On Shoes
Christmas Eve
Mother's Letter-1
Mother's Letter-2

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My grandmother was widowed young. When my father was only a boy of three in Backa Palanka, Yugoslavia, his father contracted pneumonia. Still, his doctor, a young man, recommended walks. It was the middle of winter and my father's father, my grandfather, started his winter walks. He died shortly afterward. My father always blamed the doctor's remedy for having been made fatherless. Grandmother was left alone with four children to feed. She grew fruits and vegetables in her small garden, kept chickens. I remember pigeons she served us with a special Balkan cherry sauce. This was my father's country and I ate things I never had before, coming from Central Europe. In my childhood the Yugoslavia I visited was far more exotic than dangerous: there was little to fear under Tito. Grandmother took her fruits and vegetables to the market on market day and supported herself and her family in this way. Market day is an important day in Europe. It is a day you anticipate all week. You see your friends, greet neighbors, taste produce the farmers from the countryside have brought in, a day to forget your troubles. It was on such a day that Varvarin was bombed.

In late spring of 1999, NATO bombed its old narrow river bridge, killing 11 civilians crossing it. It was not a bridge a tank could have crossed, too narrow for that, as observers have testified. But at 1pm, in its first day of daylight bombing of Yugoslavia, an American jet bombed this bridge, and the civilians walking and driving across it on their way to the market. It was Trinity Sunday in Varvarin. People ran to help the wounded. Twenty minutes later another American jet returned and dropped a second bomb, this time killing the rescuers. A young girl was killed as she tried to pull a wounded man from the road. The local priest was beheaded by shrapnel from the second bomb as he emerged from his church.

I tried to make my neighbors here in America understand. These were people NATO bombed -- for the most part, ordinary, innocent people, much like you or me, speaking a different language, not as well dressed, perhaps eating their pigeon with cherry sauce. But people all the same, for the most part neither more guilty or innocent for the sins of this world than you or me.

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