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There is nothing. There is no God and no universe, there is only empty space, and in it a lost and homeless and wandering and companionless and indestructible Thought. And I am that thought. And God, and the Universe, and Time, and Life, and Death, and Joy and Sorrow and Pain only a grotesque and brutal dream, evolved from the frantic imagination of that same Thought.
Mark Twain (letter to Joseph Twichell after his wife's death)
[me, on a bad day]

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Loss in Mostar [DEAD]

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...for example, the famous bridge over Neretva river at Mostar built in 1566 is an integral part of the human psyche. When such objects of self identity are destroyed, much of human spirit goes with it. When the bridge in Mostar fell on November 9, 1993, after days of incessant shelling, the Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic wrote in the Observer that she had never visited the bridge, foolishly thinking that "the bridge would be there forever... When I remember what is no longer there, I feel a spasm in my stomach, a knot in my throat. I feel death lurking in the absence."

She continues: "I've heard that people in Mostar, even adults, cried when they saw that the bridge had fallen. I believe the reports, for I have seen people who are not from Mostar cry as well. An elderly journalist, a lawyer. A singer, who wept for the first time since the war started.

"Not so long ago, the newspapers published photos of a massacre in the Bosnian Muslim village of Stupni Dol. One picture showed a middle-aged woman with a long, dark knife-cut along her throat. I don't remember anyone crying over that photo or others like it. And I ask myself: Why I feel more pain looking at the image of the destroyed bridge than the image of the woman?
''Perhaps it is because I see my own mortality in the collapse of the bridge, not in the death of the woman. We expect people to die. We count on our own lives to end. The destruction of a monument to civilization is something else. The bridge, in all its beauty and grace, was built to outlive us; it was an attempt to grasp eternity. Because it was the product of both individual creativity and collective experience, it transcended our individual destiny. A dead woman is one of us--but the bridge is all of us forever."

This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use" provisions of the Federal copyright laws.

Source: by Dr. Amir Pasic via Chicago-Kent College of Law, 9 Nov 1993

Source: BOSNET October 11, 1994

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia Croatian gunners destroyed the renowned Old Bridge in the Bosnian city of Mostar on Tuesday, sending one of the most graceful examples of Ottoman architecture crashing into the Neretva River.

The four-century-old arch, described by a Muslim poet as ``a crescent moon in stone,'' was one of the most formidable metaphors for the common life that the Muslims, Croats and Serbs of the old Yugoslavia enjoyed before the country's violent breakup into separate nation-states began in mid-1991.

``It is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world,'' wrote the British author Rebecca West in her pre-World War II travelogue of Yugoslavia, ``Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.'' ``A slender arch lies between two round towers, its parapet bent in a shallow angle in the centre.''

Veso Vegar, a spokesman for the Bosnian Croats' militia, admitted Tuesday that the militia's gunners had targeted the bridge, whose foundations were laid in 1557 at the orders of the Ottoman Empire's greatest ruler, Suleiman the Magnificent.

``Since the bridge is in a place that is strategically important and the Muslim positions are very near, 70 to 100 metres, the bridge has constantly been shelled,'' Vegar said, adding that Croats fired 10 shells at the span on Monday alone.

Bosnian government radio reported Tuesday that 60 shells hit the structure, which opened in 1566 and eventually became known as the Old Bridge, or Stari Most. It gave the city its name.

The Bosnian Croat leadership has named Mostar, whose population was mixed before the war, capital of the self-declared Croatian republic they have created. Bosnian Croat troops began evicting Muslim residents from the Neretva's west bank in May, herding adult men into concentration camps and forcing women, children and elderly people across a treacherous battlefront.

For months Muslims on the west bank dodged sniper fire to cross the bridge to the Muslim-controlled east bank, where they could fill plastic containers with drinking water. The city's mostly Muslim Bosnian army contingent used it take up their positions on the battle lines on the western side of the river.

News of the Mostar bridge's downing plunged many people from all over the former Yugoslav republics into gloom.

``I enjoyed my first kiss on that bridge,'' said Borjanka Santic, a 70-year-old relative of Aleksa Santic, a Serb who was one of Mostar's most famous 19th-century poets. ``I remember even now the stars and the moon shining down. I remember how we dropped stones into the clear water. Now this has all been wiped out.''

``The bridge was the meeting place for the young people of my generation,''she said. ``The walkway's stones were rubbed so smooth by the footsteps that you had to hold on to the rails to avoid slipping even when it was dry.''

Stonemasons from the nearby city of Dubrovnik built the 200-foot-wide bridge at the narrowest part of the Neretva River canyon, joining the span's locally quarried limestone blocks with iron braces and pointing the cracks with molten lead. The bridge's designer, Hayrudin, studied under the greatest of all Ottoman architects, Sinan.

The bridge survived a flood that practically covered it in 1713, history books say, and the only time its walkway was closed came during an 1815 feud between local families.

The bridge survived dozens of wars and uprisings unscathed. Each summer in recent decades, divers held competitions to see who could make the most beautiful leap from the bridge's apex to the swirling Neretva 70 feet below.

The first war damage to the bridge came in May 1991, when Serbian artillery commanded by Miodrag Perusic, the present chief of staff of Yugoslavia's army, blasted it in two places and leveled much of the surrounding neighborhood.

The Muslims draped old tyres over the side of the bridge and erected scaffolds over its walkway in a futile attempt to deflect shells.

Over the last 18 months, Serbian and Croatian shells badly damaged the stone towers on each end of the bridge, which were used in the 19th century by the Turks to imprison Serbian rebels bent on freeing themselves from Ottoman rule.

Television pictures broadcast here tonight showed that the bridge's entire span is gone.

``It is as if one of my closest relatives has died,'' said Bogdan Bogdanovic, a Belgrade architect who designed a monument in Mostar to the World War II partisans who fought Hitler. ``The bridge was a piece of metaphysical architecture that linked cultures and peoples.''

``A person simply loses the sense of himself at times like this,'' he said. ``It was like a heavenly arch. It had nobility, a kind of elan.''

``I ask myself how the people of Mostar will live without that bridge,'' he said. ``They have now lost a part of their being. With a loss like this people, people lose their place in time.''

This article does not have permission of the copyright owner, but is being offered for comment, criticism and research under the "fair use" provisions of the Federal copyright laws.
Source: BOSNET October 11, 1994

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