I miss that land of stones and snakes, though I miss Sarajevo more

Stephen Schwartz

In the past I considered this my best piece of journalism because it covered a subject ignored by others and helped the Bosnians.

I was criticized then and will doubtless be criticized now for allegedly contaminating the Bosnian cause by associating it with homosexuality.

My answer then and now remains that Bosnia needed American allies and that I was not picky about them.

Was I objective? I believe so. Was I neutral? No more than Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer were neutral in World War II.

I am now proudest of the last paragraph on page 1 and the third paragraph from the last on page 2.

This interview came out when I was prohibited by the CHRONICLE from writing on Bosnia. An interview in the region’s gay weekly was a fine way to bug the bosses.

The interview was given in Pittsburgh. My trip there was paid for by the American Jewish Committee. During my visit I learned that Pittsburgh had been gentrified, that a Serbophile professor named Robert Hayden at U of Pitts was a swine, and that the Croatian Fraternal Union, a pillar of the national struggle remained under the influence of Croatian American Stalinist Communists.

Does the world care? Not at all.

The Serbs were then powerful in California. They went to the CHRON executives and had me shut down. Managing editor Dan Rosenheim, a former Trotskyist, said “It’s all about the Serbs.”

Three months went by. I woke in the middle of the night and Allah swt said to me, in my heart, “nobody silences you.”

I then began going on TV nightly. The CHRON bosses could not stop me from that. The first TV intv I did the moderator said “Mr. Schwartz has come on to explain the war in Yugoslavia.” I said “there is no longer Yugoslavia. There is only Serboslavia.”

That weekend I went to the bigger of two Croatian Catholic churches in the area. It was very large, new, and impressive, very post-1945, very Hercegovac, and very Ustasha. I had been going there to conduct interviews but was not welcomed. The attitude was “what does this Jew want?”

I walked up to the door of the church. A big Croat man turned to the door and shouted to the congregation “Gospodin Shvartz is here!” They poured out, shouted and hugged me and kissed me, men, women, kids. In one minute I had three glasses of rakija and plates of kobasica were being handed to me.

An elderly Croat lady walked up and took my hand and kissed it. She said “a Jewish knight for Croatia!”

I really preferred the company of the smaller congregation of Dalmatinci. It dated back to the Gold Rush in California. They were considered “Red” and “Yugoslav.” Ivo Banac spoke there.

I was their darling until it was clear that Tudjman was prepared to stab Bosnia in the back. I criticized them. They had told me I would be awarded a medal, and even gave me a small badge with a sahovnica against a Jewish star. I did not care about medals. That was the end of that honeymoon. The rather notorious Julie Busic, wife of terrorist Zvonko, became very nasty. (She later committed suicide; a sad case, but she had been corrupted by her prison term as Zvonko’s accomplice in the Kennedy Airport bombing.)

There were about 30,000 Croats in the Bay Area, the same Serbs, the same Slovenes, four Bosniaks, and about 400 invisible Albanians.

A year later Rosenheim asked me to borrow a Trotskyist book, TEAMSTER REBELLION by Dobbs. I did so. We went on strike. Rosenheim was a scab, at least morally, because he was management and could not be expected to strike. I stood under his window with a bullhorn and dressed him down as a traitor. He is vain and that hit him hard.

I went and asked for my book back. He said “I read it for ideas on how to break the strike.”

I won’t put my response in an email. Some time later he left the paper.

There were many moments then I won’t forget. I know it will seem ridiculous but what I recall most vividly was learning a new language, BCS.

Mo Sacirbey came to town and told me about his name change. Stalinists dominated the SF left and agitated against the “secessionists.” I was invited and then disinvited from a Trotskyist event. I went to see my beloved Rebecca in Hollywood, where she was working on a movie. She said with some bemusement, “now you’re involved in the Croatian movement.” It was all new to her, in details.

My friend Jade, about whom I wrote to you, was braver. She went with a rock band to Sarajevo to play for the teenagers, under fire. She tells me about hearing the sound of the rockets hitting the buildings. She said the noises came with no prior sound.

The Serbs lost their power. The local liberal lawyer, John Keker, was part-Croat or Slovene. He described a police raid by saying on TV “they came in like Serbs.”

The short Malkovich video came out My son produced a short video using this controversial item: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVaYgPBYnOQ

I miss that land of stones and snakes, though I miss Sarajevo more.

Comment

*