Jovan Divjak and Dragan Vikić: Two Bosnian Heroes
by Stephen Schwartz
The Balkan wars of 1991-99 changed my life. Writers before me, like George Orwell, found their lives and careers transformed permanently by the Spanish revolution and civil war of 1931-39, 60 years before.
Bosnia-Hercegovina was my Spain.
There I met hundreds of extraordinary individuals and communities. Their faces were typically without guile. They were Muslim Bosnians, Christians, Jews, Roma, Albanians. Journalists, local government officials, religious leaders, schoolteachers, railroad workers, cooks, taxi drivers. Soldiers, both male and female. Rape victims who did not act like victims. Partisans.
Unlike Orwell I went back repeatedly, immersing myself in the local culture, food, music, literature, and the beautiful languages spoken all around me.
These are subjective judgments, but they are my truth.
Of all the individuals I met in Bosnia two stand out for their moral example: Jovan Divjak and Dragan Vikić.
General Jovan Divjak of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina is a Serb, but a Bosnian. As a high officer in the former Yugoslav military he armed the Bosnian territorial militia for defense against Serbian aggression, then affirmed his patriotism and sense of duty by joining the reorganized Bosnian Army.
I knew of his courage through the terrible siege of Sarajevo, and watched him in Bernard-Henri Levy's outstanding 1994 documentary film, Bosna! I knew he had been subjected to extraordinary threats by Serbian media, directed against his family as well as his own person.
The symbolism of a Serbian Bosnian patriot putting himself in harm's way to defend a people under fascist attack affected me deeply. Serb media and politicians asserted a "blood claim" on Divjak, demanding that all Serbs everywhere stand with the Milošević mafia. Divjak repudiated the pseudo-nationalist demand for a factitious loyalty. He put himself on the side of Serbia's alleged enemies.
In reality, no Bosnian was an enemy of Serbs or of Serbia. Bosnia had developed a fruitful relationship with Serbia. Bosnian Muslims and Serbs intermarried. The outstanding Bosnian novelist Meša Selimović wrote in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet. But the genocidal propaganda campaign to maintain Serb control in the region required enemies. Following the Muscovite playbook, which we see in effect in the U.S. today, Muslims had been selected to die brutally to maintain Russian influence worldwide. This Russian methodology may lead to an attempt to seize eastern Ukraine before the end of this year. Muslim Crimean Tatars have been leading victims in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Day after day and night after night Serbian malefactors and their foreign enablers slandered the Bosnians as supposed Islamic fundamentalists. This crowd of liars and lapdancers included the powerful British political elite, French politicians, Noam Chomsky and other disembrained Western leftists, Saddam Hussein, provider of oil to Belgrade in exchange for nuclear weapons technology, Fidel Castro, the demented Hitler of the Caribbean, Muammar Qhadhafi, the monster of the Maghreb, Yasser Arafat, who invited Milošević to visit Jerusalem for Christmas, the Islamophobic termagant who called herself Bat Ye'or, her prom date Robert Spencer, a politer version of the Charlottesville inciter of murder, Richard Spencer, and David "I'm for sale cheap" Horowitz. Horowitz assisted Serbian criminals in defaming me personally.
There have always been honest Serbs. 19th century Serbian enlightener Svetozar Marković warned against the fantasy of an imperialist "Greater Serbia." Serbian Social Democrats Dimitrije Tucović, Kosta Novaković, and their comrades sided with the Kosovar Albanians against the bogus Serbian leadership.
Divjak followed the example of these true Serb patriots by defending Sarajevo. I met him in 1999 and walked the abandoned trenches on the peaks around the city with him. I remarked that the trenches looked shallow and asked if they had collapsed under the weight of winter snow, which may be heavy there. No, he told me, "we dug them by hand, without shovels."
That was the measure of Divjak, a real man.
I also met Dragan Vikić, of mixed Croatian and Serbian origin. Vikić, with whom I joked by suggesting he resembled Robert DeNiro, is a martial arts champion, veteran of the Bosnian police forces, and hero. The youngest recruit ever to the Bosnian law enforcement service, at the beginning of the Serbofascist assault on Sarajevo he roused the citizens to self-defense. He commanded a special police unit in many difficult operations.
Divjak and Vikić are loyal to the country they love, Bosnia-Hercegovina. Bosnia remains the heart of the world – it is no wonder men and women (I'll write about them, too) are ready to defend her.
There are many lessons for Americans here. Ordinary citizens resent the military and police but can seldom defend themselves adequately, whether in Spain 1936 or Sarajevo 1992. Real patriotism shuns nationalism. Russia is the world's enemy, spreading ethnic polarization, political lawbreaking, and disinformation everywhere.
But men and women with real values prevail.