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A photo of Croatian girl kissing a Serbian boy in the Bosnian town of Mostar has been hailed by international media as a brave symbol of a more tolerant new generation.
The photograph, which shows the young couple kissing while draped in their respective national flags, was described as a sign of reconciliation among the younger generation after it was uploaded to the online image service ingur.
The Serb was walking through Mostar holding hands with his Croatian girlfriend, and when an older woman asked how she could walk that way with a Serb, the girl responded by kissing the boy, said a comment posted alongside the picture by someone who saw it taken.
“It is nothing special really, a couple showing affection, but for us here in Mostar, it is evidence that new generations are not willing to continue with war in their minds,” the comment said.
The picture is said to have been taken during a parade staged by the pro-tolerance United World college in Mostar.
US news website the Huffington Post republished the photo, calling the kiss “the bravest thing ever”, while another US site, MSN, said: “You can tell a story in a thousand words, but sometimes one image sums it up beautifully.”
Mostar was devastated during the Bosnian war and still suffers from ethnic divisions some two decades later.
A similar rare instance of public promotion of inter-ethnic tolerance was reported in January, when graffiti reading “Serbs and Croats are brothers!” was sprayed one of Belgrade University’s walls in the centre of the Serbian capital. A heart and the words “I love my Hrvoje" [a Croatian male name]” were added above the graffiti.
Such moves have been highly infrequent since Yugoslavia dissolved in the early 1990s and Croatia’s declaration of independence resulted in a bloody Croat-Serb war.
Relations between the neighbours, which had warmed after the overthrow of the Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, turned distinctly icy after a more nationalist coalition came to power in Serbia last year.
Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic did not attend the inauguration of his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, after the latter appeared to express support for a ‘Greater Serbia’.
Relations worsened again last November after the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia acquitted two Croatian wartime generals, causing an outcry in Serbia.
The Serbian paramilitary who became a key prosecution witness at his former comrades’ trial for war crimes in Kosovo says he had to speak out about the brutal massacres his unit committed.