One morning at 6 am Yugoslav Secret Police broke in my room and took away a bunch of my books, my typewriter and my passport. I was 21.

Why? Well, since high school I was known to be the one to do daring, or some would call them stupid, things. Suddenly, I was able to them publicly, working for the Radio 101, one of the first independent media that blessed the late Eastern Europe.

I always wanted to be a rock star. That's probably the coolest thing to do when you are sixteen. Having a little problem (no ability to sing or play any instrument whatsoever) I had to settle for the next best thing: a rock reporter. However, the media in former Yugoslavia were not any more open than the media in the U.S.: those who were already there jealously guarded their positions allowing no one to come too close. I realized that I'd have to start writing about something that others are not writing about, yet people would like to read. Just after I rid myself of the Yugoslav Army duty, in 1982 an opportunity opened: German Greens had a conference right near the place where my mother lived at that time, so I went there and took notes. The same winter I went skiing to Slovenian Alps where I met a woman who told me that in Slovenia they are also forming Greens those days. In March 1983 I met Slovenian People for Peace Culture (which at that time inculded Janez Jansa, who later went on to be the first Defense Minister of newly established Slovenian state). That was my first published article (in Polet, Zagreb's youth weekly, in 1983). At age 19 I was of course not aware of the scope of attention a benign article about a politically marginal group may produce.

In 1983 I enrolled medical school, too. After completing first three semesters, two friends of mine and I signed up to do a research paper for a Medical Students of Yugoslavia annual conference. Great way to score some travel. We chose to present a work from the environmental protection field (classified under social medicine). In Podsused, the old north-western working-class neighborhood of our city (Zagreb), there was an awfully polluting cement-works. It was built in 1908 by Austrians, and neither old Yugoslav kingdom nor the new communist masters did invest much in it. Yet, they seem not to be willing to abandon profits from the factory at any costs. Truly, the factory produced more than 60% for export - but it did not provide much hard currency, since it went mostly to the barter exchange in Eastern-European markets. And costs were too big in our belief: emissions of both sulphur-dioxide and sillicon particles were above the legal levels for more than two hundred days a year, sometimes even five hundred times the legal level. Such high profile polution left visible scars on Podsused and surrounding area: we took a bunch of cemented grapes from the local vineyard and carried them around Yugoslavia as an example of that environmental dissaster. Obviously, if grapes were covered with white cement dust, human lungs should have experienced the same. By checking medical records of Podsused residents and referencing them to the medical records of people who lived in Pantovcak (the clean aired northern quarters of Zagreb where Tito's - now Tudjman's - villa is and where rich red bourgeoisie lived) we found that around the cement factory incidencies of lung cancers and more frequent bronchitis are seven times higher.

It wouldn't be fair to leave those results confined to obscurity of academic research. So, we published the story in Polet, and we did a radio show on the 101 radio station. When we interviewed people for radio, some promised to roast an ox for us, if we manage to get the cement works shut down. Factory, however, remained open for four more years. Polet published our pictures, which ended up being used by police (they asked my roomate of those days, who was arrested on drug charges, to identify me from the picture). Later, in 1986, when Svarun was formed, it took up as one of the goals to shut down the cement works in Podsused. Locals were organized and numerous petitions were submitted to various city offices. Finally, in 1988 with a Svarun-supported representative pushing the issue in Zagreb's City Council, Council ordered the cement works out of commission.

For me that was the end of medical school: I found radio producing more immediately rewarding, dealine related stress was a real rush and the money was quite good. I continued to produce environmentalist shows: Plomin power-plant which operates in the middle of the resort area (Istra) using coal with eleven percent sulphur content and radioactivity that dwarfs low level radiactive waste from nuclear power plants; Tara power-plant which was never buillt after UNESCO, WWF and Greenpeace protests (the plan was to build a power plant in the canyon of river Tara in Monte Negro, which would completely wipe out that canyon - the second largest in the world); Krsko nuclear power plant - the only nuclear power plant in former Yugoslavia, built by Westinghouse in Slovenia close to Croatian border mostly to supply energy to power-hungry Zagreb industry: Krsko is the same design like the Three Miles Island, it warms up river Sava to tropical temperatures and it stores it's waste literally in the backyard (after using up the alloted storage space). Yet, Yugoslavia had planned to build more nuclear power plants. According to the government sponsored study, the best bet was that the next plant would be built in Tenja, on river Danube in Eastern Slavonia, right on the border between Croatia and Serbia. As Yugoslavia run out of dough, the plans were dropped. Later, when the war started, Tenja was the place of one of the fiercer massacres. Can you imagine the shivers that would run down Lord Owen's spine if some of the Serbian warlords might say: "We'll make another Chernobil if you do not meet our demands."?

Finally at some point Croatian Department of Energy Secretary asked me in a bad delivered joke, what do I suggest, since I succesfully attacked all their conventional energy resources. So, I decided to diversify my journalistic interests: a friend of mine, who used to help me ador the public buildings with satirical grafitti, and me walked right before closing in a museum, the pride of our people's state, and took out some Quing dinasty (16th century, if my memory doesn't fail me) bronze plate, despite all the alarms, video cameras and guards. In a historic display of stupid honesty, we returned the one million dollar item back to the museum. Of course, I made a radio show. But no other media in Croatia printed or said a single word about the event for the entire year. Croatian communist party top-executives fired the entire security detail at the museum and took the director and washed his mouth with soap for three straight days (we knew a girl who knew his son), and the Secret Police surrounded Mimara, protecting him from the harmful information until the old chap died. After the WW II, Mimara was working on the recovery of art items stolen by Nazis. He was so succesful in finding the artifacts, but almost completely failed in finding their rightful owners, so he amassed a nice collection himself, which he kept in Austria. As he was closer to death, he wanted to do something for his old homeland, so he promised to donate his collection to some Croatian public museum - under one condition, that the art there be safe from fire and theft. Our prank would sure made him decide to leave his collection in Austria. That's why, despite all Croatian party-controlled media went deaf&dumb on us, we got a centerfold in Serbian party-controlled newsmagazine Nin in a prominent May 1 issue (May 1 was a big holiday in communist countries). At that time, however, I admit I was too naive to understand that not so subtle intelligence games between Republics who were at odds more and more each day. The Nin article anyway appeared in cyrillic which Mimara wasn't able to read, I believe. So, no harm done. And we never got to serve the ten years sentences (appropriated for a grand larceny that we committed), but the police always called us whenever something similar happened, and I had once to sit through the lie detector test, which was actually fun.

The New Years eve of 1985-1986 I spent working on the Radio 101 New Year's show. I always loved to show contrasts. So, this time me and my friends decided to talk to the joyous celebrants on the extremes of socio-economic spectrum. One crew went to Hotel Intercontinental where Zagreb socialist equivalent of rich and famous paid few hundreds Deutsche-Marks to wait for 1986 to come with lobsters and French champagne, while their furs were guarded in the coat-check. They were not admitted, so they waited for people outside. They got all the fake best wishes they could take. I chose to cover the "other side" myself: with another crew I went to Petrusevac, a murky suburb in South-East of Zagreb. Houses built there were built against city regulations, and were about to be buldozzered down. There was no telephones, electricity or running water in the area. People sat out around bonfires, sang and danced. They shared their roasted pig with us, and well, they were very worried about the New Year.

This was not an isolated problem. Except for Slovenia, Yugoslavia was extremely unequally developed - a few larger Western-looking cities and the vast underdeveloped Third World-looking countryside that often streched well into the slums surrounding the cities. In fact the worst poverty and devastation was to be found close to the big cities that drained their surroundings. If you left Zagreb and went 15 miles in any direction you were about to find near-ghost towns with fairly above average suicide rates. In most of those towns alcoholics outnumbered the rest of the population, and most of them drank home-made moonshine with a high percentage of methanol, which left their brains permanently useless. Although in seventies electricity became relatively common in larger cities, telephone lines were always scarce and one had to wait years, sometimes a whole decade to get a telephone. In late eighties TV-sets in Yugoslavia outnumbered telephones almost by one hundred percent degree. Also, it was not uncommon that even in Zagreb and Belgrade certain neighborhoods did not have running water. For example just across the street from the high rise in which I lived when I moved out from my father's place there was an old shanty town, and they did not have running water. These outstanding social inequalities in the land where social equality was a part of the social contract guaranteed to every citizen by birth, and this heterogenous development largely contributed to the causes of the war in nineties.

Summer of 1985 I spent travelling around Europe. First stop was Amsterdam. I have already been acquainted with the Amsterdam's pleasures, but this time it was different. It was the END convention I was attending: European Nuclear Dissarmament. This was at the height of the Pershing missiles crisis, and American bases were blocked and surrounded by permanent encampments of peaceniks throughout Europe (yet they refrained from launching the attacks against Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, unlike Yugoslav Army a few years later when it found itself in a similar situation). So, the situation was electrified. There was a lot of people. There were permanent street happening going on for about a week in Amsterdam. The European peace movement was determined to get Europe rid of Pershing missiles. Sure, other issues were discussed, too. There was a very interesting China workshop where Petra Kelly grilled Chinese officials about their less than sterling human rights records. And there were workshops on Eastern Europe and Non-Aligned Countries.

Do you remember Non-Alignment? That used to be a pretty big thing before the Berlin wall fell, and there was no more alignments, so non-alignment became obsolete. This was the cornerstone of the foreign policy in former Yugoslavia. In fact Tito was one of the main architects of non-alignment and Yugoslavia was the only European country to be non-aligned - the rest were African, Asian and Latin American countries. It served Yugoslavia well. Yugoslavia was not a superpower, but Tito put her in a position of middleman between superpowers and non-aligned countries - whose leaders he persuaded not to believe in superpowers' promises. The most obvious benefit was the ectra income Yugoslavia realized every year by re-exporting the U.S. and Soviet weapons to various non-aligned "democracies" like Iraq, Libia, Sudan, Iran, Cuba, etc. Yugoslavia also had a body called League for Peace. This was a party-run peace movement, a repository for retired diplomats, who were basically supposed to go to such meetings (like the END Convention) and say how world would be so much better place if everybody would just follow the glamorous Yugoslav example. Fortunately, nobody ever took them seriously.

In the League for Peace Croatian office there was a bureaucrat who believed that League for Peace needed some more genuine representation to be trusted in the West. So, she offered me a reduced air fare if I wanted to fly with the delegation (I already decided to go there with my Slovenian friends, who decided to go there independently of League for Peace people). I accepted. On the plane I shared a seat with the Croatian Socialist Youth president, who was actually pretty OK for the creepy title he carried (but later he wanted to adopt changes, the upper echelons returned him home and put in a new guy whose last name was Snail and who moved with the appropriate speed for a Snail). In Amsterdam, of course I sleeped, got high and moved around from workshop to workshop with my Slovenian friends. There were just a few touchy issues for Yugoslavia - we still didn't know the extent of Yugoslav Army's shady deals, and apparently nobody else did. There ws a trial of six people in Belgrade in 1984, all of them old 1968 type of dissidents, and a lot of European intelectuals rose in their support (Juergen Habermas started collecting signatures, and Petra Kelly wrote letters to Yugoslav presidency). It was a typical communist monster trial, where they were scapegoated for somebody's political interest. The trial however turned sour, because the communist state was already loosing stamina, and the world noticed.

Retired diplomats (some of whom were Serbs) tried to proove that Yugoslavia had the right to prosecute those individuals (6 Serbs), while we (none of us were Serbs) claimed it was bullshit. Today, this sounds surreal. Anyway, nobody really thought that we are doing anything seriously there, and that we'd achieve anything. Nascent independent peace movement of Yugoslavia (in fact only of Slovenia) could not compare to giant well organized European peace movements who were able to pull such stints like a hundred miles human chain. Still, we believed it was worth trying. Somebody, eventually had to do it. The Berlin wall would never fall if no people wanted it to fall.

After Amsterdam I stayed in Germany, France and Netherlands for a few months. Fifteen days after I came back to Yugoslavia one day at 6 am six plainclothed policemen came to my apartment. They searched my room thorougly without a warrant (they even boasted that they didn't have one). Ostensibly they were looking for drugs, yet they seemed to read my books, so at one point I could not resist telling them that they are vasting their time. In two or three hours they did not find wht they were looking for, but still they decided to take away some of my books, fliers, printed matter, typewriter and passport. I was given some papers which listed all seized items, and I was taken to the percinct for further interrogation. There I was approached by two guys who introduced themselves as State Security. They were cynical, almost boringly polite, very intelectual and utterly insensitive. Immediately I realized that they never beat anybody - they can always call the real policemen back in the room to do the dirty job for them, if neccessary. They said that typewriter was taken away because it has to be tested. Apparently an article appeared in some "anti-Yugoslav emmigree's" publication signed by me, so they wanted to see if it was written on my typewriter by analyzing the tape. That sounded plausible. They did not want to discuss passport. They told me I'd get it back soon. How soon? Soon, measured astronomically, they said. Later they sent me the legal paperwork which said that my passport was taken for the national security and national defense interests. There was also a catch added to such a decision: state could hold a passport indefinitely, and it was allowed never to disclose real reasons. In other words, I was fucked.

I never wrote anything for any "enemy" publication abroad. I didn't even know any Croat or Serb in Germany besides my mother: she was always very worried, and would rather see me out with skinheads than with Croat emigrees. She had good reasons to worry: her father as a German minority in Yugoslavia was marched to Bleiburg after the war, and kept in prison for five years (re-education). She was denied college in Belgrade, only because of her last (German) name. Later she had difficulties finding jobs (she actually once competed against one of those Serb psychiatrists who more recently became war criminals). So, finally she decided to move to Germany. But the day before she left, the nice State Security guys dropped by to show her a picture of her son (my older half-brother) and tell her: accept German citizenship and you'd never see your son again. She knew how communists were serious about asserting their power. The first time I saw the Party's boogie-man - Croat emigrees - was in the U.S. - but they were not enemies any more then, and the same reporters that once wrote about them in regime press in Zagreb that they were child killers, now denoted them as the flowers of Croatian nationhood.

Furthermore, I never saw that article that I "wrote", but still I was without a passport and a typewriter. In the next six or eight months I was randomly interrogated several times: some times they'd come and pick me up (searching for some more stuff, and taking more of my papers away), some times they'd send me a notice or just call me to show up at the precinct, and sometimes they'd accomodate me and meet me in some neighbourhood caffe. At that time I did not have a slight idea that this was the perfectly normal process and that about a third of all Yugoslav journalists or intilligentsia had this happen to them at least once in their lifes. I didn't have a slight idea that they (police) at the same time randomly interogated several of my friends. I didn't know that the young couple, political science students, that would regularly come to our peace movement meetings and take notes for their "reseatch paper" had their passports taken away, too. This was the usual procedure of building an informer. They got their passports back in six months. I never got mine, and the police stopped calling me (I must admit that I always invariably ridiculized them and the silly state they were pretending to protect at each of our meetings.). Obviously, I failed. Yet, much later, some of them, those who were Serbs, followed me to the street car (safe place for asking stupid questions) and urged me to ask my mom if she could help them get an asylum in Germany. Excuse me? Aren't you the formidable State Security guy? And what's with my passport, pal?

Despite the passport incident I continued to work for 101. I moved from environment to social issues (strikes, poverty), freedom of expression and our fabulous military industry. I begun to co-produce a weekly show every Friday at 7:30 pm. It was called Krezubi Trozubac (which means - A Toothless/Prongless Trident - the wordplay in Croatian comes from the fact that tooth and prong have the same root). The idea was to link alternative, independent, "underground" radio programs in various republics in former Yugoslavia talking about a previously agreed issue. In former Yugoslavia each republic has its own set of print and electronic media which was controlled by the local (republic) party leadership and loosely affiliated in the national network. The alternative, independent, so-called "youth" media were strictly confined to the local area (rarely, limited quantities of the "youth" magazines from one republic would sell in another). After the war started AIM was developed - a press agency of independent journalists on territories of former Yugoslavia. Krezubi Trozubac provided a link between three alternative radio stations (the three "prongs" of the Toothless Trident referred to that): Radio Student in Ljubljana (Slovenia), which was then headed by Franci Zavrl, who was a regular correspondent to Krezubi Trozubac, and who is now a publishing tycoon in Slovenia; Ritam Srca in Belgrade (Serbia), that is now B-92 and whose editor-in-chief was and still is the untouchable Veran Matic, who was a regular correspondent to Krezubi Trozubac, too; and us the Krezubi Trozubac team at the Radio 101 in Zagreb (Croatia): Davor Ivankovic (now works as a senior correspondent for Slobodna Dalmacija), Hloverka Novak who is now the editor-in-chief of Croatian Television, Zeljko Kardum and Jadranka Groksa who both work for Zagreb Stock Exchnage today, Nino Bantic who helped Brian Hall write his book about Yugoslavia and me. KT was a political talk show. We took up issues like Geneva peace talks between Reagan and Gorbachev, Soviet invasion in Afganistan (at which occasion I talked to UNHCR guys in Pakistan with no way to see they'd soon be coming to my country), the Northern Ireland conflict (for which I interviewed both Ian Pazley and Garry Adams). The party never liked us, because of our criticism, yet we protected ourselves with then powerful ":brotherhood and unity" clout.

1985 was also a year of various TV projects. None of them ever aired, though. MTV never heard of us, and at that time we didn't see much of MTV, either. Our national TV chief executives were less then thrilled by our offers. One just stood up walkinh nervously around the office until the tape ended, making clear his disagreement with the western decadence we so obviously represented. In a country where gays didn't dare to hold hands in public, and where in half of republics (Serbia, for example) engaging in homosexual acts was illegal, we did a TV survey on homosexualism. In downtown Zagreb we'd stop people and have them say for camera what do they think about gays. Opinions ranged from total freedom to death penalty. The second part was more intriguing: it was a candid camera and I wore a wireless microphone trying to lure guys into a gay relationship with me (mostly unsuccesfully). This video was viewed at relatively obscure parties like gay gathering in club Magnus in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Berlin film festival.

In November we set up a situationist (click on 'happening' or the picture to download 6 mb realmedia file) happening: a group of people staged a demonstrations in the city of Zagreb, in the country where demonstrations where not a constitutional right, and where they were either organized by the Party or crushed in blood by the police. The most distinguishing element of those demonstrations was that there was no apparent reason for them, and the transparents and fliers (that demonstrants dutifully distributed) were accordingly blank.
They called themselves TTB - Train Toilet Band, since that's how they were created - smoking in the corridor near the toilet in the train on route from Belgrade to Zagreb returning from the trial against the Belgrade six. Later TTB became Svarun. More later the same people became known as the Anti-War Campaign, Zagreb, and publishers of Arkzin.

At the critical city squares demonstrants halted their marching and formed a circle around an orator (btw, the guy today represents Novell in Croatia) who, of course, was speechless. On one hand it was a mockery of state orchestrated demonstrations (like we usually had in support of Palestinian Liberation Organization) where nothing was said, and the transparents bearing slogans were empty of any real meaning for our generation. On another hand it was a statement of global dissatisfaction with the regime. We've just had it. No further comments were necessary. Now you can download this event in the RealMedia format:

That all worked fine until the great student demonstrations in Zagreb 1986. The real ones. No blank transparents this time. And no silent speeches, but angry shouting instead. Also with no political sofistication. They happened over the food and lodging price increases. But we at 101 were supposed not to say a word on the air about hundreds of students raging in front of our studio, demanding to be heard at least by "their" radio. Our editors however followed the orders of their party bosses and kept windows tightly shut to keep our studio student-proof, while the Party handles it through the usual counter-attack pattern: they'd infiltrate few guys to start shouting nationalist crap. The police would then intervene and arrest the leaders (not the guys who shouted nationalist crap) whose locations they'd collect from informers in the meantime. Students would then be branded nationalists, threatened to be thrown out of colleges, and leaders might get prison sentences on the grounds of counter-revolutionary activities. I just couldn't see that happening. Like Max Hedrum (to whom I was delightfully introduced much later) I taped my own chief editors giving a lamer excuse after a lamer excuse to students in a sort of forced public meeting on a topic why Radio 101 would not broadcast the list of their demands. Finally fearing students may become physical, the 101 editor-in-chief assertively pointed at me: "here guys it's our reporter, he is taping the meeting and we will see what can we do with it later, is that OK?" Murmurs of reluctant approval echoed through the auditorium. Editor-in-chief's face was all smile. Up there on the gallery behind the darkened glass cameras equipped with powerful zooms clicked. They didn't however know they at that time I already smartened up a little. So when they came to search my appartment the next day, I told them that would not be neccessary and gave them the tape, a copy of the tape, that was.

The original has been secretly edited by my friends at the radio station. At the time of airing (which was previously approved), executives suddenly received a new party directive, which essentially put the show of the air. Early in February 1986, I was detained for 12 hours in a police station, while party spin-doctors were doctoring students in another forced public meeting. One executive would be scapegoated, the prices of food would be scaled back, and the rent increase would be phased in slowly, the leaders only would be branded nationalist and suffer disciplinary penalties; students would cease the strike immediately and shut the fuck up; in a bonus package they'd get their campus renamed to Stjepan Radic campus - which shows that Zagreb's party was already calculatingly flirting with nationalist sentiments. I was released as soon as the meeting was over (detectives were not at all happy with holding me and they were calling their contact at the meeting continouusly to see if they can get rid of me). The next day I had the tape ready to air. But when I came to the station I found my show pre-empted, and I found the schedule changed so thoroughly so that none of my colleagues who were suspected to may help me air the show were there at any time that evening. Using studio phones (the engineer was sympatetic, and the executive producer was, fortunately, illiterate) I managed to connect to my Krezubi Trozubac partners in Ljubljana and Belgrade and tell of the story on-air there, after being censored by my own station. Since that moment I was officially banned from appearing at Radio 101.

The life's little ironies: son of the communist executive in charge of student housing and canteen, who was scapegoated in the event, later became one of the leaders of one of the new nationalist student organizations. The infamous editors were swept from the Radio 101 later, and I have no idea of their fate. They were never able to enforce their ban against me. Finally, editor-in-chief would retire to his office when I'd visit the station, so that he might pretend that he didn't see me (for eventual secret police briefing). It was however easy to stop the paychecks coming my way. So, I started freelancing for various publications - most notably Mladina in Slovenia and later, Omladinska Iskra frm Split and Fokus from Zadar.

In 1986 TTB became Svarun, an initiative - very much like its Slovenian counterpart (People for Peace Culture) - towards building a peace and environmentalist, "green" movement. Although independently lead, Svarun was administratively located in the offices of Socialist Youth of Zagreb's borough Trnje (later this changed with re-eastablishing of the University conference of Socialist Youth which took up Svarun. Svarun introduced new term South of Slovenia: conscientious objection - a moral opposition to the compulsive draft - in the beginning mostly by finding legal help for religiously motivated c.o.-s (Jehova's Witnesses), who were doing long prison terms repeatedly for refusing to carry arms.

Besides Svarun, 1986 was the year when the talk about OTV first started. OTV - Independent Television believers even set up a huge promotional event called The Foot of Reconciliation: those words are still carved in a concrete monument that later became a part of a park in the Stjepan Radic student campus. And the monument was just a good joke. I called a large construction company to unload a few cubic feet of concrete to some indescript area of student campus and my friend used a wooden pole to scribble the words while the concrete was still wet. Later a park was built around. The rest of the project was similar. Vinko Grubisic (who now owns OTV) managed to get members of different foreign consulate offices in Zagreb to play indoor soccer against each other. So, we had a China vs. Dubrava match for example (where Dubrava is a Zagreb's neighborhood). Between the soccer games public was served other happenings. It was basically a circus: Zagreb alpine team skied downhill the facade of nearby high-rise attached to bungee cords and jugglers wheeled over tight-rope on monocycles, but there was a touch of political satyre to it: the first row of seats in the Hall of Sports (where the event was held) was outfited with exquisitely plush chairs - party and state dignitaries were invited to seat there, but mostly they did not come, so the host of the show auctioned chairs to the public; designated "members of CK" (which in Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian stands both for Red Cross and Central Committee) walked through the aisles distributing cakes in an homage to Maria Antoinette's famously disconnected from reality saying that "paupers should eat cakes if they have no bread"; people fully clad in anti-radiation gear walked around with hay sprayed with the glow-in-the-dark paste saying Chernobil today, Krsko tommorrow (Krsko was the Yugoslav only nuclear power plant), and this was the first place in Yugoslavia out of Slovenia where Slovenian peace movement was alowed to distribute its printed matter: Janez Jansa (who would later become the first defense minister of the newly independent and sovereign Slovenia) was there distributing his flier on civil society and "barracks communism" (which was his favorite name for Yugoslavia at that time). We had such a great time. The event ended with a huge rock concert totaling 18 leading Yugoslav rock bands. Even more amazing: we got away with all this.

I was never a big friend of army life. There is nothing fun in being run out of your bed each morning ta 5:30 am by a screaming sergeant, whose IQ is on purpose 70 notches below yours. It is even more depressing if the purpose of that drill is to make you less sensitive to killing of other fellow human beings. On top of that, why would anybody want to fight for a country that curtails his/hers basic freedoms? Yet, Yugoslavia had a compulsory military service of 12 months. Army relied solely on force: one who would try to escape draft, would be arrested by military police and brought to a penal squad, or if he refuses to take up a weapon (as Jehova Witnesses repeatedly did), he'd be repeatedly put in prison for a year or more. There were no "be all you can be" ads for Yugoslav Army: YA was basically a boring, outdated, old-fashioned service, which with its rusting weaponry and delapidated barracks served more the ideological-political purpose of disciplining country's young males then military purpose of preparing them to defend their country. There was absolutely nothing I ever liked about Yugoslav Army. As I arrived to the air-force base near Sombor (Vojvodina), drafted to serve in infantry, I started thinking of how to get out. However, soon I was overwhelmed by curiosity (about how the military works, and why the other people seemed to believe in those workings), so I decided to hang on for a while, until I get bored.

I spent six months in the army (of mandatory twelve), mostly in Sombor, Skopski Petrovac and Military Hospital in Skopje. All this is a top military secret: I was never supposed to disclose this to foreigners under Yugoslav laws. However, there is no more Yugoslavia, so, I figure, its laws are not binding any more. I expected cruelty and brutality, yet I was appalled with the levels of corruption, and overall emaciated look of the great "people's" army: barracks were delapidated, built in time when warm running water was not considered of any importance, uniforms were literally tearing apart - practically the only thing that was in somewhat usable condition was my AK rifle. This was probably on purpose - Yugoslav Army doctrine emphasized improvization. So, we improvized: buttons were fastened to our coats with wire and toothpicks, so they did not fall off when we would go for those stupid parade marches around barracks every evening. The most usual "improvization", however, was just to steal whatever you need from your commrades, particularly newbies: like imagine you just got in the army and you wake up the next morning and the laces on your boots are gone, which of course is no excuse for you not showing up to morning excersise, so you just steal laces from your nearest commrade who was not fortunate to wake up before you that day. Also, I noticed that whoever had a nice easy duty, got it not by what he knew, but by whom he knew: guys working in the culture club, communications or ambulance were all somebody's cousins and nephews. Of course they were not all neccesarilly uncool:i.e. my unit commander, who was also a somebody's nephew, was a totally cool law student from Belgrade who let us slack off all the time: he'd assign a guard duty to one of us to watch if any officers were coming our way, why the rest of us would basically take a break; when an officer was spotted, we'd start running around as crazy, because we were well rested, so we always made the best unit and our unit commander earned his "Exemplary Soldier" badge.

Officially the alcohol was banned. Yet, getting really drunk was also a part of the rite of passage and we did it quite often. I was never drunk more often in my entire life. After initial two weeks of resentment I begun to like the opportunity to meet so many people from all different walks of life from all around Yugoslavia: there wasa guy from Slovenia, he didn't talk much, but it was funny to watch others how secretly they wanted to have his approval, as if that meant that their actions would be considered more hip, then there was a guy from Zagreb, whom I never saw not laughing, a few nuts from Bosnia, one of them - from some place I never heard of - was illiterate and fell unconscious when a doctor vaccinated him, a bunch of kids from Serbia and MonteNegro who would patiently listen in disbelief to my reasoning against the army (one of them told me that if he didn't go, his family would disinherit him), Albanians from Kosova, who always kept to themselves, and didn't really talk to any of us, our room commander, Bosnian guy who worked construction in Zagreb and spent nights talking to me how he misses Zagreb and his Rifle jeans and of course there was my bunk-bed pal Goran from Krusevac (Serbia) who came to the army with red streaks in his hair. Officers promptly concluded that we belong to the same bunk-bed, I guess. Of course, there were plenty of assholes around us, like our captain, Napoleon sized in both height and ambition: he hated Albanians, and he didn't much like Slovenes and Croats, either, but he vented all his anger on Albanians, some of them having real troubles understanding Army's official Serbo-Croat lingo. He would make them crawl on snow covered concrete in new uniforms and then scream on them that why were they dirty, Nevertheless, he groveled in front of those Belgrade law students (who were all nephews of people several dozens ranks above him). One of them and me directed a performance for Veterans Day, that later won the army cultural award. I introduced light-show to an army performance (I bet it was first time that was done), which made our performance quite more effective (though we built reflectors out of cans and colored paper). It was amazing watching all those crippled old guys weeping in trance whenever Tito's name was mentioned (seventeen times in the performance): they stood up to applaud afterwards (except, of course, those in wheelchairs). Our captain got a trophy for that performance, and I didn't get anything to this day.

After the training period I was transferred to a real air-force base in Skopski Petrovac, where everything was promptly stolen from me one day when we newbies were ordered to march some 15 miles in wilderness for target practice. My boots were not of the same pair, and they were different sizes, which made them unconfortable for running, and I didn't get an AK, but the old, heavy machine gun, a part of the World War II war booty - swastika was still showing up under the badly scratched German eagle and the year of production: 1944. That machine gun comes with 20 lbs of ammo and a 50 lbs heavy tripod, and you and your assistant switch between carrying the gun or the tripod plus ammo. Days were boring and the crowd was less interesting. There were more drinking, though. The booze around there is called Mastika, and it has somewhat sweet menthol taste, but it is potent as hell, and one vomits from it almost invariably. Generally, I lost my sense of humor when I found my locker broken into, and in Rambo mood grabbed my Wermacht Maschingewaehre to kick some ass of those communistische Banditen. Actually I just slammed the ancient weapon on the floor, and the poor old thing fell apart in little pieces that would require a long time dead German engineer to put back together. Army command transfered me from infantry to support units (where I was less likely to do any damage). There I didn't have anything to do. It was almost embarassing, when the units commanding officer called him in his office and asked me what could I do: the unit was doing all those side jobs in army - like carpentry, sewing, sawing, cooking, shoe-repairing, etc. Since I politely apologized for not knowing to do any of this well, he asked me if I went to school at all. I did, I said, explaining that I had been to a language and culture oriented high school, and that I had eight years of training in Latin, and that I had enrolled medical school, so that they might have the best if not the only use of me if they transfer me to ambulance. He threw up his hands saying that the second transfer is out of the question. Finally, he decided that the only thing I might do is to help civilians on duty in the army laundromat folding towels, sheets and blankets. It was an easy duty, about 5-6 hours a day, but it was so incredibly repetitive, tiring and boring. So, I decided it was time to leave.

I took classic approach: one night I went out with wet hair and got sick with flu. Once in ambulance I convinced my friend who was there on duty as a nurse to give me the bottle of nose drops. When you use the entire bottle in a night you'll cose a painless bleeding from your nose, not really dangerous, but also not a pretty site. In the morning military doctors were out of their mind about what do to with me. Finally they decided to send me for an evaluation to Skopje's military hospital. The blood sample won me a hospital stay: I managed to induce anemia. I got a month in the hospital. Soldiers on duty in hospital quickly grasped that I could run their jobs, and they let me do it, so they could go have fun downtown. I just had to give medications to some terminally ill veterans of past wars, and make sure to remember what's my name on which night (Slobodan, Petar, Vlada, etc.), as not to confuse the officer on duty when he calls to check if everything is OK. Well fed and fully rested I decided to give a shot to all those nice painkillers I've been distributing to poor old suckers. I combined everything I found in the cabinet. After a while I found out that something called Valoron (which was actually a morphine-like medication) was cool - bitter, though, but bitterness miraculously disappears if it is taken with beer (which also enhances the effect). So cool it was that my nurse friend from ambulance in Skopski Petrovac base wanted to take some to the base. We devised a brilliant strategy: he made doctors order a box of Canesten drops against the athletes foot (which should be quite common in any army) and he left that box with me over night; I emptied and cleaned bottles thoroughly with alcohol, then I poured Valoron inside. Once I emptied all bottles of Valoron, I filled them with water and carefully reassembled their seal, so they don't appear as they've been tampered with. Next day my friend came to pick up the box of Canesten that he forgot.

The time came for my release from hospital. I was promised earlier that I'd be given some time off, but they forgot and I received a release paper saying I have to go back to the barracks. I hung around for about half an hour and decided I didn't want to continue my army time. I sneaked back to the department and emptied a half of one smaller bottle of Valoron (I just emptied it in a sink, it was water inside anyway), then I went to the canteen to get myself a beer, and I filled it with Valoron I had on me. Next fortyfive minutes I spent being high in some waiting room. Then I headed back to the department and declared to the first registered nurse I saw that I just had committed suicide. She screamed in panic. A doctor materialized. In hindsight I was walking and probably didn't look as dead as I supposed I was looking, though I was dizzy and well drugged. He took me up to the psychiatric ward for an evaluation. Colonel, a psychiatrist, concluded quickly that I was not going to die and started accusing me for bluffing them. He hinted that my place was "down there" and not up here (down there was a military court). However, he admitted me in and the next week I spent there. My roomates were two Bosnians and one Croat. Croat from Varazdin attempted suicide by trying to cut his veins. He was a melancholic, poetic soul that spoke softly and cut veins in wrong direction. One Bosnian was quite talkative guy from Zenica who was my age (18) and who tried every conceivable drug, which practice on top of the Zenica's grotesque air-pollution, contributed to his sudden memory lapses. He also attempted suicide with some pills. Succesfully - he didn't harm himself, and he was going to be sent home. The other Bosnian slept all the time: he was there four days, and he did not wake up, I swear to God. His limbs were tied and his body was tied to the bed. Doctor told us he was heavily sedated (Haldol). He also smelled like rotting cadaver. Yet he was allive - we heard him snorting sometimes. He was kept in this sedation because he shot at his fellow soldiers from his AK (nobody was harmed, fortunately) and then he chased the commanding officer with an axe. I guess nobody wanted to take any more risks with him.

The third day of my being there I got my couch time: a female shrink totally swallowed my family horror story and wowed to recommend for my immediate release. A panel reviewed her findings and declared me "emotionally immature" which carried a deferment of four years. While the head of the panel served me release papers, he told me that my granduncle (a brother of my paternal grandfather was a Yugoslav Army colonel and a partisan World War II hero) would be very ashamed of me (on the contary, my granduncle seemed later not to be bothered at all that I screwed the army that in his opinion betrayed the ideals he and his commrades fought for). Release papers in hand I headed back to the barracks: there I found that again my locker had been broken into - this time it was completely emptied (including my personal possessions). Nevertheless, I could not leave until I return all military stuff I was given - and I could not find even my rifle! After I found the rifle (it doesn't pay to steel somebody's else, because they all have serial numbers and you have to return the one that has the number issued to your name), I decided I'd have to obtain other stuff the old-fashioned way - by breaking into other people lockers. I was worned by officers that if they would catch me, I'd go to prison. I did it anyway - there was no other way. As soon as I collected all items that had to be returned I run with them to the commissariat to get the damned paper. The word came that I was followed, and that they knew I stole those things and that military police was issued an order to find and arrest me. Fortunatelly I already had an open plane ticket, and the civilian airport was just a quick dash from us, so I decided to hide in the ambulance with my friend. Eventually they found me. But I met a guy in the ambulance, another Belgrade law student, who spent his military service faking been sick and constantly listening to Voice of America - nothing else - to preserve his sanity, as he used to say, and he filled me in on some important rumor that was circulating around our base: the infantry captain was actually a mayor some time ago, before he became a drunk and allegedly sold military stuff around in neighbouring villages for booze. When that became obvious, he was demoted. Apparently, that was why the ritual of stealing stuff from new soldiers was established in the infantry regiment there: the old soldiers could not possibly ever go home otherwise. That guy bet me that the colonel, airport's commanding officer, either had no idea what was going on with the lowly infantry division, or simply couldn't care less.

First I was brought to the procurement division commander (since there I belonged at the time), but he didn't want to deal with me. Instead he took me over to the infantry captain, ho immediately called the base's detainment facility to ask whether there was a free cell there for me. There was. But I was not a soldier any more. I was subject to civilian authorities, not military. I pointed that out to them. Also, I added the story about the mayor who became a captain after his superiors found out that he was a drunk and a thief, playing with the probability of various actions the colonel might take if he would be forced to learn that the practice continued. Maybe the captain would become a leutenant. I was chased out of the office. Oh boy, was he mad, really mad. I could leave at that moment. But Riblja Corba was about to have a concert in Skopje (in 3 days), and I saw no reasons to miss it. So, I hung around base for next three days. Walking improperly uniformed and enraging officers who were approaching me with like: "we let you go, so why the fuck didn't you leave yet?". I found a hole in the base's fence, which I used to go to Skopje and come back to the base unnoticed. The day after the concert I left indeed. Flight took two hours over Titograd. My dad opened the doors and before saying anything, or allowing me to say anything, he swallowed two anti high blood pressure pills.

Four years after I was called for a draft again: this time I obtained expert opinions from six leading Zagreb psychiatrists, who wrote up a history of observation for me since age 4, so I appeared to be really crazy, "borderline" as they defined it, with the strong suggestion that the army indeed might be the one to push me over that border. So, I got released from army for good.

In 1987 an obscure thing happened in Idrija (Slovenia). Media were silent. Yet rumors persisted: a fight errupted between local Slovene youth and the economic immigrants from Southern parts of Yugoslavia. Kind of a skinheads incident. Idrija is a chilly, small, drab mining town in North-Western Slovenian mountainous region. Americans would understand if I compare it to Libby, Montana. Idrija's economy is built around the mercury mine. Yet, Yugoslavia went through the same economic changes like the rest of the world: Slovenia became more developed, and more and more young Slovenes started leaving jobs in mining or agriculture to become lawyers, bankers or consultants. On the other hand, the gap between salaries paid to workers in Slovenia and in the rest of the Yugoslavia was steadily increasing: in eighties you could get paid 2.5 times more in Slovenia than in Kosovo for the same job. A lot of poor, undereducated people from Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo therefore sought jobs in Slovenia. Yet, in the late eighties, with economic opportunities in Yugoslavia shrinking so drastically and so suddenly, those economic immigrants became a problem for Slovenia.

The fight ended with some immigrant dwellings being set on fire, and with police arresting Slovene perpetrators. The rumors would have however that immigrants started the fight, and there was no official story. Officially, nothing ever happened in Idrija. After the incident a curfew was introduced and the whole town was virtually put under arrest. Nobody could leave until investigation was completed. One guy, however, managed to evade checkpoints and came to Ljubljana. It happened (well, how could it not happen) that he was a friend of some my friend in Ljubljana. Mladina and Radio Student were already preparing a story, and I immediately travelled to Ljubljana to interview him myself for Radio 101. We met in a caffe and did the interview and I headed back for Zagreb the same night. I missed the midnight train. That was a bummer, because there were no trains before 3 am that day. So, I had to spend three hours waiting at the train station. I laughed to my American friends that warned me not to go to the Port Authority in New York at night hours - they've obviously never been to a Yugoslav train station, because Port Authority would otherwise look to them like an oasis of safety.

I decided to listen to the interview while I waited but soon my solitude was broken and I was joined by three drunks. They did not ask for money or booze, and I was too excited with the interview to notice that there had to be something fishy about that. Instead they offered me their wine. But the younger guy insisted to have my walkman to hear what I am listening to. I explained to him that it was not music, but a boring interview, which is not even in Slovenian language, so he probably wouldn't like it. It drove me crazy that he apparently didn't want to take those words for granted - he wanted to check it for himself. After they worked on me for two hours, I finally gave in and let him listen to the tape. Ah, then he needed to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, I never saw him again. Neither did I see my walkman or the tape with the precious interview. The other drunks slowly realizing what happened performed vanishing acts of their own. They knew just the first name of the thief and vaguely an area where he lived. I filed a report with the police the same night. When I told them where the thief might be living, they told me that was very probable because about a half of all Ljubljana's criminals lived in that area. Very encouraging. Walkman was never found. Interview was forever lost. Later I met another "thief" in the train, who obviously had the same job (to take my walkman with the tape): I told him that he was to late.

1988 was the year when the lines of division started to become so obvious, so that even those who never took any interest in politics understood that something was wrong. Party conferences, once a closed doors, disciplined, "large stockholders" meetings, became televised circuses, where delegates endulged endlessly in pointless arguments that ended up with a decision ever more rarely. Serbian party leader Milosevic refered to his electorate as Serbs, and argued on federal level that his state was unfairly discriminated under the 1974 Constitution by being divided in three parts (Serbia proper and two autonomous provinces: Vojvodina and Kosovo). He used previously persecuted Serbian nationalists, writers, intelligentsia to create an atmosphere in which his plans would become acceptable. In no time were masses of angry Serbs driven to the roads (sometimes they were given a paid day off - if they participate in demonstrations - by corporate executives in Serbia, mostly close friends of Milosevic) in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Pristina, Titograd (Podgorica)... They demanded in the street what Milosevic demanded at Central Committee - even more. In just a few months Milosevic's mobs - " Happenings of People": as they were christened by the press - brought down local party leaderships in Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro. They were replaced by Milosevic's loyalists. Suddenly, Milosevic held four votes in the eight-headed Yugoslav presidency. That was scary.

The slow and painful breakdown in overall relations between republics became obvious, too. An incredible story is what I had to go through when I bought a car in Belgrade and tried to register in it Zagreb. In order to register a car, one must have a title - anywhere in the world. In Yugoslavia at that time, however, each republic issued different standardized titles, and sometimes republics were not able to process a title from another republic. I was told that my title was invalid. It had a red stamp, and Zagreb ones were all, everybody knew that, bearing green stamps. At the place where titles with green stamps were issued, I was, nevertheless, told that to get one I would have to have my aquisition completed in Croatia. So, what should I do at that point? Go back to Belgrade and obtain some other paperwork. I was sure that I'd be told in Belgrade that this was impossible, so I didn't go. I walked straight into the Zagrebs's police commissioner office, who, of course, was a Serb, and told him that I made a big kaka on the "brotherhood and unity" if one was not able to register a darned car from other republic in his own. He signed all the necesarry papers and I got my car registered the same day.

Later in the year the car served its purpose well, because of my endless trips to Slovenia. That was the year when Janez Jansa got arrested. The year of Lubljana's Trial of Four. They were arrested by civilian police but on the tip from military and they were tried on a military court. The official story was that they got into possession of military secrets with the intent to publish them in Mladina magazine. Mladina offices and the four's apartments were searched. Police found the incriminated document in one of Mladina's drawers - that was actually the first drawer the police had opened. Kind of like they knew where they put it. Military, however, did not want to disclose the content of the documents. Mladina people and their friends helped spread the story that documents were about military take over of Slovenia by Yugoslav army, seizing of territorial defense weapons and lists of prominent Slovenes to be arrested. The story was sound since one of the arrested was a Slovenian military officer (who supposedly leaked the secret to the press). Things that happened two years later just reinforced that popular belief. It was quite simpler, however. Franci Zavrl, then Mladina's editor-in-chief and one of the four arrested, showed the document for Laura Silber's book and TV series. It was a stenogram of one closed-doors federal party meetings, where Milosevic basically scared underwear of Kucan (Slovenian party leader) and others. So, Kucan was outraged and decided to leak it to Mladina (although knowing that such a document might in Yugoslavia be considered top military secret). After being caught in the deed and perhaps threatened with horrible consequences (like a loss of his personal power), he decided to scapegoat Mladina journalists Franci Zavrl, David Tasic and Janez Jansa plus officer Borstner. Franci was in some open prison. I met him qute often in Ljubljana while he was in prison. He actually only slept there and continued to edit Mladina. When we met, he told me stories about being often late to his prison (which had a cyrfew at 11 pm), and having to climb over the wall into the prison. Jansa, however, was kept inside the slammer for a year and a half.

In November next year, when Jansa was finally released from prison, he was given a heroes welcome. Basically, Kucan allowed an atmosphere to be created in Slovenia as to make people and the four indicted believe that they were martyrs for Slovenia. Army, on the other hand appeared to be backing Milosevic's political agenda. It also showed that it is ready to do the dirty work for him. Croatia and Slovenia grew aware that they had to plan a defense. Kucan probably immediately started to negotiate conditions of divorce with Milosevic, while Croatian political leadership still believed to be able to save Tito's creation. Hopes to do just that diminished in the fall of 1988 when Milosevic abruptly closed and banned Society for Democratic Initiative (a pro-Yugoslav political organization of Yugoslav intelectuals, headquartered in Zagreb) in Serbia. He was not really interested in Yugoslavia.

Early in 1990, Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Markovic, a Croat, with a combination of anti-inflation, austerity measures and various financial mechanisms, succesfully stabilized Yugoslav Dinar and stopped inflation. This came after years that people lived writing rubber checks, and banks applied the same system, just with larger sums - thus creating a hugely inflated assets, in order to hide that they basically spent the depositors' savings long time ago. Milosevic, whose banks were less succesfully in that scam than let's say Slovenian banks, again thought that Serbia was unfairly disadvantaged in its right to scam, so his people broke into money printing place (which was conveniently located in Belgrade - let's fox guard the henhouse) and printed some huge ammount of money, took it away and destroyed Markovic's government.

Politically, Milosevic agreed that Slovenia might leave, but then Croatia's Racan first time showed that he also has some fragments of spine (which was widely doubted for a long time) and said that Croatia did not see its future in an incomplete Yugoslavia (i.e. without Slovenia). Milosevic was seriously annoyed with that since he was not ready to let Croatia go, too. Croatia however, copied literally Milosevic's shift to nationalism, creating an atmosphere that simply demanded somebody like Franjo Tudjman as a safety net against Milosevic's aggression. Milosevic, on his part, already planned to use Serbian minority in Croatia to prevent Croatia of going the Slovenia way. Milosevic's agents were already in Krajina telling people that Ustashe would soon be back. Tudjman's (and some of his deputies') words and deeds in first months after elections played right into Milosevic's hands. People of Krajina closed the roads and isolated themselves from the rest of Croatia. The war was almost there. It was just a question of time who, when and where would actually fire the first shot.

In 1988, also, I decided to leave the country. It was basically a whim. I was just bored. So, I assembled a ragtag bunch of my Slovenian mountain-climbing friends and persuaded them to show me the way to Austria over the Alps. The trouble was that I couldn't keep my big foul journalist mouth shut, so the Yugoslav Army was waiting for us. Unmarked black helicopters were patrolling over the glacier all they long, and at night border patrols were sweeping the mountain. Fortunately, when they found us, they did not recognize us. The army intelligence failed to update its files on me: they were looking for bespectacled me, and I wore contact lenses. In the same year I had a weird car accident after daring to oppose a group of students from Serbia (basically claiming that Albanians in Kosovo should be subjected to some sort of "final solution") at the meeting of students of humanities in Moscenicka Draga (Istria): somebody cut the screws and one wheel just wheeled of in the middle of highway. Fortunately, I just felt something is going to happen and slowed down a second before it happened. The hate became more serious.

It was February 1989. Zagreb, today the capital of Croatia, was still in Yugoslavia. I was writing for early independent magazines, did video projects, studied philosophy part time, partied hard full time and enjoyed the role of youthful dissident - that the state gracefully bestowed upon me back in 1985 when the secret police confiscated my passport and typewriter and detained me briefly. At that time (Feb 89) I was completing the presentation for the annual meeting of students of humanities in Yugoslavia. Which that year was held in Ohrid (Macedonia), on the other side of Yugoslavia. The presentation was about the decline of student movements, and about curious absence of students from political process in Yugoslavia in late eighties (as opposed to let's say late sixties - you know, the same BS like here: the old hippies claimed that we - the generation X -were apolitical). I did a 60 minutes video-tape, interviews with students and their teachers. I picked up those teachers who were leaders of student movements in Zagreb at various points in the past (1968, 1971, 1974 ...) when student uprisings happened.

However, it was spring of 1989 and nationalism was still a bad word (Tudjman, who would just a year later become the president of Croatia, was at that time persona non grata, and NO newspapers would even print his name - except as a criminal). The 1971 student uprising was considered a right-wing, nationalist type of revolt. So leaders of that student revolt were not professors (they were imprisoned and expelled from academia; after serving their prison terms they mostly opened their small businesses). Since I believe in scientific truth, I was not going to do a presentation of history of student revolt in Zagreb without interviewing at least one of them. I interviewed Ivan Zvonimir Cicak - who was a student dean in 1971, and later spent 4 years in prison. He was not given opportunity to speak in public since then. (today he is a head of Croatian Helsinki Committee for Protection of Human Rights)

I planned to give a copy of that video-tape to my friend who was running a small independent TV operation (the first of that kind there), and I gave audio copies to my friends in different magazines. A magazine from Split - Omladinska Iskra - decided to print interview with Cicak. But their printer refused to press the paper with that interview fearing persecution by political police. They were obviously misinformed. At that time, although you could not yet see on CNN morbid pictures of body parts from the region, Yugoslav republics were already in fierce economic and intelligence war with each other. Therefore Croatian communist party faction actually wanted this interview to be published (nationalism became hip after it was introduced in Serbia by Milosevic in 1987). So the official main state daily newspaper picked up the print job. It was a test: if it provokes Serbs to retaliate - just three unimportant heads would be lost: Cicak's, Iskra's chief editor's and mine (of course I realized that only in hindsight). Of course I took the tape to Ohrid.

Iskra's circulation rose from 8000 to 30000, and the interview was reprinted in the next issue. It was also sold to other papers. Serbs made some noise, but - strangely - they were not much upset. Again in hindsight - it is now clear that Milosevic was comfortable with raising nationalist sentiment in Croatia, because in future (1991) it'd perfectly serve him as a justification to send army to 'protect' Serbs in Croatia. Every following issue of Omladinska Iskra - as well as other newly encouraged Croatian publications - brought at least one Croatian nationalist back to life. They built Croatian 'nation' in a year.

But of course - there were enemies of this project around me, too. The KGB-like structure of federal political police who wanted to stop this of happening, but didn't have much clout any more.

Then this very strange thing happened to me: a honorarium I received for an article I wrote for Iskra earlier was by mistake entered on my account with a missing decimal point. A common computer error (or maybe a common human error) increased my honorarium 100 times. The same as you, I was suspicious. Only much later I realized that "they" did it expecting me to pick up the money and then briefly arrest me - just enough to prevent me of going to that presentation. I got a report in the mail that a payment of about 12 billion dinars has been made to my account. I went to the branch, to see if there is any mistake. Nope. They wouldn't even listen to me. Paper says you have as much money- you have it. Why do you bother us? They were angered by me suspecting that they made a mistake. So, I went home and called them to order a transfer of the money from that basic account to my interest bearing power checking account (which of course was in another bank). That was very important for two reasons: I did not take out the money which was not mine, so I was not yet legally liable and once they agreed to do a transaction with that money they accepted a liability for eventual problems. Banking laws were not that much different under communists.

So, after I had my newly earned 12 billions transferred to my power checking account, I checked by phone if the money cleared and then I went to that branch to pick up my share of checks (there was a limit on how much cash can you get on one check, so you were always been given as many checks to cover your cash). I didn't have time to travel to Slovenia. So, I cashed checks in a Bosnian bank in Croatia and filled my backpack with dinars, went to my friend's father's company and bought Deutschmarks at 15% premium. For 12 billions dinars I got barely 4000 DM (around $ 3000). For my bank I never took the money out yet. It was still there on the account. The next day I had to fly to Ohrid with my presentation. It was already like two weeks since the money was first credited to my first account. I spent all afternoon and coming night at my friend's editing studio adding final touches. I came home around 6 am (I had a plane at 8:30) and my landlady said that the (first) bank branch called, and that the lady who called stressed how important and how urgent is for me to call them back. hehehehe

But instinct warned me not to use airplane - stupid airplane tickets are issued on the name, which means this the easiest way to track you down if they want to arrest you. Also, I did not want to take the train with other students. It was almost given that my video-tape would "disappear". Instead I drove to Belgrade. Communists always hated individual means of transportation because they are relative harder to monitor. In Belgrade I slept at my friends place, I talk to my lawyer there (who also told me that I can actually argue that money is mine at that point, although it wouldn't be ethical; he suggested giving money back, keeping the interest earned and maintaining that banks made a mistake) and I was given air-time on the issue by my friend who was a radio talk- show editor there.

I didn't know what was going on meanwhile. The bank in Zagreb asked for a federal arrest warrant in my name - but courts denied them that (later I learned that Croatian commies wanted me to give my presentation, so their courts would not give that warrant). Then an unusual, unexpected and unlucky thing happened: the first bank managed to make the second bank return them "my" money - all 12 billions that were still sitting on my account while at the same time being safe deposited as DM elsewhere. On the day I had a presentation in Ohrid, I was still in Belgrade, so I had to take a plane (I couldn't make it in time by car even with my driving).

The very same day, as I'd learn soon, the second bank got the info that I cashed the money, and they were out of their minds when they realized that they just ate a loss of 12 billions. My lawyer instructed me that their transfer of that money to the first bank without my authorization was illegal, so that not only that they can't arrest me, but I can sue them. But I didn't have the time then, and I was at the airport. Strangely, as soon as I checked in myself, there was an announcement that the flight to Ohrid was going to be delayed. No reasons were specified. Reasons soon visited upon me: two mustached blue suited Serb detectives. They took me to some airport office, told me that my bank in Zagreb wanted them to arrest me, but that they would not do that. Then they poured me some Sljivovica (Serbian moonshine-like plum-brandy) and offered me cigarettes. They were so damn happy that I schemed a Croatian bank. The flight was kept delayed so that they could chat with me. Then they told me that my bank put my account 12 billion dollars in negative - which meant I'd have to sue the bank. Also I had to surrender the checkbook - it was not a point of having it anyway, since I was informed about my account status (I had to sign that), and any checks I would write after that would be assumed a criminal activity. Detectives signed me a form that they confiscated the check-book, so I could use that in a law-suit.

I was free to fly to Ohrid then. There two Macedonian detectives waited for me in my hotel room. Nothing worked in that damned country except for security apparatus. They were satisfied when I showed them the paper given to me by Serbian detectives, and they left. They were also excruciatingly polite. The presentation was met by cheers of all students except two really pro-Milosevic young women. But the associate dean of Skopje University was not pleased. He was a 'professor' of what would here be ROTC. He got his degree in Zagreb in 1971. So, I told him that I believed that he had probably been in the streets beating students back then, and that was why he did not like my video. He got green in the face. He demanded explanation, responsibility for that scandal, usual crap. So, Socialist Youth president from Skopje University (an aspiring Hillary), who put the event together, told him that he was free to leave if he did not like it, but that if he decided to stay he should behave with academic decency. That crushed the poor old guy. So, he kept silent for the rest of the evening.

There was a backlash later, however: the next day official Yugoslav press agency carried a report about a scandalous nationalist outrage in Ohrid. They described it almost like the L.A. riots happened there. All three buses carrying students back to Skopje from Ohrid - miraculously broke down. So, that the ROTC guy and his accomplices may get to Skopje before us and prepare the witch-hunt against the University's Socialist Youth organization (they were all purged then, but just a year later the whole system collapsed, and they were reinstated again, and the ROTC guy probably joined some of the numerous extremist nationalist groups that spawned like mushrooms after rain in 1990 there). All Serbian students who were listed as co-authors on the presentation, were expelled from Universities. I have no idea what happened to them since. My TV friend in Zagreb was compelled to tell the main Croatian daily newspaper that he had no relation to me and that he had no recollection of ever telling me to tape that video. Heh, not only I had recollection of that - I had a tape with him telling me. But I understood that he had no choice but to tell that - they'd take his broadcast license away otherwise. I am still in touch with him, and he sometimes airs things I send him from the U.S.

Back in Belgrade, I went straight to my lawyer and we sued my bank. Mostly we argued that although the money was not mine, I could not know that and that the banks made series of mistakes, and they could not charge me negative interest after taking the money from my account without obtaining my authorization. Actually I was hedging the Deutschmarks I still had against their interest rate (they finally lost, proving that you can't take on German money and not be punished). I was again on-air (this time about the "scandalous event" in Ohrid). The bank meanwhile issued a warrant for my arrest circumventing the court (but only in my city - Zagreb), which I learned of unexpectedly a few months later.

I took a train to Bar (MonteNegro) and a bus to Dubrovnik from there. I was going to another strange event: an Anarchist Scholars Conference. I was basically pacing around former Yugoslavia that last year of its coherent existence. The bank did not have an idea where to look for me. When I arrived in Dubrovnik, a court order arrived to my bank in Zagreb cancelling the prior arrest warrant which was issued as an administrative order, not as a court order (instead of suing me for let's say theft, and getting a court order, they just asked police to find me because I was in default by not paying them their money; however, I sued *them* for theft, and court orders were above administrative orders). Also, bank was prohibited of charging my account further negative interest. My account was basically frozen at that time, and the bank was calling my home every day five to six time trying to collect their 12 billions back before they'd become worth shit. I still maintained that they stole my money and had a great time with anarchists in Dubrovnik in March (Dubrovnik has San Diego like climate). It was a sailing, red wine and good weed season. I stayed a little longer in Dubrovnik helping my friend's family on construction of their house. Then I flew back to Belgrade (my car was still there). No friendly detectives on airports this time.

Before I was about to return to Zagreb, I called my girlfriend to sell the Deutschmarks and give them bank the money back. I called some of my friends to find a buyer. It was not easy to find a buyer for such a large sum. So, she had to sell it to three different guys getting on average 15% premium. As the inflation meanwhile depleted dinar, I actually earned about $ 400 on that transaction (which were decent two months of wages then). I couldn't really keep the money I figured after I've gone public with the whole story. Now it was a good joke, and if I kept the money, people would think I was in it really only for a scam.

The next morning after I returned to Zagreb I went to my power checking (in this article mostly described as "second") bank branch, to check out my account. It was some 10 dinars negative (a fraction of a cent), which basically meant that the money was cleared and everything was fine. I gave the clerk my card, and she punched the numbers in the computer. The reaction was kind of expected: "Oh, comrade, the floor manager needs to speak with you. can you please wait a moment, so I call her." I knew the floor manager: she was bent on arresting me for the past two months. But she was not around any more. She got fired herself over handling of my case (in communist countries such practice was EXTREMELY rare, so she must have been perceived as a real screw up on the case). The new floor manager was melting of satisfaction to be given an honor to shake a hand of the man most deserving for her new position. She was also pleased that the money is back in, but she suggested that I open a power checking account in another bank. She also told me a very interesting thing: that they wanted to arrest me, but then that they received a word from "upper places" (meaning usually higher republic communist party echelons) that I should not be arrested. That was the moment I realized that I had powerful protectors who had interests in my tape reaching Ohrid event at any cost. They swallowed the interest loss, and I opened an account with another bank, plus earned $ 400. A happy end.

Beginning of July the same year (so about 3 months later) I was stopped by traffic police at 3 am, speeding as usual, going home from some party. I was also DWI, but not on alcohol, and they haven't yet been technologically equipped (nor mentally prepared) to recognize that. One of them was overzealous young policemen, who did things by the book, so he checked with the dispatcher if I had any record in my name (they just got a comprehensive computer system that year, so now they tested their new technology). Then he victoriously came out of the car telling his pals that they had to take me in. In the car they explained me that I was not arrested for speeding, but that there was a warrant for my arrest outstanding in one of Zagreb boroughs which was unrelated to traffic violations. They did not tell me what it is about. So, I was a bit puzzled, since I knew that almost every branch of police with exception of homicide had a record on me. But when we arrived in Trnje borough precinct I realized it was that damned bank thing -the second bank was headquartered in Trnje. If it was drugs or politics or almost anything else I'd be brought to the downtown central police office. The traffic police left me there at 3:30 am.

I sit in some sort of waiting room with three other guys. Small time thieves as they looked to me. Three mean looking guards came buy. They beat the shit out of one guy there with a sort of long rubber hose for snatching some purse. He was screaming as he dropped to the floor. Then the oldest among the policemen, a sergeant I could tell by his insignia, turned to me and read some papers: "Aaaah," he said grinning, "this one [meaning ME] can wait.

He'll be around here for a while. He stole 12 billions from a bank in a check fraud," and turning to me, "we finally got you." I felt like Michael Milken and fellow thieves in the room looked me in disbelief: I looked like them, a 24 years old in combat boots, jeans and sleeveless shirt with a soccer hooligan haircut (shaved sides), not quite your high rolling white-collar criminal type. I wasn't even bald. Plus my T-shirt was painted in marijuana leaves, the detail that fortunately exceeded the Yugoslav police expertise.

Then I was put in a detention room: windowless 8 feet high, 8 by 4 feet with a bench narrower than my shoulders, metal doors (with a peep whole, so a policemen could check upon me every few minutes), a caged light bulb (always on). At the top of the wall opposite to cell doors were drilled ventilation holes. It was kind of chilly and damp in a cell in July. I couldn't imagine being there in February. Brrrrrr. I had to take my belt and my shoe-laces of before going to the cell (so I don't kill myself, huhuhu). Later through the night I climbed up to see through the holes, and found out that it was actually easy to communicate with the outside through them. I did pushups to keep warm. I slept for a while when they dropped guard (they initially didn't want me to sleep, and banged on the doors whenever I lied down on the bench). Then I banged on the doors wanting to go to a toilet. They were pissed. A young policemen escorted me all the way (he stopped short of holding my dick). He was a provincial guy. He was cranky about my haircut. But all he actually wanted was to be a tough city hooligan. He was heavily into Bruce Lee movies. So we talked kung- fu. He showed me a few kicks, and I realized that he was good at that, better than me anyway, which was highly discouraging. He was probably scared of my looks, being alone with me, so he wanted me to think of him as a good fighter and not pick up a fight while I was outside of my cell. But that was unnecessary: until morning I persuaded him that I was OK, and a victim of the communists-turned- nationalists techno-bureaucrats at the bank who plotted against me, poor hard-working youth. At 10 am the chief detective showed up in the cell telling me that I am free to go, groveling with explanations that their records were not timely updated, etc. That was the conclusion of this story.