So I was very sweetly sent the book “NOT MY TIME TO DIE”, about Savo Heleta and his life during the Bosnian war.
The clever guy, or his American mate, knew it would hit just the right spot with me. I think I am 3 chapters in, and I am fascinated. It actually is the only decent way for me to retain history… by reading a good book about a situation.
I have read textbook after textbook about Somalia or Sierra Leone or Indian Colonialism during a three year degree. But one month with a true tale set within that context, and finally… I get it.
And this Bosnian war & Balkan insanity has never ever glimmered an ounce of clarity for me till now. Muslims, Croats, Serbs, Bosnians…no wait… were the Croats here… Yugoslavia… but then religion… where was the nationality…hey???
The first part of this book already has me back to pondering a typical question… About when does one know it is time to leave. Your home. Your country. The situation. When is it paranoia & when is it a first sign of the severe trouble to come?
I remember when I was somewhere around 10 or 13, around “transition time” of South Africa, other kids would tell me about the horror possibilities….All the black people are going to kill us once they take over…. They’re going to come take your parents’ home and cars and you are going to have to go and live in the townships… We all have to leave South Africa otherwise we’re gonna die or be beaten up…etc etc….
And so I would ask my folks, when are we leaving South Africa?? Surely they can’t make us stick around to die. My folks loved me and I knew they would do almost anything to prevent even a scraped knee.
My folks told me that we weren’t. They waved off these prophecies as rubbish and nothing like that was going to happen. Just chill. And so we didn’t leave. And not much in our daily lives has changed to make us suffer.
It was paranoia then. But then you look at other stories…
As the Bosnian war got going, Savo tells how his parents held onto the belief that rationality would eventually kick in to the country. The politicians would resolve the crisis. That Bosnia’s citizens very soon would remember that for decades they had not hated their neighbour’s differences, especially not to an extent to bomb and sniper out the ex-neighbour, and they would stop killing & fighting. This would be as bad as it gets and eventually the violent tide would draw back and normal life would find its way back in.
I am only at the start of the book, but knowing from history and news stories, they got it wrong this time.
I have watched Zim for 8 years now. When it was bad in 2000 as war veterans took over the white farms. Then there were forced removals of shanty towns near Harare. Then MDC leaders were beaten. Election after election was held, and we weren’t really surprised Mugabe did not just hand over power a few months back.
Why did white farmers not leave at the first signs? Why did whites not leave at the first signs? Why did MDC supporters not leave at the first signs? Life there has already looked pretty insufferable for a few years now, and yet, the family of friends and colleagues continue to plod through their daily lives. “You still have family there? Really? But it’s not like your family doesn’t have the resources to get themselves out?” Some Zimbos are border-hoping. Some are “waiting it out”.
But what are they waiting for? Rationality to finally kick in? Global politics to give enough of a fuck to save their individual lives and homes? Have they lost hope and survival? Are they just fkcing stubborn?
I watch as people in SA have found their breaking points & emigrate the hellouttahere…. From Apartheid times, to that transition period where some whiteys freaked their kids out with tales of what was to come under black, to crime levels rising, and Eskom failing us.
When is it paranoia and when is it a first sign?