It’s a very weird and unsettling feeling to have your home country disappear on you. What would I call home now? It’s been twenty something years but the feeling is not going away. Before the war I was not aware of any major differences between the people of our six states. During the war people were forced to choose where they wanted to live, but they had to prove that they were of that nationality. Yugoslavia had 20 million people. That’s even less than Mexico City for example. Now we have six countries for the same population. My family is from four of those countries but I was born in Serbia, although my hometown Zemun was at some point claimed by Croatia, and some still think it belongs there. So, where I was born is now the country of Serbia. I grew up there, and I spent entire summers in Fazana, Croatia, a little beach town near Pula where my grandfather built two little houses for his two daughters, my mom and her sister. When I was little, I remember that most of my friends had Italian names and spoke both Italian and Croatian. Some of my best memories are from my summers in Croatia. Naturally it was the most fun time of the year, nearly three months of summer break enjoying the beach and playing with friends all day long. My parents would send me there with grandpa and grandma as soon as the school was over, and they would join us later for a month, as that’s how much vacation time they got for the summer. My kids also got to spend a few summers in the same town, now not so little as it grew a few times bigger. I tried to teach them Serbian and/or Croatian, basically the same language but since the war they try to make them different as much as possible. I think it’s debatable how much difference there was between Yugoslavian languages before the forming of Yugoslavia, but let me stay out of the politics, as there is no resolution to the arguments from all sides. It’s been over twenty years since the war ended, but the people are still arguing, or I think rather the media is constantly reminding people that they need to hate each other. It’s a shame because our main moto in Yugoslavia was “brotherhood and unity”. Now it’s the other way around.
The sad thing is that families separated due to the separation of the States. Relationships got broken due to the nationality issues, including some of my family and friends. Also, my aunt and uncle decided to move to Croatia, and they took their son with, but their daughter wouldn’t go. She stayed in Belgrade. My other uncle, a Croat from Bosnia, wouldn’t believe that the war would affect the strong friendships and connections he had there, as he was a judge, and a super friendly guy and everybody loved him, so when the war was in full swing, he didn’t bother to move. To his surprise, some Serbian guys, whether paramilitary, or criminals, or the regular army, God knows who, came to his house one day, and ordered the whole family out letting them keep $200 and a car with which they drove away. In their view, they were being nice to them, and considering that it was a war, and people were even butchering each other’s kids, that was indeed an act of kindness. They left for Croatia and he became a lawyer, and he rebuilt a life for his family. His son, my cousin had a Serbian girlfriend I think, or fiance, can’t remember, and that didn’t work out in that mess. I escaped to Greece for three years with my first wife during the worst years of the war, so I didn’t witness any of it. To rewind a little, when I was 22, I was living as a monk in the temple, and at that time everyone had to serve in the army, even the monks, so I got my invitation to serve, and I went, however, I had decided to pretend that I was crazy, so that they let me go. They can’t keep crazies in the military, let alone give them guns, so I had planned my strategy based on the stories from my friends who attempted or succeeded in faking being crazy. They advised me to not express violent behavior, or they will just put me in the military jail, which would not count as service, which was one year. So, I went there and faked a non-violent crazy person. I was praying, and I indured through threats and beatings. They sent me from one person to the other, and yelled at me how they know I was faking, but I wouldn’t give up. If you give up, then they have proof that you are faking, and if you don’t then you have a chance of being accepted as a legitimate nutcase. I arrived at the camp at 5pm, and by midnight I already had all the signatures that I was a psychopath. I was very happy. I just had to wait for some general to sign my release. He was away, so they kept me for six days before letting me go. They let me hang out in the room while everybody was training and doing stuff. I didn’t eat anything. That was a part of my act. Six days without food was a challenge, but I did it. Finally, the general showed up, signed my papers and they had me escorted from Slovenia to Serbia by train. A young soldier accompanied me all the way on a ten hour ride. I think I still had to stay in the role, so I didn’t talk to him much. Not talking was also a part of my act. When I came back, I told my dad that they beat me. My dad was a colonel, and an officer, active military. He was not happy about that, so he put his uniform on, went to the recruitment place and whatever he did, when he came back he just told me that he got them to erase my file, and that they would not bother me again. I had actually only gotten three years before they would evaluate me again and send me to serve for a year. So, thanks to my dad, I never had to go back. If some of you don’t approve of my decision, let me just bring to your attention a few things: First of all, I was a monk, and monks are not supposed to serve. Second, I was vegetarian, and there were no vegetarian options there. Third, the military was officially atheistic, and they had ripped off my necklace made of a holly tree, they took my prayer beads away, as well as the books. If I had served, which was before the war, I would have had to fight in the war, but my question is for whom? My family was from four states which were fighting. How do you choose? Actually you can’t even choose. You just fight for the State you live in, no matter which nationality. As I remember, most Serbs in Belgrade, weren’t enthusiastic to be sent to war, and they had to basically surround a few blocks in the city, grab all the men, give them guns and send them to battle where they would be likely killed because of no military training. So I, being officially crazy, or rather having psychopathic personality features, or whatever you call it in English, original is “psihopatske crte ličnosti”, I was able to leave the country, and not go to war, I had my diagnosis in the military book, otherwise no men from 18 to 65 could leave the country.
One time my ex and I went to Montenegro for a week, it was the middle of the war between Serbs and Croats and as we were lying on the beach, enjoying swimming and sunbathing, we could hear the shelling on the other side of the hill where they were fighting over Prevlaka island I think. It was a long time ago and I may not be completely accurate. I just remember us talking how we were enjoying ourselves while people were dying just on the other side.
The point I was initially going to make in this chapter is that I had lost my sense of having a home. I didn’t really think about it much back then as I was into spiritual stuff, studying reincarnation, and understanding the temporary nature of this world. Hindu religion teaches that your real home is in the spiritual world, which for Krishna devotees means Goloka Vrindavan, or Krishna’s planet, so I had abandoned an idea of making home on this planet already, but still, as you still have to live here, it is necessary to have a home which would be the center of your life naturally. Looking back right now and right here, in Thailand, I can’t even count how many times I had moved in the past thirty years. Belgrade to Zagreb, to Passau, to Belgrade, to Heidelberg, to Copenhagen, to Berlin, to Belgrade again, to Athens, then Boston, Maynard, Massachusetts, Rumford, Maine, Culver City, California, Rumford again, Asheville, North Carolina, Baltimore, Belgrade again, Maynard, Alachua, Florida, Fountain Valley, California, La Crescenta, California, Prattville, Alabama, ZhouWo, Hebei, China, Boston, Revere, Woburn, Lincoln, Concord, Massachusetts, Sawang Arom, Uthai Thani, Thailand, and finally Bangkok, Thailand. I am not kidding. I lived in all those places for at least a few months to a few years each. I don’t know if it’s my karma, or the fact that I don’t feel at home anywhere, or a combination of both. One thing is sure, I don’t think Bangkok is my last station! I will stay here for a while I think because it’s a good place for making flutes, but who knows, maybe another place works just as well, and it is closer to a beach or something…