Many of you know that the state of Illinois is home to over 600,000 Serbians. It is known as “little Serbia” and is the 2nd most populous Serbian city on the planet after Belgrade, Serbia.
I had never spoken to a Serb until one cold night in January 2010. I had just returned from a long 12 hour work day at my Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealership. Opening my first beer of the night I sat down and opened my Facebook profile. That day I had heard a few of my coworkers talking about a Facebook page called “I hate the USA.” Searching for it I quickly found it and started reading some of the posts. There were a few that really stuck out. They had been written by a couple guys with “strange last names.” I posted a few sharp responses to them. We did this for a few days and slowly became friendly. We added each other on Skype and started talking a few days a week. I told them of my many world travels. They said “why don’t you visit Serbia”? I thought for a few moments and said “Ok, I have two weeks vacation starting on May 28th. I will be there.”
Serbia is a country I knew very little about. I was always a great student in Geography. Learning about other countries and cultures has always fascinated me. I had only heard of Serbia a few times in my life. One of my favorite books The Worlds Most Dangerous Places by Robert Pelton mentioned Serbs in a bad light. Bosnia was mentioned in his book and told stories of Serbian brutality and aggression. Bill Clinton also mentioned the “barbaric Serbian military” in his announcement to the American people to justify our military intervention in Kosovo in 1999. There are numerous movies and tv shows in which the Serb plays the villain! My mental picture of Serbia was one of a barren wasteland with bombed out buildings and evil, cannibals roaming the plains. My friends, the ones that actually knew that Serbia wasn’t Siberia, told me I was a FOOL for visiting a dangerous country. When I told my girlfriend that I was going to be traveling to Serbia she said “why are you going to Russia?” Some of my family and coworkers couldn’t fathom that I would travel ALONE to a country we knew as hostile and meet two people I had encountered on a page called “I hate the USA.” My boss even shook my hand on my last day of work and said ” It has been nice knowing you. I am sure we will never see you again.”