Over a few beers (not Heineken, rather a cheap American brand) she is answering my questions. After she graduated high school in Vinkovci, she worked in the Zagreb's Foreign Press Bureau and briefly even taught English to other kids. Fluent in English, she scored high on TOEFL. And she is only 20.
She hates Serbs. She hates Muslims, too, with the curious exception she makes for people from Sarajevo, who are, she says, cool. She doesn't like Slovenians, either. And for people from Zagreb she thinks they are pretentious snobs (excluding me, she says).
Then, this is all perfectly normal. Yugoslavia, in which my generation made inter-ethnic friendships and even inter-ethnic marriages, is for her generation a vague childhood memory, which they are taught by current teachers to remember with disdain or, better, forget it at all. Her most important formative years she spent fighting the war: watching her Serb neighbors arming themselves and leaving their homes under clout of night to join chetnik military units or to travel to Belgrade, watching constant propaganda on TV and watching her three years older brother returning from the front-lines wounded three times - each time more damaged.
He is now 80% disabled veteran living in Germany spitting bile against Tudjman (who allegedly treats his veterans, as the U.S. treated their Vietnam veterans). He is 23. They both still have to live to meet a Serb who does not hate Croats, if they are to question their own hate.
With tragic death of rock band Ekaterina Velika lead vocalist Milan, died the only thing she ever deemed positive that came out of Belgrade. She likes rock and roll. Vinkovci is home of the best Croatian and probably the best East-European hard-core and grind-core scene. They know how to rock. Satan Panonski, aka Ivica Culjak, aka Kecer II was known for his s/m performances in which he would slash deep in his flesh and let his blood all over the stage while screaming and whatever else a hard-core punk does. Mohawked Satan joined Croatian forces at the onset of the war. He was a good fighter, little crazy, tough. His favorite method of torturing his Serb captives was to hurt himself and say: "You see what I am able to do to myself. Imagine what would I do to you..." That worked just fine, but the "International Community" was not pleased. So, Satan mysteriously died. Legends among Vinkovci's youth (including Daniela) say that Croatian government killed him, because he became a human rights embarrassment and too uncontrollable.
Daniela's brother got an apartment and a job in Germany as a Croatian war veteran - he couldn't get that in Croatia. Like my friend from Sarajevo, Adnan, who also spent half a year in Zagreb, where he couldn't get a job as a "foreigner", and where he was afraid to speak in public, so not to be recognized for his accent. Now Adnan is in New York, where he has a job and nobody treats him as a foreigner. I guess, my fellow citizens of Zagreb still have to learn how to behave urban, instead of behaving like pretentious snobs.
How many kids like Daniela are out there? Brought up to hate and war on all sides?! Does anybody do anything to show them that there are other things in life worth living besides The Hate?