The story of a Serb who sacrificed his own life to save a Bosniak during the Bosnian war has been told for the first time outside the borders of the ex-Yugoslavia by an Italian comic book.
|Comic about Serb war hero in the book Yugoland I Photo couresy of Andrea Ragona|
Almost nineteen years ago Srdjan Aleksic, a reservist in the Army of Republika Srpska, from the town of Trebinje in Bosnia, was killed when he tried to help his Bosniak [Muslim] fellow citizen.
On January 21, a group of Bosnian Serb army soldiers were torturing Alen Glavovic, a Bosniak living in the town, in the city market. When Aleksic intervened to help the tortured man, the soldiers turned on him and beat him to death.
One of the four attackers was killed during the war, while the remaining three have been sentenced to two years and six months in prison each.
Srdjan’s father, Rade Aleksic, is now in regular contact with Alen Glavovic, who survived the attack.
“And Ace, as we call Alen, is now in Sweden, married with two kids. Every summer he comes to Trebinje. First he goes to Srdjan’s grave and then to my house,” said Aleksic in an interview to Bosnian Independent magazine.
This story about an heroic act in a time of war, when Serbs and Bosniaks were enemies, spread all over the former Yugoslavia. A number of towns in Bosnia and Serbia paid homage to Aleksic by naming streets and squares after him.
Luka Zanoni, the editor of Balcani e Caucaso, a web portal specialising in the Balkans and the Caucasian region, who came up with the idea of including the story about Srdjan Aleksic in the book Yugoland, says that the story, though striking, is still not very well known in Italy.
“Srdjan’s bravery exemplifies the fact that a man cannot be pigeon-holed within narrow national boundaries. There are lots of stories about the cruelty of that war, but not many people know that there were good people like Srdjan too,” Zanoni said.
“Srdjan has shown that in all that madness it was possible to maintain solid friendships across the ethnic divide, even at the cost of his own life. So in a book that tries to identify what survives of that communal spirit and what does not, I think Srdjan should have a place of honour,” he told BIRN.
“All anyone knows are Mladic and Karadzic, which is normal, since the international media have talked about them for years... But now it’s time everyone knew about Srdjan Aleksic,” Zanoni adds.
|One of the ilustrations from the book Yugoland I Photo courtesy of Andrea Ragona|
The book Yugoland tells the story of many trips through the Balkans, expressed mainly in written form with the help of pictures, drawings, comic strips and even music, since every chapter starts with musical tips to set the right mood.
The book is illustrated by a painter from Bologna, Gabriele Gamberini, who lived and travelled extensively in the Balkans.
Andrea Ragona, the author of Yugoland, says the book can serve as an alternative tourist guide to the former Yugoslav countries.
“The main focus of the trips and the numerous meetings I had concerns the ideas people had of the entity named "Yugoslavia". Is it still there? Do people still believe that there's some common ground for the people of the Balkans to meet on. What's left of Yugoslavia today?” he said to BIRN.
One of the reasons he included the story about Aleksic, Ragona says, is that:
“The story of Srdjan Aleksic is about the inner contrasts of Yugoslavia, and about the hope of overcoming differences. It's a touching and meaningful story from the Balkans that we want to make known.”