No more heroes any more

style=”text-align: center;”>Whatever happened to all the heroes? All the Shakespearoes? They watched their Rome burn
The Stranglers
style=”text-align: left;”>My childhood was full of stories about heroes, mostly dead ones. Like in all socialist countries of that time, the values system was simply created in that way. The shadows of dead heroes were all around us. We learned about bloody stories of their sacrifices every day at school, we sang together about them, we walked through streets named by them, we learned verses about them by heart, and on special days we brought flowers to their monuments and graves.
style=”text-align: left;”>That was a case of overkill – endless repetition which devalued every value. Nevertheless, somewhere deep in our children’s hearts we felt a kind of respect for all those who had fallen for our freedom, happiness, brotherhood and unity and the bright future for all our nations. Now, a new story has emerged. After new wars and new “revolutions”, most of their names have already been forgotten. The streets in most Balkan cities have changed their names.

Students’ blood

style=”text-align: left;”>In the late 1970’s I studied comparative literature and philosophy at University of Sarajevo. We missed the student revolution of ’68 as we were still children then. It wasn’t common knowledge, but there were big demonstrations in Sarajevo at that time.  As a nine-year-old child I heard students walking down my street towards the city center, calling on the workers to join them. The workers never came. Instead, the People’s militia was sent by the leadreship and the streets dawned in the morning all colored red from students’ blood. That was the price of being more leftist and ‘truly’ marxist than your own communist government. But, no one was put in jail. Even later, the regime lured to his side most of the student leaders and rewarded them with good positions in society, culture and politics. Despite of all that, no news came out about the Sarajevo demonstrations of that hot summer 1968. That subject was a kind of taboo and the silence lasted for some twenty years, as if nothing ever happened.

Rebellion to survive

style=”text-align: left;”>Ten years later we had nothing else to do other than to invest all our creative energy in some kind of sublimed, aesthetically covered, rebellion – through rock and roll, poetry, theater, arts and humor. None of us wanted to be a hero. Even the trend of the times was pretty anti-heroic.
style=”text-align: left;”>By force of circumstance, we got onto a world-wide open stage as a part of something which was known as the spiritual (or cultural) resistance of Sarajevo during the siege of the city in early 1990s. At that time, being rebellious was not a question of some romantic need, but a simple need to survive the enormous destruction of all values, material and spiritual.
style=”text-align: left;”>In our youth we thought that we’d grow up as a spoiled generation. We believed in a slow evolution of society, that the system would simply die a kind of natural death and that democratization would be a logical and dialectical consequence. But at once, we found ourselves in a middle of a historical cruelty, recognizing that the entire time we were merely a small intellectual minority, too weak to resist nationalistic brutality and awoken atavism.
style=”text-align: left;”>During my student times, myths were still in books and history was still far away from us. Ancient gods, old philosophers, Shakespearean characters, Latin poets, middle-age legends, romantics and modernists walked through our lives. The friendships from studies were also something very special. There was a kind of unity in spirituality, sharing the same thirst for cognition, the passion for the unknown. It made all of us feels like a part of some secret sect, in a kind of holy alliance which must last forever.

Antonije Nino Zalica (writer, filmmaker). Born in Sarajevo 1959, spread his living in between Amsterdam, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Studied comparative literature and philosophy at Sarajevo University. His novel Yellow Snow/The Print of a Dragon’s Paw appeared in a number of different editions and translations in various European languages. In 1994 his short film Angels in Sarajevo, as part of SAGA's productions, was awarded the European Film Academy's Felix Documentary Award.