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Valjevo 80 years after the German attack

The NATO aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the daily reports of the bombings of Serbian cities had deeply upset the author Bernd Duschner in 1999. As the father of three children, who were still young at the time, he regarded the air raids on cities and their inhabitants as an intolerable crime. For weeks he distributed self-written leaflets in his town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm and eventually won over a hundred citizens, including several city councillors and the mayor, in favor of a joint appeal in the local newspaper “Stop the bombings, back to the negotiating table!” post. Shortly after the end of the war, he founded the association “Freundschaft mit Valjevo e. V.” (Friendship with Valjevo) with friends and brought the first aid transport to the Serbian town of Valjevo on October 5, 1999. In mid-April Duschner visited the city again. Below his report.

Eighty years ago, on 6 April 1941, with the bombing of Belgrade, the invasion of Yugoslavia by fascist Germany began. Three and a half long years of occupation, marked by ruthless plundering of the country and countless massacres of the civilian population, followed. This was the revenge of the ruling class in Germany for the fact that the people there had immediately overthrown their government after it had joined the three-power pact against the Soviet Union.

Since the NATO war against Serbia in 1999, our association has organized a week-long program of visits to Pfaffenhofen every year for groups of students from the heavily bombed Valjevo. This had not been possible since last year. Because we want to continue our friendly relations even in times of crisis, I visited the city of Valjevo in April. There I was able to hand over to the municipal library books by Peter Handke and the “Centar za Porodicni mestaj”, which looks after orphans, a pallet with 260 pairs of shoes from a well-known Bavarian manufacturer for children and young people.

Undeterred by the pandemic

On arrival I had presented my negative PCR test. Afterwards I could spend almost 3 weeks in Serbia without quarantine and travel around. The country has so far coped with the pandemic much better than the EU states. Its gross domestic product declined only marginally by 1% in 2020 (Germany minus 4.9%). This is explained, among other things. from the higher share of agriculture and consumer-oriented branches such as the food industry in its economy, a well-thought-out support programme for companies and, last but not least, the absence of another lockdown. It had only been available in Serbia in the spring of 2020. It is true that compliance with general hygiene regulations is ensured and it is mandatory to wear mouth-nose protection within closed rooms. Retail, hotels, restaurants (at times only the outdoor area), fitness center and cultural facilities such as museums, libraries and theaters but remained open. Night curfews, so important for Spahn and Söder, because they obviously believe that from 9 pm the viruses will gather over our cities and pounce on walkers, do not exist.

In Serbian schools, only half of the class is currently taught in alternating classes. Corona tests and the associated constant fear of the students are dispensed with. According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Education, students only have to put on mouth and nose protection in class if they speak out. Nevertheless, the numbers of infections are falling here too and the situation in the hospitals is easing, as the data from the responsible state Batut Institute show. Serbia took care of the vaccine at an early stage. It did not allow itself to be patronized by political guidelines from Brussels and Berlin. In addition to Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca, the far more popular Russian Sputnik V and the traditionally developed non-genetic Chinese vaccine from Sinopharm are also offered to vaccinated citizens and foreign visitors. At the beginning of May, 22% of the population had already been fully vaccinated (Germany 8.3%). Official bodies are proud that" vaccination tourism " has developed to Serbia and that the Institute of Virology Torlak in Belgrade has started its own production of Sputnik V. In daily life, the newspapers and the conversations in the population, however, the infectious disease plays by far not the meaning as with us. Other topics are in the foreground. Social gatherings remain important to the population and they cannot be denied that.

Confessions to his heroes of freedom

For many centuries, the Serbian people have had to fight for their independence, first against the Turks, then against the ruling class in Germany, which still regards the country as its backyard and as a necessary springboard on the path to world power. It is worth visiting the impressively designed Museum of Valjevo. With a wealth of interesting exhibits and documents, it traces the history of this town located in a basin on the Kolubara River.

Even today, Valjevo honors the daughters and sons of the city who have dedicated themselves in a special way to the development, culture and freedom of their country. Many statues in public squares and special parks are dedicated to her memory. Among others, General Zivojin Misic is honored. In the famous Battle of Kolubara at the end of 1914, he had inflicted his first serious defeat on the central powers in the first World War. Numerous anti-fascist freedom fighters such as Zikica Jovanovic “Spanac” and Dragojlo Dudic are honoured with their own statues. As a member of the International Brigades, Jovanovic defended the Republic in Spain and lost his life as a partisan in the fight against the Nazi occupiers in 1941. Dragojlo Dudic had passed the partisan units in Valjevo, and was President of the “Republic of užice”. For 67 days in autumn 1941 it was the first area in Europe liberated from the fascists. A new edition of his diary from this period was published in 2020. Valjevo also built a monument to Milenko Pavlovic on a main road. The officer lost his life on May 4, 1999. With desperate heroism he had opposed the NATO squadrons with his MIG 21, which bombed the city. He left his wife and two sons. In 2019, Serbia renamed its military airport Batajnica in his honor “Vojni Aerodrom pukovnik-pilot Milenko Pavlovic”.

Serbia is the only Balkan country not to participate in the current NATO maneuver “Defender Europe 21”. The Serbian population is well aware of the nature and purpose of NATO. She did not forget 1999. This is good to know in view of the increasing armament, constant incitement to war and provocations against Russia and its people, to whom we too owe the liberation from fascism.