of its industry, its riverport, its businesses. The only place to spend money that we found were two cafes: one in the center of town and one on the riverfront, facing Vojvodina. Here and there is a house which the current residents were able to fix, an apartment building whose holes could be patched.”

Credits: emperornorton

Silence ruled the day. My sleep, however, would be haunted by deep red artillery blasts. I could not forget these towns even if I wanted to. The bipolar disorder which had driven me to Croatia and Serbia would remain undiagnosed for another thirteen years. But I and maybe others can be grateful that my brilliant madness led me to bring a camera along, to record the terrible power of our “conventional” weapons, and maybe make us think the next time we come to a juncture when war seems to be the only answer.

Twenty years later, I still hear the guns.

written by emperornorton on 2011-11-01 in #lifestyle #1992-war #adventure #destruction #kodachrome #nikon

More Interesting Articles

  • Fresh from the Lab: 1990

    written by adi_totp on 2014-08-08 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the Lab: 1990

    A weekend without a lomowalk seems bad, at least for me. One Saturday morning, I decided to join my friends in their lomowalk. It was all cloudy at first but it didn't stop me from going out and walking. I brought my new Nikon FM2 and some expired rolls, just to test my camera. Was it just me being sleepy, or was my Nikon FM2 acting up? My photos turned out grainy, pale, and, in my opinion, looking so 1990s?

    1
  • Solo Biking Routes: Ubud in Bali, Indonesia

    written by adi_totp on 2014-07-30 in #world #locations
    Solo Biking Routes: Ubud in Bali, Indonesia

    Have you all watched "Eat, Pray, Love"? I was inspired by Julia Roberts, who rode a bicycle in that movie, so I decided to rent one and try it myself! This happened two years ago but I still remember my biking route. To all of you who haven't been to Ubud, I think you should visit the place and try to go around in a bicycle!

    7
  • Summer Hot Spots: Blaavand, Denmark (Part One)

    written by dermanu on 2014-08-31 in #world #locations
    Summer Hot Spots: Blaavand, Denmark (Part One)

    When I was a child, I regularly went to Blaavand located at the Danish west coast with my brothers and my parents. However, I didn't anymore when I grew up. But in 2012, we hit the road again. It was my first visit there in about 20 years. I took the chance and packed as many cameras as possible into my luggage. In this article, I'm going to present to you the photos I took with my Nikon F-501 SLR.

  • Shop News

    Lubitel & film bundle

    Lubitel & film bundle

    This beautiful camera features such ability to let users choose and switch between 35mm or 120 formats! Shoot more, save more! Get this Lubitel camera and get 15% discounts with Lomography Films!

  • Film Manipulation: Kodak Slides and Bleach

    written by neonlights on 2014-07-30 in #gear #tipster
    Film Manipulation: Kodak Slides and Bleach

    I want to share with you my experience with some slides when I was in Russia. I'm very sorry for them because I messed them up. They're just ruined and they'll never be the same! But hey, I have thousands of them, so I guess it's not a big deal after all.

    4
  • An Afternoon in Tagaytay Highlands

    written by stitch on 2014-07-28 in #world #locations
    An Afternoon in Tagaytay Highlands

    I have good memories of Tagaytay Highlands. There had been times when some of my friends and I would spend the weekend there, playing all sorts of sports and having our bodies healed in the warm and lapping jacuzzi pool. But those were distant memories. I was able to go back to this place, but only for an afternoon, and tried to remember the good old days.

  • Fresh from the Lab: My First Roll of Film with the New Petzval Lens

    written by pearlgirl77 on 2014-11-14 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the Lab: My First Roll of Film with the New Petzval Lens

    Many of you may be aware that I was able to test the New Petzval Lens beforehand, but I finally got my own personal Petzval lens very recently. Of course I had to take it out for a spin immediately!

    2
  • Shop News

    Sit, Stash & Fold

    Sit, Stash & Fold

    Get both appealing LomoDices for your home! These cardboard cubes can be used for different things – they make great, stylish seats but you can also stash small items inside and fold them for storing!

  • Flying the Canon Flag with the Canon EOS-1N

    written by chilledvondub on 2014-08-26 in #reviews
    Flying the Canon Flag with the Canon EOS-1N

    Who do you think deserves the crown for the best 35mm SLR camera? Canon and Nikon will always be in a two-horse race to the top spot in the consumer to prosumer SLR/DSLR market, having developed reputations as two of the biggest go-to brands. Representing the Canon corner, I can safely say the Canon EOS-1N is by far the best SLR I have ever used.

    5
  • The Lomo’Instant Splitzer: the Must-Have Slice and Dice Accessory!

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-03-06 in #gear #lifestyle
    The Lomo’Instant Splitzer: the Must-Have Slice and Dice Accessory!

    What exactly do I feel while waiting for my Lomo'Instant photos to be developed? I have to say I get a mix of "Surprise me, dear Lomo!" but also some "Did I capture it as I wanted?" kind of thought. No matter the school of thought, with the Splitzer you can add so many cool effects to your photos you'll definitely embrace it!

  • The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    written by Lomography on 2014-09-06 in #news
    The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    Last week, I received the strangest thing through my letterbox. It was a postcard with this photograph on 1 side. The photo is of me sitting by the sea whilst I was on vacation last year. But I have literally no idea who took this shot – That’s why I came here, to ask for your help on my search for my mysterious photographer and to try and get to bottom of the riddle they wrote me. Please help me if you can!

    10
  • Shop News

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Fuji Instax Wide 300

    Shoot wider and bigger with this new instax camera that has film format twice the size of the instax mini films!

  • My Day in Analogue: Lazy Summer Days at Home

    written by jokelangens on 2014-08-27 in #lifestyle
    My Day in Analogue: Lazy Summer Days at Home

    Every summer, my soul screams for a lazy, hot day back at my parents' home, for some good food, relaxation, and catching up with childhood friends. This year is no different, so I went back down to my small hometown in the very northeast of Belgium to enjoy a perfect laid back day doing nothing and everything. And of course, I brought my analogue cameras along to eternalize all of these small but grand moments in life.

  • Object of My Affection: Subbuteo

    written by sirio174 on 2015-03-30 in #world #lifestyle
    Object of My Affection: Subbuteo

    In my early adolescence, I liked to play table football. For my 12th birthday, my parents gifted me with a wonderful Subbuteo table soccer game set that I had wished for many months! This was my favorite toy until I discovered other interesting hobbies, like ham radio and electronics. So after some years, I gave away this game to other kids. I always remembered this game with pleasure and a hint of nostalgia.

  • Most Popular Photo Last Year: May 22, 2013

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-05-22 in #news
    Most Popular Photo Last Year: May 22, 2013

    Most of us have been reminded not to put unnecessary element right in the center of a picture, but knowing how crazy lomographers can get, a rule as rigid as this will definitely be broken!

    2