The one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the amount of messages I get from all over the planet. I get to hear so many stories from people with totally different backgrounds! Just today …I received a nice message from a guy in Japan that told me how much he misses Serbia, and will move there after he graduates! Keep the stories coming… 🙂
A few days ago….. I received a message from a Marine that was helping guard the U.S Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia in the 1990’s. He has so many great things to say about his time in Serbia. He grew to love many things about your country, culture, etc. He still has many Serbian friends to this day. He told me this very interesting story about an accidental encounter with Zeljko Raznatovic … better known as “ARKAN”
WHO WAS ARKAN?
Mr Raznatovic was a paramilitary leader of the Serbian Volunteer Guard or Arkan’s Tigers….who organized and lead the forces in the Yugoslav Wars. He was accused of many crimes during the 1970’s-1980’s and was on Interpols most wanted list for many years. He is considered a hero by many and a brutal monster by many more. He was assassinated in 2000 before he could be tried by the court.
“I will give the short version of the Arkan Story, while in Belgrade we were
in charge of security, there was 5 Marines and one Marine Detachment
Commander. The five of us lived together in a house, kind of like the Real
World, but not on TV, we ran 8 hour shifts, and when you were not at work,
you could do what the Romans do, in this case, do what the Serbs do….. we had a bar in our house, in fact all Marine houses around the world has a
bar. We would have parties twice a month to raise money for the Marine
Corps Ball, we sell wine, liquor and beer, mostly to Americans and other
Expats, but in this Case the Beautiful Serbian People, mostly the girls
because they loved coming to our house, because it was safe, no fire arms
and gun fire going on during the techo mix, LOL.
anyway, one night at Three
Carrots (a Irish Pub), on Knesa Milosa, a very hard looking individual
approached me, and said you are a Marinats, ….. well of course being that
I want to maintain a low security profile, I did not answer his question, he
asked again but this time got in my face but starting talking to me in
Serbian, I politely replied, Izvinite, Moy Serbski nije bash najboje, Da li
Goverite Engleski, he smiled and said, I like an American that tries to
learn our language, and invited me to sit with him. He bought me and
another Marine a Beer and said he wanted to talk to us about business, of
course I was in condition red, and was surprised by the convo. This guy
explained that he knew we had parties at our house and sold beer. He wanted to sell us some beer at a good price, the Beer was Grolsh, not sure if you ever seen it, but it has a pop top, we sat and talked, he told us about
being a Soldier for Serbia, He wanted to sell us some beer, we asked what
kind of beer, and he said what you are drinking now, Grolsh…….. it was
the big bottle too, so I was interested, I said how much, he gave us a price
and without trying to do the conversion in my head, because in those times
the Dinar was all over the place, I said in dollars, he replied even better,
and gave us a ridiculously low number. I said, per case (24) he said yes,
It was like 5 dollars a case, even if we sold the beer for 2 or 3 bucks in
our bar we make a killing, so I say lets start with 50 cases, he replies why
so small of an order, I was like, well this beer is new or least I have
never heard of it, and I wanted to test it at our bar first, he agreed, so
we set a time the next day to come pick up the beer.
The next day (early
evening) me and another Marine drove our duty van over to the bar and we
expected to load some beer at that location, instead this guy says to jump
in the van and he would take us to were the beer was, now the alarms start
to go off in my head and I hesitate, he assures us that it is all good and
that it would be fine.
We drive for about 30 minutes in an area of Belgrade
that I have never seen before, it seems like we went north East, but we took
so many turns I got all mixed up and got turned around, it was during winter
so it got dark as we were driving. We finally arrive at a place, these
buildings look residential, but you know BG, there is bars and cafes
everywhere, we get out and walk down some stairs, and there is this big iron door, the Serbian guy knocks on it, it was straight out of a movie, the
slide opens, they speak to each other and the door opens. We get led down this dark hallway in which it gets darker and darker, I hear music and
people talking, we reach a big velvet type drapery and walk through and bam, we are in a Gentleman’s club, older well dressed men sitting around with young well dressed women at every table with food wine and drinks, and now I crap my pants because I have a scary suspicion on where we are! I look at “JASON” and say be cool follow me lead, if I hall ass you better move with me. The guy walks off and talks to some people, we are standing in the room with lots of eyes on us. Next thing I know a waiter walks up with two shots, he offers them to us, I say no thanks, he says no you have to drink this, I say no that we have to work and that we cannot drink alcohol. He says no, you really have to drink this because that gentlemen behind me bought you these and it would be a sign of disrespect, and his face was like “seriously just do it” I look over his shoulder and as plain as day, I see Arkan with a shot glass in the air, I know immediately who he is but act like I dont, the other Marine has no clue as this point, but later acknowledge that he seemed like somebody important. I decide to pick up the shot glass and tell “JASON”, to do the same. We knock em back, Rajkia of course……. and as I feel the burn on my throat I nod to him and thank him as does he. I hear the double doors open on the side wall and out comes two dolly’s loaded with beer. I nod my head again and I turn and follow the guys with the beer, we load it up, as they bring the other cases, I give the guy the cash, and we shut the doors. I ask the guy if he wants a ride back to Three Carrots, he says no, that he will stay there. I drive off with my heart doing 180 beats a minute
and realize the magnitude of it all. It took me a while to find my way out
of Dark Streets Covered in Coal and soot……… lets just say, that
situation could have turned out very badly, but so glad it didn’t. It
actually showed me that Serbs are proud and people of their word.
I know I said short version at the beginning, but I could of had a bunch of
other detail, but I think you get the idea!!!
It was weird, when I found out he was killed, I remembered that human side
of him more then the bad things he was accused of.
Alright time to take a breath on that one. What took you to Serbia???? and
how did you come to love it so much????
Very interesting…. Thanks for sharing your story with us, sir!