|Buoni al tempo del male
di Svetlana Broz*
|Vent’anni fa, quando, all’ultimo anno di
medicina, studiando chirurgia, mi trovai ad avere a che fare con la
chirurgia di guerra, ero convinta che, almeno per quanto riguardava il mio
paese, si trattasse di qualcosa di anacronistico. Ma passarono solo
tredici anni e in Iugoslavia, dov’ero nata, le fanfare di guerra
iniziarono a suonare.
Da quando fu sparata la prima pallottola e cadde la prima vittima, su tutti i media, oltre che nelle conversazioni private, non si sentì più parlare che degli orrori del conflitto. Per anni sentii esclusivamente parole che determinavano il male. […] Solo male, male, male… aggressivo, assertivo, inevitabile, scioccante, come se non fosse rimasto spazio per nient’altro.
[…] Dalle sterili discussioni da salotto in cui ognuno, incoraggiato da quanti, ogni giorno, predicavano con i fatti che la lealtà era più importante della verità, ascoltava soltanto la propria voce, senza accettare gli argomenti altrui, trovai una personale via d’uscita nella decisione di andare dove si soffriva, in Bosnia Erzegovina. […]
Rifiutandomi di credere che in quella follia non vi fosse più nulla di umano, partii per le zone di guerra nel gennaio 1993, inizialmente come medico, per andare in aiuto ad almeno un essere umano nel bisogno. […]
Prestando le mie cure a persone di tutte e tre le confessioni, mi accorsi del bisogno che avevano di aprirsi, di parlare di quello che era accaduto loro in guerra. E quelle brevi, spontanee confidenze nel reparto di cardiologia mi fecero capire la loro sete di verità, una verità che, dove cadevano le granate, aveva più sfumature rispetto all’immagine in bianco e nero diffusa a Belgrado e nel mondo.
Scoprire che, anche nel mezzo del terribile calvario cui erano sopravvissuti, quegli infelici ricordavano ogni minimo segno di bontà che qualcuno aveva voluto rivolgere loro, mi lasciò senza parole. […]
Quei primi segni di speranza, la speranza che, anche nel male peggiore, la bontà umana esiste, qualunque Dio si preghi, hanno dato speranza a me stessa, inducendomi a mettere da parte per un po’ lo stetoscopio, prendere il registratore, e raccogliere storie vere di membri di tutte e tre le confessioni.
Quando presi questa decisione, il primo problema che mi si pose fu: come trovare interlocutori? […] Mentre la guerra era in corso, come d’altronde ancora oggi, a tre anni dalla conclusione della pace, interrogare gente per strada su argomenti così delicati era impossibile. [...]
Per trovare interlocutori ho dovuto sempre incontrare prima qualcuno che potesse capire le mie intenzioni e conoscesse persone che avevano avuto l’esperienza che m’interessava. È tramite questi intermediari che sono entrata in contatto con i miei potenziali testimoni: nella maggior parte delle zone che ho attraversato la gente, durante la guerra, e anche oggi del resto, viveva nel terrore. […]
Ogni incontro è stato la testimonianza di una tragedia. Chi era sopravvissuto alle esperienze più dolorose - era stato cacciato dalla propria casa, aveva visto l’orrore del campo di concentramento, o, anche, viveva in una zona in cui della sua etnia o religione non era rimasto più nessuno - conservava nella memoria, insieme a esperienze positive di bontà, i ricordi più terribili: in quelle condizioni, infatti, anche la bontà ha un prezzo altissimo; molto spesso è pagata con la vita. […]
Ogni singolo destino che mi è stato raccontato ha lasciato una traccia nella mia anima. La forza di continuare me l’ha data la grandezza stessa di ciò che cercavo: la bontà.
Era a fatica, e con grande esitazione, che i miei interlocutori parlavano delle loro sventure; un’esitazione che aveva molte ragioni, che vanno capite. I segni della sofferenza ancor oggi visibili sui loro volti dovrebbero fermare chiunque intendesse manipolare il loro destino. Da quella paura era sempre necessario liberarli. Li spaventava la loro stessa sincerità, e spesso mi chiedevano: "Parlano di bontà, gli altri? quelli degli altri due campi?". […]
Giungere alla loro verità era molto difficile. Ad aprire la porta alla sincerità è stato nella maggior parte dei casi il mio cognome. Quasi tutti ricordavano con nostalgia i decenni in cui, quando il presidente del loro stato era Tito, "vivevamo vite all’altezza della dignità umana, e non avevamo paura di nulla", come dicevano.
Ora hanno paura di tutto, anche della pubblicazione dei loro nomi, e dei nomi di coloro che li hanno aiutati a sopravvivere. Molti, con l’anonimato, cercano di proteggersi dalle persone che hanno attorno: sanno che dire la verità sulla bontà di membri di altri popoli è ancora un peccato imperdonabile. Ma hanno chiesto protezione anche per coloro di cui mi hanno parlato, temendo, giustamente, che nell’ambiente in cui vivono a quelle brave persone possa succedere qualcosa di male, per avere avuto la forza e il coraggio di aiutare chi non era della loro stessa fede. […]
Dal racconto di eventi così drammatici e toccanti, mi aspettavo che le emozioni uscissero più esplicite. Ma, ascoltando i miei interlocutori, ho capito che tenevano i loro sentimenti profondamente celati in se stessi. […] Spesso mi sentivo ripetere la stessa frase: "Non puoi immaginarlo…". […]
Tuttavia, anche se tutti all’inizio dicevano "è impossibile persino raccontarlo", poi mi aprivano ogni volta la loro anima. Sapevo che le loro ferite non si erano rimarginate, continuavano a sanguinare; e al termine del racconto tutti avevano un’espressione esausta. I tremiti di voce interrotti da singulti muti o appena udibili, le lunghe pause in cui, sopraffatti da emozioni così forti da togliere loro la parola, raccoglievano le forze per continuare, le imprecazioni, i sospiri di sollievo, tutto ciò è rimasto nei nastri. I loro occhi, le loro bocche, le mani tremanti con cui sollevavano un bicchiere o accendevano una sigaretta, sono rimasti nella mia anima. Non ci sono perciò, in questi racconti, molte descrizioni di emozioni. Il compito di sentire la profondità delle loro sofferenze e felicità l’ho lasciato a ogni singolo lettore, secondo il grado della sua sensibilità. Non era possibile fare diversamente. […] Tutti i fatti e tutte le testimonianze sono autentici. […]
|* Svetlana Broz (nipote di Josip
Broz Tito) è nata nel 1955 a Belgrado, dove, nel 1980, si è laureata in
medicina, iniziando a svolgere durante gli studi anche una attività di
giornalista. Ora vive a Sarajevo.
Il testo che proponiamo è tratto da un articolo scritto per "The New York Times" e pubblicato integralmente in "Revija slobodne misli" ("Rivista del libero pensiero"), 23-24, Sarajevo, luglio-settembre 1999.
"Buoni al tempo del male: attori e testimoni" (Dobri ljudi u vremenu zla: sudionici i svjedoci), il libro che Svetlana Broz presenta in queste pagine, è stato pubblicato da Media centar Prelom, Banja Luka, nel febbraio 1999 (seconda edizione, marzo 2000). Si spera venga presto pubblicato anche in Italia.
|Nel corso di un inverno di guerra ho percorso
7.500 chilometri in cerca di interlocutori sulle strade gelate della
Republika Srpska. L’ostinazione è stata ricompensata dalla
registrazione di oltre cento toccanti testimonianze, di fronte alle quali
le parole dei più tenaci sostenitori delle divisioni etniche non valevano
Il libro sarebbe stato pronto già nel 1997 se coloro per i quali la sua pubblicazione rappresentava una spina nel fianco non si fossero mossi. Potevo aspettarmelo mentre ero sul campo, ma invece lì non accadde niente. È stato nel bel mezzo di Belgrado, a casa mia, che un giorno la maggior parte del materiale che avevo raccolto è stata rubata. Il che, naturalmente, ha solo rallentato la pubblicazione, non l’ha impedita; anzi, è stato per me un’ulteriore prova che anche il materiale ‘grezzo’ ha il suo valore, un valore tanto grande da spingere qualcuno a rubarlo e nasconderlo. L’ultimo autunno ho percorso così altri 10.000 chilometri in Bosnia Erzegovina alla ricerca di storie che testimoniassero la bontà umana. […]
Il motivo principale che mi ha spinto, anche di fronte alle difficoltà, è stato il desiderio, nel male generale, nella distruzione materiale e spirituale, quando la vita umana aveva il prezzo di una pallottola, di riaffermare la bontà come principio supremo, sul quale, lo credo profondamente, poggia il futuro di questo paese, di tutte e tre le confessioni del paese dei miei antenati.
Traduzione di M. Parizzi
THE NEW YORK TIMES, July 20, 2000
A Tito Grandchild Battles Nationalism's Excesses
By CARLOTTA GALL
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 19 -- Svetlana
Broz stands out in the lobby of Sarajevo's hotel, an elegant blond woman out of place amid the men in suits, members of the hard-line nationalist Croatian party who are here for a conference.
Few appear to recognize her, but they would instantly recognize her name, for everyone in the former Yugoslavia knows her grandfather, Josip Broz, who as Tito was the Communist leader of Yugoslavia for 35 years, from the end of World War II until his death in 1980.
Ms. Broz, a confident, educated woman of 45, a cardiologist and a divorced mother of two, grew up in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, and worked at the Military Medical Academy. But in 1993, when war was tearing Bosnia apart, she began a personal crusade against the nationalism that has destroyed the country her grandfather created.
She left her home in Belgrade, and with her teenage daughter drove into Bosnia to offer her services in hospitals and clinics in the Serb-controlled areas. "I went because I refused to accept the indifference in Belgrade to what was happening in Bosnia, and because I could not accept that the Bosnians were another people," she said in an interview. "The people in Bosnia-Herzegovina were my people, and I had to do something."
Some days she would treat up to 100 people in a day, and she found that many of her patients wanted to tell her stories, not so much of the horrors they had experienced but of the gestures of goodness from people who were often on opposing sides in the war. These were tales little broadcast at the time, mainly because the media of all sides were so nationalistic, but also because even small deeds that could be construed as helpful to one's ethnic foes put good Samaritans in danger.
"So for some moments I put away my cardiological instruments and took up my dictaphone, and I started collecting stories," she said. "I started in 1993 at the most aggressive time when people were killing each other, yet people were prepared to talk of goodness."
She published the stories in a book, "Dobri Ljudi u Vremenu Zla" (Good People in Times of Evil), printed in the town of Banja Luka in Bosnia's Serbian entity in 1999. Already on its second print run of 5,000, it tells stories of the war from Serbs, Croats and Muslims equally. It remains unavailable in Serbia and Croatia, although she plans readings in Croatian resorts this summer.
A Croatian doctor helps Muslim prisoners of his own army, and later has to flee when Muslims overrun his town. A Serbian taxi driver in Sarajevo risks his life to ferry people around and bring food to those living under the siege by Serbian forces. The mixed village where Serbian and Muslim neighbors protected each other, as they did in World War II, and survived unscathed.
"It shows a message, that even in the worst period, every individual could make a choice and that there were a lot of people who remained human in such a time," Ms. Broz said. "People paid with their lives but did not accept the brutal behavior of their own nation."
Now living in Sarajevo and working on another book, this one about mixed marriages that still occurred during the war, Ms. Broz said she wanted to create a park in the Bosnian capital, once famed for its multiethnic diversity. Inspired by the Yad Vashem park in Jerusalem, this one would be dedicated to unsung heroes of the war, those who risked their lives to help people from the opposing side.
For Ms. Broz, the issue is fundamental. She acknowledges with a smile that she has no place to call home and is hard put to say which country she is from. Her father, Zarko Broz, was the eldest surviving son of Tito's first marriage to the Russian Pelagia Belousova, whom he met in Siberia during World War I. Tito himself was half Croatian and half Slovenian.
Her father fought in Russia in World War II, lost his right arm defending Moscow, and then came to Belgrade the day after it was liberated from Nazi forces in 1944. He accompanied his father to meetings with Churchill. He then joined the Yugoslav Interior Ministry, where he worked for the rest of his life.
Ms. Broz was the only child of his third marriage to a Czech doctor whose family originally came from Bosnia. "My answer is I am a cosmopolitan, and I call myself European since Yugoslavia disappeared," she said. She added that she feels no affinity to today's Yugoslavia -- consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, and ruled by Slobodan Milosevic.
"Emotionally and psychologically the whole of the former territory of Yugoslavia is my country, and no one can take that away from me, however many borders they put up in between," she said. She still has her home in Belgrade, and both her children are studying there, but she is now building a house on land that belongs to her mother's family, in Hadzici, a village 12 miles outside Sarajevo where she often spent holidays as a child.
Like many people of her generation, she looks back on the years before war destroyed the old Yugoslavia as halcyon days of harmony and prosperity, and she gives the credit to her grandfather, Tito. "I lived for 35 years in a country that was magical," she said. "So I believe in what I think was fundamental to his policies, that was living together."
She rejects the argument that the Communist slogans of brotherhood and unity were false or that suppressing ethnic differences prepared the ground for a nationalist explosion. She attributes the wars of the last decade rather to the calculated moves by politicians who used nationalism to break up the country.
She does, however, condemn the suppression of political freedom under Tito, who killed and imprisoned opponents and stamped out even slight expressions of what was deemed to be nationalism. As a democrat, Ms. Broz said, she cannot agree with the persecution of people for their ideas. Yet in the same breath, she wondered if it would not have been better if some dissidents, who became leading nationalist politicians, had remained in prison. "I am against political persecution, but when you look back, you can see that those people led to the evil that happened," she said.
She retains her harshest words for the intellectuals of Yugoslavia and members of her own medical profession who joined and even led the nationalist charge, like the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, a former psychiatrist.
She described a dangerous confrontation during the Bosnian war with one of Dr. Karadzic's close associates, the head doctor of a hospital who ordered her arrest.
"He said I should write about the evil, not the good," she said. "He said there was no good Croat except a dead Croat, and no good Muslim except a dead one. I told him he was inhuman and a fascist, and I was ashamed to be carrying the same diploma as him -- we graduated from the same medical school."
When a warrant went out for her arrest, she turned herself in, but the policeman told her to carry on working. "It showed a policeman wasn't as bad as a doctor," she said.
She rules out a life in politics for herself. "I am a humanist, and my profession is completely different from politics," she said. "And anyway, there has been enough of that in my family."
Boston Globe article
Ethics before ethnicity in the Balkans
By James Carroll, 3/13/2001
HE BALKANS ARE BACK on the front page as Albanian insurgents move against border regions of Serbia and threaten Macedonia. The circle has turned, with Kosovar victims become ultra-nationalist aggressors. Again Auden's dictum applies: ''Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.''
Last week, in Cambridge, I met a Yugoslavian cardiologist who is determined to step out of that deadly circle and to help her compatriots do so as well. She is Dr. Svetlana Broz, a name which has little resonance in America, but which in the Balkans evokes another time. Her grandfather was Josip Broz, better known as Marshal Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.
Under Tito, with his firm rule and the blanketing ideology of communism, the ethnic balance of the Balkans was maintained, but now ethnicity has exploded not only geographic boundaries, but basic human morality. The words ''ethics'' and ''ethnics'' are similar in Serbo-Croatian, as in English. ''I catch myself making a mistake between them,'' Dr. Broz said to me. ''It shows how our brains are full of ethnicity instead of ethics in my country. It is a big problem.''
Addressing that problem, Dr. Broz set out during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina to collect stories of those who had refused to put their ethnicity ahead of their humanity.
The result is a book, ''Good People in Evil Times,'' which chronicles dozens of stories, as she put it, ''of people who helped those who were not of their nation.'' Thus, a Bosnian woman trying to save her young daughter gave her to a Serbian bus driver, who then defied Serbian paramilitaries and refused to hand the girl over, saying she was a relative. The bus driver delivered the girl from danger, but was later killed for it by those he had defied.
A 21-year-old soldier of the army of Serbska was badly wounded in battle against Croatian-Muslim forces. Left behind, he expected the worst, but instead of being killed, he was cared for. ''My friends left me to die,'' he told Dr. Broz. ''My enemy helped me to live.''
Drawing on trust invested in her by strangers aware of her as Tito's granddaughter, Dr. Broz compiled such stories for two reasons. ''There should be testimonies for future generations, to know that being righteous is possible, to know that each individual can make a decision whether to follow the madness of the politicians, or whether to remain a human being. ''Second, she hopes that the chonicle of goodness across boundaries can serve as ''a source of reconciliation, which is very necessary in my country.''
By ''my country'' she means all of Yugoslavia, a spacious identity widely rejected now. Indeed, nationalists of various kinds have targeted Dr. Broz, even with death threats, which do not deter her.
She was raised in Belgrade. A year and a half ago, she moved to Sarajevo where she pursues three projects. She is compiling stories of mixed marriages that occurred during the war, unions she regards as victories over narrow tribalism. ''Some people loved each other no matter what group they belonged to,'' she told me. They are the ''strongest bastion'' of a multi-ethnic future.
For all her emphasis on human possibility, the doctor is no Pollyanna. ''To listen only to good things,'' she told me of her work in a shattered country, ''is immoral.'' As head of a Sarajevo group called Embassy for Children, she is helping to track down the killers of the 1,601 children who died during the siege, naming the snipers and gunners, and, when possible, confronting them. ''War criminals must be brought to justice,'' she declared in a public forum last week, ''so that people may return to their homes safely ... to live without anxiety ... so the healing may begin.''
Her third project is organizing what she calls a Park of the Righteous in Sarajevo, where those who crossed the warring boundaries to help others can be remembered. The city government has approved the idea, and plans are being laid.
Sarajevo had long been the center of a multi-ethnic commonality which itself became a target during the siege. Now nationalism is rampant in Bosnia, too, but the memory of Croat, Serb, and Muslim amity will not be eradicated if Dr. Broz has her way.
Yes, a full judicial reckoning with the evil that was done must be accomplished. But that will not be enough. The experience of those who showed that such evil was not necessary must be reclaimed, too. That precious testimony comes, above all, from the good people to whom Svetlana Broz is giving voice.
James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 3/13/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
COURAGE, TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
Lecture at Harvard University, on November 15th 2000
by Dr Svetlana Broz
From when I was fourteen, I spent a good many years exploring books in order to find whether there is some lowest border of human dignity and how to recognize it. After having read thousands and thousands of pages of testimonies from people who had survived the hell of mass slaughter, I found what I was looking in the book by Victor Frankl, psychiatrist, who survived Auschwitz.
He says: We, who returned home, managed to do so because of some happy circumstances or miracle, but whatever we call that, deep in our hearts we know very well that the best of us did not come home."
I think I learned from this that the lowest border of human dignity does exists, and the best of us would draw it boldly with our own blood and death, refusing to accept living life at any cost, because that would mean living in our own insanity. The best of us would choose death to preserve dignity. Some, like Dr Frankl, survive the atrocities of camp life and remain to testify that braver people really did exist, and vanished because of their bravery. If there have been people who even in the worst times, sometimes at the cost of their own lives, refused to act inhumanly themselves, and if there are people able to testify to this, those having been lucky to escape death, have we the right to ignore them? Isn’t it an imperative of the first order to talk about, to write and publish through any kind of media, to let everybody know of extraordinarily moral people who really have lived?
A few years later, once I was fully convinced that such people really had existed, a bloody war raged in the country where I was born, the ethnic cleansing and genocide being its aim and the political doctrine behind it. I could not accept the dark images of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina which were created by the world and Belgrade mass media at the back and call of the powers that be or created by journalists eager for the smell of fresh blood, and to create images showing most cruel attitudes and gave free rein to their desires to show the dominance of a man over a man, arousing the lowest chauvinistic passions in viewers, and gaining glory at the expense of other people's misfortunes. These images, offered by the various media, gave no ray of hope for those who wanted to hold on to their compassion in such a war and to sustain their faith in people.
I dipped deep into the core of horror and decided to follow the paths and footsteps of humanity. It seemed as if there was only evil to meet, evil, evil, evil alone... aggressive, assertive, everywhere, impressive, as if it hadn't left space for any other subject.
Nevertheless, I continued to follow my project and my hopes. I saw long-lasting friendships dissolve in cosmopolitan Belgrade from a lack of strength to rise above quarrels on a subject which was nonsense: which side’s amount of nationalistic fever was greater.
People seemed to split off from their common humanity to retreat each into their own narrow ethnicity's cocoons of hate.
I looked for a way out of these sterile drawing-room discussions in which everyone listened only to his own voice, without respecting other opinions, talk reinforced and encouraged by daily reports from people to whom loyalty was more important than truth.
I found a way out for myself in my decision to go where the real suffering was, the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.I couldn't have stood any more watching from a comfortable armchair the suffering which was happening to my people only 100 km, or even less far from Belgrade. I was born, raised and educated in a country called Yugoslavia, while all of its peoples were its integral part.
And my own family included people who were Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim, so all of them belonged to me somehow, all of them were my own.I was irritated by the endless indifference, baffling insensitivity and lack of elementary human solidarity from all those blind to the fact that not very far from them somebody's houses were burning and somebody's children were being killed.
Refusing to believe that nothing human exists in all that madness, I went to the war zones, in January 1993, first as a doctor, in order to help at least one human being devoid of normal medical care because of war horrors. While providing care for the people of all three backgrounds, I felt their need to open their souls and talk without be questioned about their war destinies. Out of these short, spontaneous confessions on the cardiology ward, I understood their need for truth, which, in places where grenades were actually falling, was surprisingly subtle and refined, compared to the Belgrade's and the world's much more simplistic, black and white pictures of the Bosnian war scenery.
I was amazed to discover that this unhappy people, against the greatest tribulations they have been trough generally better remember every small sign of kindness somebody was ready to show them. They were so sensitive that they even noticed somebody's glance full of compassion for their suffering. They used to explain to me that many didn't dare help them at the risk of their own life ad they allways expressed great deal of understanding for that sort of fear. In the eyes of those who suffered most there was practically no trace of hatred or desire for vengeance. There was no evil nation for them, only evil individuals; they knew each one’s first and last name.
These first sparks of hope that human goodness can be found even in the greatest evil, regardless of category or membership, provoked my need to put down my stethoscope for a while, and take up a cassette recorder instead so that I could record the authentic stories of men and women from the tree ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Goodness under normal living conditions is taken for granted. Often enough we do not even notice it. In evil times when someone’s survival depends on the moral and ethical norms of other individuals against a backdrop of horrors, where the saying "Homo Homini Lupus est" dominates all else, a willingness to become victims ourselves for the sake of the others rises like a pearl to the surface from a shell at the bottom of the sea.
Appalled by the amount of evil which individuals were capable of, I was aware that this would be a crucial subject for many years to come and that the black cloud of their crimes would hold in absolute darkness for all of us who were born in a country where so many honorable and good people lived whom no one spoke of. Someone needed to dive for those pearls and made a necklace.
I believe that everyone will be held accountable for his crimes, regardless of how long such a process lasts. But will everyone be rewarded for their goodness and courage? What will be with those who were killed by their own compatriots defending people of different faiths? That kind of goodness is heroism, but such heroes are anonymous. No army and government is likely to honor them. No street or square will be named after them. Their names will last only as long as memory lasts of those whose lives they saved, and their children. I think that the next generations must hear that such people lived and some still live.
When I decided to collect stories from this area, the first technical problem arose: how to find interlocutors? Stories from field hospitals were my inspiration, but I had to hold them in confidence. Such a delicate topic was not something I could interview people about in the streets while the war was raging, and today, five years after peace was declared I still cannot. All of those who spoke were selected using a random sample method and I did not limit my project in any way.
In order to find an interlocutor I always had to get to know somebody who could understand my intention and know people who had gone trough such an experience. That person would connect me to a potential interlocutor, since people during the war, and even today, in most of the area I was moving around in, have lived in great fear.
The readiness of my friends and relatives of all backgrounds to step forward whenever I showed up and asked them for help was the first quality check of my idea. Domestic and foreign journalists reacted in the same way: "I am jealous of your idea. I have been involved professionally in journalism for so meny years and live here but it never occurred to me to write about this..."
The stories are about people’s experiences with others whose religion was not their own. Given the conditions known today as hostility, civil or religious war, no testimony to goodness, can be discarded.
Every encounter was an experience of personal tragedy. People who survived the most painful experiences of expulsion from their own homes, who knew the horrors of concentration camps, who lived in a place apart from other members of their own ethnic group keep in their memory the most terrible testimonies even when they have had positive experiences of human kindness. In such conditions goodness itself comes with the highest price: very often it was paid for with life.
Encounters with the stories of those who survived only horrors renewed my own admiration for people who gather evidence on war crimes. Each individual fate I have heard of has left a scar on my soul. The power to persist was given to me by the very dimension for which I searched - goodness.
People hesitate and find it hard to talk about their ill-fated destinies. There are many reasons for hesitate, which must be understood. The scars of suffering which even today are visible on their faces should stop anyone trying to manipulate their fate.
They had to be released from that fear. They feared their own sincerity. Often they would ask me: "Will others on the two other sides talk about goodness?" - And they would always get the same reassurance that those others already had talked and that the books would not be published until everyone on each side had a story in it.
What with the terrible conditions in which these people lived, in ruined houses and dramp cellars, in someone else’s apartment and dwellings unfamiliar to them, or in collective accommodations while bombs were exploding around them or later, and with the evil rhetoric of their leaders on national homogenization, it was extremely difficult to earn their trust. The door to their trust was in most of the cases opened by my family name. Almost each of them remembered with nostalgia the decades in which, while the president of their state was Tito, when they "lived lives matching human dignity in which they feared nothing", as they used to say.Now they feared everything: publication of their names, as well as the names of the people who helped them survive. Many of them seek anonymity in order to protect themselves from the people who surround them, knowing that it is still an unforgivable sin to speak of the truth about other people's goodness. They have sought protection even for those they have spoken of, rightfully fearing that something bad might happen to these good people where they live for having strength and courage to help someone who is not of their own faith or ethnicity.
There were times when I was wracked by awful fears: is it possible that even my children will not live to see the catharsis of their peoples and the light which only then will return to the country of their ancestors?For the Gods of evil, who are still alive and well in these areas, the major proof of membership in and loyalty to one’s nation is hatred of others. All those who didn't feel it or had courage to overcome it, thereby healing themselves emotionally, are an obstacle and a threat to the dark goals of those who are in favor of ethnically "clean" areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I also found places I called "black holes", where individuals with completely healthy views live but who have been so marginalized that they have no work, or chance to live normally, who are threatened, murdered, whose cars blow up, and their children have no future thanks to the fascist commitments of the authorities. These people are being treated where they live as traitors to their own people, since the authorities declare themselves one with the people. What then can members of other ethnic groups do in such an environment.
It seems as if all the criteria have been turned upside down: those who managed to keep their common sense and moral and ethical criteria, those who divide people only into humans and subhumans, with no eye to faith or ethnicity, often are the greater and more threatening enemies to local bosses at all the levels, that are the unfortunate obedient ones, most of whom don’t agree with nationalist politics but who have neither the strength or the courage to show it. They are defeated by the knoweldge that they are all surrounded by a grim reign of intolerance and blind uniformity.
People who were determined by birth as belonging to different faiths, or those whom love connected with their marital partner who doesn't belong to their ethnic group feel particularly lost. Bosnia was always full of such people and I think that within them lies an important chanse to move beyond the present national madness. There are so many of them that they are always a thorn in the side of those working to create "pure races" and therefore they have every reason to feel persecuted. Preserving the sanity, the mental health of such people is the best weapon against nationalism which in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a phenomenon but a sickness.
I had expected that when they spoke of such dramatic and moving experiences people would show more explicit emotional statement. While I listened to them I realized that they kept their feelings somewhere deep inside, perhaps even in their sub-consciousness. Probably such horrors cannot be discussed emotionally. The ability to verbalize among most of my interlocutors was far less than the power of their emotions, even when years had passed since the events they described. They often said:: "You cannot even begin to imagine it." - The knowledge that someone who had not experienced the suffering could not understand it entirely, inhibited them even from talking about their feelings.
Although at each would say: "It is somethhing that cannot even be expressed." - They did open their souls once again to me. I knew then talking about it was making their unhealed wounds bleed again, and at the end of the story they looked exhausted and in pain. In trembling voices interrupted by quite or barely audible sobs, long pauses between words in which they had summoned the strength to continue, overcome by feelings so strong they’d stop the person from speaking, and curses, as otllets of relief, are recorded on the cassettes. Their eyes, mouth, trembling hands with which they picked up a glass or lit a cigarette, are still in my soul. Therefore in these stories there are no many descriptions of emotions. I have left that to each reader to understand, each within his own sensitivity, the depth of suffering and joy. There is no other way.
The language they used depended on the degree of their education. My editorial interventions were only on the level of language and style to ease understanding and make the texts accesible. All the facts and allegations are authentic.
During one winter in the war I covered 7,500 kilometers along the frozen roads of Republika Srpska, searching for people to speak with. My persistence was rewarded: I recorded over 100 moving testimonies, faced with which even the most adamant supporters of ethnically divided entities could find nothing to say.
The book would have been finished during 1997 if those who were threatened by it hadn’t done something, which I might have expected during my time in the field, but had never expected in the heart of Belgrade, most of the materials I had collected were stolen from my home. That merely slowed publication of the book, but did not prevent it; on the contrary I went back and collected a hundred more testimonies. This was yet another proof that even "rough" material has its value, which is all the greater, when it is stolen and hidden.
In the fall 1998 I covered over over 10.000 kilometers in Bosnia and Herzegovina searching for those whose stories could testify to goodness. For one story alone one I covered 500 kilometers in one day. To somebody who doesn't know the specific value of such a testimony, such an effort may seem too large. I didn’t mind. I come back to my "base" to my aunt's apartment in Sarajevo, tired and happy.
Moving around B&H during those eight years, I had the same impression: wherever I stopped the car to ask someone for an address I’d been looking for I would hear almost on regular basis the same answer: "I don't know. I'm sorry but I'm not from here" - After a number of such responses, I realized that in BH nobody is from there any more, everyone is from somewhere else. To them local Pol Pots wouldn't have to change the data, since many families have been destroyed, and those who have survived their ruins remain in someone else’s ruins.
All those martyrs want to go back to what was theirs, even if the home is completely destroyed. Time and time again I heard the same sentence: "I would like to return to my home even if I have to build it all over again, but I can't because the people who committed crimes are walking freely through my town. How can I go back when he knows that I am a witness of all he has done? If he was able to kill all those people why won't he kill me, especially since even five years after the war, he stil has not been punished for what he did?»
It happened to me in 1993 that I found myself needing to explain to a colleague of mine who was a president of one of the municipalities in the RS. He responded: - Why don't you write a book on bad people?!
- Someone else is doing that, I responded calmly. - There are no good people! - He stated angrily.
- Look, do you mean to say that you haven’t helped a single person since the war began? - I asked.
- The only good Croat is a dead Croat, the good Muslim is only a dead Muslim! He shouted red in the face, pounnding the table.
- I have nothing left to say. I only regret that we are bouth doctors, but I hope that won't be true for long- I said with contempt and left the municipality.
That man who was in the inner circle of the ruling party sent a telegram out to all the police stations in the RS to prevent me from working on my project and even to arrest me.
The police chiefs were wiser than he was. I went to one of them, who knew about the directive and said: "Arrest me, and that will be the story, only someone else will tell it" he smiled and responded: "Go ahead doctor and do your work. There are all kinds of fools among us."
He had been a professional policeman who refused to carry out a political order issued by the doctor in the name of his own feeling for the humanity.
The main motive that guided me even when I was faced with difficulties, was my desire, within the mood of pervasive evil, spiritual and material destruction, when human life was going cheap for the price of a bullet fired - to reaffirm goodness as supreme postulate, on which, I deeply believe, the future of this country lies of all three ethnic groups in the country of my forefathers.
Good people as well as those who in the most terrible times found some strength to talk about other peoples’ goodness as well as those who, without thinking of the cost had the courage to do a good deed, are the most impressive pledge of the rightness of such a decision.
For the last eight years I have met thousands of those people in B&H who experienced something similar to what I have already written about in my book ''Good People in the Evil Times''. Many of them, even nowadays, phone me and keep in touch, wishing to add more to their testimony, to the remembrance mosaic, people whom one of my conversants was thinking of when he said: ''This war has showen that those who were humane stayed that way, andit is always hardest to be humane''.
This is haw I wrote the book. ''GOOD PEOPLE IN THE EVIL TIMES'' represents a collection of ninety authentic stories told by the members of three different ethnic groups who shared the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can read about the goodness that some people experienced from people of other backgrounds.
The book was published in February 1988, and it has provoked naturally different reactions. The criticism and anger of nationalists from all ethnic groups, exposed - to my satisfaction -their morbid genocidal attitudes for what they are. And then there are the responses to which this talk is dedicated.
Let me tell you of several of the reactions which suggest the positive impact of the book, as one of the first written documents from the territory of ex-Yugoslavia which publishes the testimonies of good people living in inhuman circumstances.
I must admit that, while I was preparing this book for publication, my main aim was to give future generations documents to show that a persons always has a choice of ways that lesd to survival. It turns out, however, judging from the repercussions of media presentations, that the book has had an actual impact as well, illustrating the value of the positive example as a new method of working toward reconciliation.
Let me present to you a small portion of the reactions to the book, which I consider most encouraging for possible future involvment in the work on reconciliation going on in my country.
The book was presented in Berlin in July 1998 organized by the German institute "SUDOST". The organizers were pleasantly surprised by the fact that representatives of all three ethnic gorups from Bosnia and Herzegovina met in the same lecture hall and everybody proved fully capable of taking an active part in the discussion.
In August 1998, I was in Gorazde, a small town in B&H on the Drina River. This river is the border line between B&H and Serbia.
During the Second World War the population suffered haevy losses inflicted by armed nationalists on both sides, which is still remembered. It is true that there were many Bosniak victims in this war, and the town itself was terribly damaged by this war’s "Chetniks" - by Serb troops. During one of the sessions organized in Gorazde, which I myself attended, a man in his thirties approached me and said: "Excuse me, Mrs. Broz, I would like to tell you something that might be of some importance for you. You see, I fought in this war with the rifle in my hands, defending the city of Gorazde against Serb forces. We have had only one copy of you book and for six months the book went from one person to another until by now the majority have read it. What makes the biggest impression on me is that the people of this city, after reading your book are thinking differently and they are talking about people of the two other groups. They have stopped generalizing guilt and are prepared to accept the return of all those Serbs who did nothing wrong. Nowadays, the people of Gorazde are much less subject to passionate hatred and are more ready to meet their former neighbors and to talk to them,, than they before''.
In December 1998, I gave a lecture in London. The topic of my lecture was: ‘‘is it possible to live together on the territory of B&H again?'' Five minutes before the lecture was due to begin one extremely thin man approached me. The man had big dark eyes; tears were rolling down his face. He held my hands, silently. When he gathered enough energy to speak, he started his story: ''I lived trought Omarska, Keraterm and Manjaca (three infamous concentration camps, in the vicinity of Prijedor - in Republika Srpska, where Bosnians and Croats were kept prisoners). They killed my wife and our daughter. But still, you are absolutely right, there are good people everywhere. Thank you for writing a book about good people. Thank you for coming all the way to London to tell us that it is possible to live together again. I, too, want to go back to my country, which would have been crazy otherwise''.
I told and shortly commented the same story at the International conference about truth, responsibility and reconciliation held in Sarajevo this February, which was broadcast live on local television. After the conference the Vice-president of the Association of ex-camp prisoners of the B&H phoned me. This is the largest associations in this country some 200,000 members of all ethnicities who survived atrocities of the concentration camps during the war in B&H! The man who phoned me was a lawyer, and used to be a judge before the war. He wanted to meet me and tell me how right I was when I insisted that nobody had the right to deny anybody’s will to engage for the victory of truth, responsibility and reconcilation. He said that even ex camp-prisoners wanted to talk about truth, responsibility and reconciliation. Unfortunately, they had nobody to talk to, because the ruling nationalists simply did not want to listen. Eager to tell at least a part of his untold stories, at one moment he said: ''I survived seven Croatian concentration camps. I am sorry not to have met you two weeks ago, when the commander of one of the camps came to visit me in my flat in Sarajevo. This man managed to be human as a prisoner-camp commander as he was human before. We have become friends and visit each other often."
In February this year, when I was crossing the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, the police officer on the Montenegro side recognized me while he was checking my passport: ''Is it you who wrote the book ‘Good People in Evil Times'?" I was really astonished, but ofcourse I said yes. He shook my hand and said: '' I congratulate you and I am grateful to you writing such an honest book.'' He signed the document and continued with sadness in voice: ''I spent a lot of time on the battlefields on Herzegovina.''
I continued my journey thinking how people identify themselves with evil or with goodness. That Montenegrin police officer on the boorder obviously identified with the examples of goodness described in the book, despite him beeing pushed into an evil war, probably against his free will. It is evident that there are many of people like him, who even nowadays carry the burden of collective responsibility for something their fellow compatriots had done, who may be taken to court for their crime. Only when war criminals meet the justice they deserve will these honorable and honest men from that evil time have had the sound sleep they deserve.
There was another International conference on truth, responsibility and reconciliation, held in Ulcinj, (Montenegro) in March, 2000.
"Positive examples as innovations in methodology - the sense and the impacte positive example" was discussed as a topic of a special tound table at this Conference, to my great satisfaction.
Radio station B2 92 in Belgrade started broadcasting a program in March 2000 they called "Catharsis". The aim of this program was to inform the listeners of positive examples of interethnic help during the war in B&H. This remained the only action of its kind within the Serbian media throught Milosevic’s regime. I am afraid this still is an isolated exsample, but I hope that significant changes will happen in the future.
In March this year I spoke on ''Tolerance in the society''. The audience was secondary school students in Bijeljina, the town in Northern Bosnia, Republika Srpska, situated not fare from the Serbian border. This town is well known as one of the fortresses of Serb nationalism during the during the recent war and even today. In Bijeljina they still frequently attack returning displaced persons who are non-Serbs. Some 100 extremely nationalistically oriented young people, who expressed openly their views which they had learned from parents and teachers, attended the two-hour session. They followed the discussion keenly, and I could feel it. Giving positive examples of inter-ethnic tolerance, formulated sa ‘preventing the suffering of others’ by Proffesor Berberovic at a talk in Sarajevo, I invited these young people to think of similar examples in their own experience. The discussion resulted in their asking me to forgive their narrow-mindedness and they sad they wanted to read the book ‘’Good People in Evil Times’’. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights presented them with the book free of charge. They even asked for my autograph on their books, which they had criticized at first. Their rare, heroic un-nationalist teachers told me later that much more tolerant thinking was observed among the yungsters after the lecture.
Reducing this to my individual experience, I can speak of the positive reactions of dozens and dozens of people whom I know, and many whom I did not know. After finding out that the book gives positive examples, that the same examples are often present in the media, my readers have learned that such positive examples transcend their personal experience or that of their neighbors. Once they transcend the psychological barrier of fear, realise their inhibitory mechanisms they can cross for the first time an undrawn yet real border for them, the border between the two parts of Bosnia, the entities where the other ethnic majorities live which sadly still pose a psychological threat to the members of the ethnic minorities.
The importance of this project has alreadly been recognized in the experiences of other countries. A good exampe is given by the project Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Allow me to remind you that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyr’s and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority’, was established in 1953 by the act of the Israeli Knesset to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, the Jewish communities which were destroyed in an attempt to eradicate the name and culture of Israel as well as the heroism and fortitude of the Jews and the Righteous Among the Nations. I am so glad that my book can be a humble contribution to efforts such as this.
SVETLANA BROZ, cardiologist, journalist, essayist
1955 - Born in Belgrade (youngest child of Zarko Broz, eldest son of Josip Broz – Tito, and Dr Zlata Jelinek - Broz).
1970 - 1975 – Engaged as a free-lance journalist; many articles and interviews published in several journals and magazines in Belgrade and elsewhere.
1980 - Graduated with high marks at the School of Medicine, University of Belgrade.
1981 - Specialization in Internal Medicine, Military Medical Academy, Belgrade.
1981 - 1999 - Employed as a physician and specialist (Cardiology) at the Military Medical Academy, Belgrade.
1993 - Beginning of work on a book describing human destinies in the Bosnian War (1992-1995).
1999 - "Good People in Evil Times", a book published by "Prelom", Banjaluka.
Many promotions in Bosnia and Hercegovina and abroad (Banjaluka, Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Podgorica, Niksic, Budva, Bar, Novi Sad, Vukovar, Berlin, London, Prague, Boston, Verona, Milano ecc.).
More than 300 interviews in newspapers, radio and television about the book - incl. New York Times, The Herald Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Independent (London), The Times, The South Slav Journal, Associeted Press, Le Figaro, Le Mond, Respekt (Prague), Pravo (Prague), BZ Kultur, Badishe Zeitung, Schwabische Zeitung, Sudwert Press (Germany), La Arena (Italy), La Tribuna (Italy), Qui, Corriere della Sera, La Republica, La Stampa, .COM, Libri, viviMilano, Le Couriere des Balkans, Tercera (Chile), Norsk Telegrambyra AS, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, Danas (Belgrade), Dani (Sarajevo), Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo), Slobodna Dalmacija, Nacional (Zagreb), Mila (Zagreb), Novi list (Rijeka), Glas Slavonije (Osijek), Večer (Maribor), Pobjeda (Podgorica), Cesky Rozhlas, etc.
Many documentary TV reports, as in New England Cable News, TV Montenegro, TV BiH, Blue Moon TV Podgorica, VIN (ANEM), etc.
The book has been reviewed several times in domestic and foreign magazines – Prelom (Banjaluka), SaLon (London), Monitor (Podgorica), Gazety Wyborczey (Poland).
The book is published in Czech language in publishing house "G plus G" in Prague 2001, being translated into Polish, English and German language, and has been used by the Hague Tribunal.
1998 - Started work on a new book, devoted to interethnic marriages during the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2000 - Moved to Sarajevo.
2000 - Fellow of the International Multireligious and Intercultural Center, Sarajevo.
2000 - Member of the Association of Independent Intellectuals CIRCLE 99 - Sarajevo
2000 - Member of the Board of Society of Victimologists B&H – Sarajevo
2000 – Lecture on Harvard University
2000 - Engaged in the international project "World Gardens of the Righteous" (Padua), www.gariwo.net Chair of the Sarajevo Section.
2001. Lecture on Tufts University, Boston Coledge, International Institute of Boston
2001. President of the Board of The First Children’s Ambasy in the World - "Medjasi" - Sarajevo
Dear Friend, It is my pleasure to inform you about one interesting and without any doubt, very honorable and great idea, which certainly deserves your support and cooperation, I believe.
Mr. Gabriele Nissim, the distinguished Italian essayist and novelist, set up the idea to design the "World Garden for the Righteous" which would resemble to the park "Yad Vashem" in Jerusalem, Israel, and which is devoted to all those who have helped and protected the victims of holocaust.
This "World Garden" would be the monument and the memento dedicated to all those fighters against killing, menace and humiliation of innocent people, and will be designed like commemorative -park and created in those places and countries which have suffered from great genocide such as Armenia, Russia, Cambodia, Rwanda and the territory of ex-Yugoslavia.
Mr. Nissim is planning to have the "Garden for the Righteous", designed and planted in Sarajevo, in the town which represents the symbol of the latest sufferings of people in Europe.
The aim of designing such a "Garden" is to pay tribute to all those people, who have bravely and resolutely rejected "lawful" but non-human treatment and helped all those innocent, weak and fragile who lived on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. Each planted tree will bear the name of each Righteous Man, who has survived all dangers and stood bravely to defend those who were unfairly prosecuted. The purpose of designing this "Garden" is to remind people world wide and to remember all those who were steady and responsible individuals because they had enough courage to refuse to be involved in mass euphoria, which led them into criminal acts.
The goal of creating such a "Garden" should be very high, it should represent a kind of reconciliation among nations and should, therefore, be the monument of individual decision which was the means of resistance against the manipulation of the majority.
Mr. Gabriele Nissim suggested that I should be the involved in this project and be responsible for its realization. Therefore, I kindly ask you to join the team of experts, who could reconsider all aspects of the realization of the Sarajevo part of the project for designing "World Garden for the Righteous".
If you accept the invitation, do let me know by any kind of communication. You will be informed about further activities and will be kindly asked to take part in them.
Please, find enclosed the list of experts who have already received this letter.
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
RELAZIONE DI APERTURA DEL CONVEGNO "Si può sempre dire un sì o un no. I Giusti e i genocidi degli armeni e degli ebrei" – PADOVA, 30 novembre, 1 e 2 dicembre
Mi sono chiesto, quando ho iniziato le mie riflessioni sui "Giusti", se abbia senso ricordare il bene accanto al male, se non si corra il rischio, quando si valorizzano le testimonianze degli uomini che seppero dire di no nei tempi oscuri, di sminuire allo stesso tempo le responsabilità dei regimi totalitari del nostro secolo mettendo in secondo piano le sconfitte dell’umanità. Se non esista una priorità della memoria del male, in particolare nei casi in cui la società che lo ha prodotto non ha riconosciuto le proprie responsabilità e i sopravvissuti non sono stati ascoltati.
Siamo noi contemporanei che determiniamo l’orizzonte dello sguardo del "Giusto". Lo collochiamo esclusivamente nel passato se facciamo di lui un’icona da ammirare in lontananza. Renderemo il suo sguardo passivo e rivolto all’indietro se confineremo la sua storia in un tempo che non ci appartiene più, mentre lo faremo guardare in avanti se ci porremo delle domande sulla nostra responsabilità individuale, se reagiremo di fronte ad ogni espressione di male radicale, ad ogni accenno di disumanizzazione degli esseri umani.
Fino ad oggi l’esperienza di Yad Vashem, il museo dell’Olocausto di Gerusalemme, è stata l’unica che accanto alla memoria delle vittime di un genocidio abbia voluto ricordare i protagonisti del Bene, quanti cioè a rischio della propria vita si sono prodigati per la salvezza dei perseguitati.
Un giusto non è un uomo buono, un uomo puro, un santo; è semplicemente un uomo che ha cercato di interrompere in un punto qualsiasi della catena di un genocidio l’annientamento di un essere umano.
I membri della commissione dei "Giusti" hanno riportato alla luce storie nascoste di umanità che il peso della catastrofe terribile del mondo ebraico avrebbe probabilmente relegato nell’oblio. La loro ricerca ha prodotto alcuni risultati inaspettati, veri e propri miracoli, la cui valenza ancora oggi non è stata sufficientemente elaborata. Ha permesso di rivolgersi con occhio diverso agli spettatori passivi della Shoah, agli stessi sopravvissuti, ma anche alle nuove generazioni dei paesi che si sono ritrovati con il marchio della responsabilità del passato.
Per quanto riguarda gli spettatori, le migliaia di vicende raccontate dagli alberi hanno fortemente incrinato l’idea di una ineluttabilità degli eventi e della impotenza degli uomini di fronte alla persecuzione di altri uomini. Quelle storie hanno dimostrato che non era impossibile capire e che in molte circostanze c’era la possibilità di incrinare in qualche modo la macchina dello sterminio.
Per quanto riguarda i sopravvissuti, le storie dei "giusti" hanno permesso a molti di loro di ritrovare la speranza nell’umanità dopo il trauma subito. Una vittima per ricominciare non ha solo bisogno di elaborare il lutto, di raccontare il Male subito, di rivendicare giustizia per i morti, ha anche il desiderio di ritrovare la fiducia nel mondo. Un solo uomo "buono" è sufficiente per tenere accesa la speranza. L’ha scoperto di recente anche Svetlana Broz a Sarajevo con la stesura del suo libro. Alcune vittime della pulizia etnica sentivano il bisogno di raccontarle piccole storie di convivenza, in contrapposizione all’odio accumulato. Sarebbe stato troppo difficile ricominciare a vivere con l’idea che i gruppi etnici del proprio paese fossero irrimediabilmente nemici. Per molti ebrei e per i loro figli è stato possibile ritornare nei paesi che li avevano perseguitati e traditi, solo dopo aver saputo di uomini che si erano comportati diversamente. I giusti sono diventati così il tramite di un riavvicinamento tra le vittime della violenza ed i popoli che li hanno perseguitati.
I giusti hanno anche un ruolo di purificazione morale nei confronti del paese responsabile del male radicale. Sono il tramite attraverso cui una nazione può rielaborare il proprio passato e ritrovare l’onore perduto. Non è un caso che oggi molti giovani tedeschi si sentano discendenti di Willy Brandt, di Thomas Mann, del sergente Anton Schmidt, di Oskar Schindler, e non di Hitler o di Eichmann. Identificandosi in un’altra Germania, condannano la politica dei loro padri ed immaginano che al loro posto avrebbero potuto andare in soccorso degli ebrei.
Alla commissione di Yad Vashem ebbero una grande intuizione quando decisero le caratteristiche del giardino dei giusti. Moshe Bejski, il suo presidente, volle mettere sullo stesso piano chi aveva cercato di salvare anche un solo ebreo con chi aveva compiuto azioni più rilevanti quantitativamente e politicamente. C’era in questo approccio l’idea del Talmud, che in qualsiasi vita si racchiuda l’universo e che per questo la salvezza di un solo essere sia già la salvezza del mondo intero. Ma ne scaturiva anche un altro messaggio: che di fronte ad un male estremo qualsiasi gesto di opposizione, di solidarietà alle vittime, di aiuto verso l’altro, non sia mai inutile, anche se apparentemente non riesce ad arrestare la macchina dello sterminio.
Un’azione di resistenza, dunque, si può compiere al livello più alto della politica come nella vita quotidiana di qualsiasi essere umano. Tutti hanno la possibilità di scegliere.
La riflessione sui giusti doveva oltrepassare la memoria ebraica e diventare un patrimonio universale dell’umanità.
Lo scrittore russo Lev Razgon, che ha passato diciassette anni nel gulag ha ribaltato il detto biblico secondo cui chi salva una vita salva il mondo intero: nel gulag soltanto chi salvava se stesso come uomo salvava il mondo intero e forse aveva la possibilità, ma mai la certezza, di venire in soccorso dell’altro.
Per Razgon era impossibile immaginare qualcuno fuori dal gulag che aiutasse un detenuto.
Soltanto una vittima aveva la possibilità di aiutarne un’altra e di porre un argine a quel clima di corruzione umana che spingeva ogni perseguitato a diventare carceriere di un altro perseguitato.
Questa possibilità era tuttavia molto rara, perché il clima del gulag annientava normalmente qualsiasi sentimento di solidarietà tra i prigionieri. Tutto si giocava sulla capacità che un detenuto aveva di preservare la propria dignità di uomo in quelle condizioni estreme.
Ebbene, Razgon ci ha lasciato con le sue memorie decine di storie di personaggi che hanno cercato di rimanere in qualche modo umani nel gulag, e che non si sono prestati a vendere la propria dignità e a sopravvivere a scapito di altri prigionieri.
Gli alberi dei giusti del gulag resistevano prima di tutto nella sua mente di prigioniero, nell’attesa di trovare finalmente un luogo dove essere saldamente piantati.
Lev Razgon aveva invece un moto di indignazione verso tutte quelle vittime che una volta uscite dal gulag vivevano senza ricordare, disposte ad accettare il silenzio del potere sui crimini commessi pur di ritrovare antichi privilegi. Aveva intuito come la battaglia per la difesa della dignità umana si spostava dall’interno del gulag alla società, dal luogo del male alla memoria delle future generazioni. La cosa peggiore che poteva capitare ad una vittima era la rimozione del crimine che aveva subito. Ritornare a vivere come se nulla fosse accaduto equivaleva alla morte dell’anima.
E’ questo il motivo che ha spinto l’armeno Pietro Kuciukian a far dedicare il muro eretto ad Erevan accanto al monumento del genocidio agli uomini giusti che presero posizione contro lo sterminio del suo popolo. La loro azione sembra doversi protrarre anche nel nostro tempo, in cui la battaglia per la memoria di quegli avvenimenti non è stata ancora vinta.
L’armeno, a differenza dell’ebreo, vive in un mondo che ancora oggi dubita di quel genocidio. La Turchia è quasi riuscita ad imporre al mondo l’immagine che gli armeni sono morti per effetto di una guerra civile nel momento in cui si sono rivoltati contro l’indipendenza della nazione. Così l’armeno vive ancora oggi in una condizione di solitudine perché non ha trovato chi ascolti le sue parole.
E’ da questo disagio intollerabile che è nata l’intuizione di Kuciukian di dedicare un muro alla memoria dei giusti che si protragga oltre il tempo del genocidio, che ricordi non solo gli uomini decenti dell’inizio del secolo, ma quanti oggi non lasciano soli gli armeni nella rivendicazione pubblica del loro destino rimosso e negato. Il suo grande sogno è quello di rendere un giorno gli onori ad Erevan ad un uomo di governo turco che abbia avuto il coraggio di riconoscere la responsabilità del suo paese nel genocidio del popolo armeno.
Come si deduce dalle esperienze di Moshe Bejski, di Lev Razgon, di Piero Kuciukian, di Svetlana Broz, la definizione del giusto assume caratteristiche diverse in base all’elaborazione della memoria delle vittime nei vari contesti storici. A Gerusalemme si ricorda chi ha salvato la vita di un ebreo, a Mosca chi ha preservato la dignità dell’uomo nel gulag, a Erevan chi ha salvaguardato la memoria del genocidio, a Sarajevo chi non si è prestato alla logica della pulizia etnica. Non si può presentare una definizione univoca del concetto di giusto, ma si deve parlare di esperienze di uomini che ritrovandosi sia nel campo dei persecutori che in quello variegato e con mille sfaccettature degli spettatori di un male radicale, così come in quello stesso dei perseguitati, hanno avuto la capacità di mettersi dalla parte delle vittime e di operare in vario modo per la loro salvezza.
Il concetto di "giusto" è dunque un concetto aperto, determinato non solo dalla situazione specifica, ma anche dal modo in cui è entrato nella coscienza dei sopravvissuti e delle generazioni successive: per questo la comparazione tra le diverse esperienze ci permette di delinearne meglio i caratteri.
Come può ognuno di noi riconoscere un Giusto?
È sempre possibile l’alternativa di scegliere il Bene di fronte al Male Estremo?
"Memory is the Future"
A Project for an International Committee Rationale
The remembrance of those non-Armenians who helped the Armenian people before, during, and after the 1915 Genocide ensures that the narrative written about mass murder and deportations will not be only that constructed by the aggressors or re-invented by current apologists. The voices of non-Armenians who witnessed the tragic events of 1915-1923 save from oblivion the memory of the first Genocide of twentieth century.
Who are the Righteous?
A 'Righteous' person is a humble person, one who thinks according to a universal morality based on the rights of all men.
A 'Righteous' person is someone responsible for even single act of humanity with regards to a victim from ethnic, religious, political, or social group which is at risk for Genocidal persecution.
A 'Righteous' person, often at his own personal risk and with full knowledge of the evil which may befall him, sides and assists the victim.
A 'Righteous' person, when acting on behalf of the oppressed, knows no homeland, no religious affinity, and no political affinity.
A 'Righteous' person acts not only to save human life, but also works to secure refuge for victims of persecution. He may intervene through governmental institutions, find safe havens, document for the public record atrocities, witness trials of crimes against humanity, and procure humanitarian aid.
A 'Righteous' acts to repatriate victims to their homeland and to compensate them for their losses.
A 'Righteous' person thinks on his own and combats conformist mentalities which dehumanize victims.
A 'Righteous' person fights for memory and against collective amnesia.
A 'Righteous' person, in his very affinity with victims, preserves human dignity. Weak and wicked people are often capable of Righteous acts.
A 'Righteous' person, unlike the hero or the saint who work towards an ideal, finds in himself the motivation for action.
A 'Righteous' person does not anticipate heroic acts; he may side with the aggressors until he finds within himself the courage to oppose evil.
A 'Righteous' person stands outside the veil of ideology, which allows political and economic exigencies to justify crimes against humanity, and sides with the suffering.
Scope of the Committee
1) Research to designate the Righteous of the Armenians
2) Transport and internment of ashes or hearth from the graves of the Righteous to the Wall of the Genocide Memorial at Dzidzernagapert. [Click for the films]
3) Planting a "Garden of the Righteous" in collaboration of the Armenian Tree Project, at Dzidzernagapert.
4) Awarding of an annual prize in memory of a 'Righteous' person and the funding of dissertation research on the Righteous in collaboration with the Fondazione Stefano Serapian.
5) Presenting to the Parliament of the Republic of Armenia a program for remembering the Righteous of the Armenians.
Giuliano Vassalli, former Minister of Justice, past President of the Constitutional Court, Italy
Gaghik Harutunian, President, Constitutional Court, Armenia
Laurenti Barseghian, Genocide Museum Director, Yerevan, Armenia
Fedej Sarkissian, President, Academy of Science, Yerevan, Armenia
Hrant Avedissian, Director, History Institute, Academy of Science, Yerevan, Armenia
Gaghik Baghdassarian, Ambassador Republic of Armenia in Italy
Raymond Kevorkian, Director Nubarian Library, Paris, France
Alexis Govciyan, President, Comitè 24 Avril, Paris, France
Claude Mutafian, Historian, University of Paris, France
Ara Sarafian, Historian, Gomidas Institute, USA
Hilmar Kaiser, Historian, University of Bochum, Germany
Agopik Manoukian, President, Unione Armeni d'Italia, Milan, Italy
Richard Hovanissian, Historian, University of Los Angeles, USA
Alice Kelikian, Historian, University Brandeis, Boston, USA
commissioner for the preservation of America's Heritage Abroad,
Washington DC, USA
Carolyn Mugar, Armenian National Insitute, Washington DC, USA
Gabriele Nissim, Historian, Milan, Italy
Carlo Massa, Film maker, Milan, Italy
Henry Morgenthau III, Writer and Journalist, Boston, USA
Antonia Arslan, Professor, University of Padua, Italy
Gabriella Uluhogian, Professor, University of Bologna, Italy
Boghos Levon Zekiyan, Professor, "Ca' Foscari" University of Venice, Italy
Yves Ternon, Doctor, Historian, Paris, France
Misha Wegner, Architect, Roma, Italy
Sibyl Wegner Stevens, Writer, United Kingdom
Ardavast Serapian, President, Stefano Serapian Foundation, Milan, Italy
Matthew Spender, Writer, Sculptor, Siena, Italy
Umberto Galimberti, Philosopher, "Ca' Foscari" University of Venice, Italy
Pietro Kuciukian, Unione Armeni d'Italia, Milan, Italy
Board of Directors
The International Committee for the Righteous of Armenians is based at the Museum of the Genocide at Dzidzernagapert outside of Yerevan in Armenia
Join by writing at firstname.lastname@example.org
I Giusti sono tutti coloro che hanno avuto il coraggio di dire di no di fronte al male dei totalitarismi, coloro che – a rischio della propria vita - hanno nascosto un ebreo quando i nazisti lo cercavano o hanno aiutato gli Armeni perseguitati, battendosi perché il genocidio perpetrato dai Giovani Turchi contro gli Armeni nel 1915 fosse riconosciuto. I Giusti dimostrano, con il loro esempio, che è sempre possibile dire un no, o anche semplicemente dire, quando tutti tacciono o si giustificano dicendo che non si può fare altrimenti. Di questi Giusti si è parlato nei tre giorni padovani.
Ai "Giusti tra le Nazioni" è dedicato un giardino a Yad Vashem, il museo della Shoah di Gerusalemme: è stato piantato un albero per ogni Giusto. Da Padova è partita l’iniziativa di moltiplicare i giardini dei Giusti, uno per ogni luogo in cui ha dominato l’orrore, ma in cui almeno un Giusto – come ha detto Siobhan Nash-Marshall – "ha segnato una riga bianca nel foglio nero del Novecento"; anche Padova avrà un "luogo per conservare la memoria del bene": un’area di fronte al Tempio dell’Internato Ignoto a Terranegra.
Per la prima volta, almeno in Italia, si è parlato congiuntamente dei due principali genocidi del Novecento (quello Armeno e quello Ebraico) con un’accentuazione sul primo, dimenticato e a lungo negato, tanto che solo in questi ultimi mesi, dopo ottantacinque anni, i parlamenti italiano, francese ed europeo hanno votato mozioni che riconoscono il genocidio armeno.
Gli interventi hanno ruotato attorno alle relazioni basilari dello storico e scrittore ebreo – nonché anima dell’iniziativa - Gabriele Nissim e di Antonia Arslan, letterata e docente universitaria dell’Università di Padova, di origine armena. Sono stati loro a delineare i contorni dei genocidi ebraico e armeno.
Uno dei "Giusti tra le Nazioni", Giorgio Perlasca, era di Padova: a Budapest, nel 1944-1945, salvò 5000 ebrei dalla deportazione. Il figlio Franco ha parlato al convegno del padre.