What Is Wrong with Us? Šta to ne valja s nama?

How can anyone become so deranged and perverse to get such pleasure out of someone else’s suffering and destruction?

piše V. B. Borjen

If you have illusions about heaven

lose them.


Not so long ago I was in Kraków. The old Polish capital was majestic even in the cold and rainy weather; the streets filled with music and dancing (there was a festival of some sort) and tourists rushing past rustic shops in centuries old buildings. We stayed at a nice hostel in Kazimierz, whose walls were decorated with paintings and quotes of old communist leaders now put to a capitalist use. Several well stocked bookshops are to blame that I came back to Brno carrying bagfuls of books and wearing a smile. The visit, however, meant tears as well.

I was stubborn in my decision to skip the tour of Auschwitz, as I thought it might take me to a dark place where I would rather not be. (I was born and raised in Bosnia and the horrific experience of one war is enough to last me a lifetime.) However, I did go to Schindler’s Factory just outside the city centre on the following day. Having read nothing about the modern museum housed in the historical facilities of the factory, I expected to be shown around for the length of an hour or so. I was in for a shock. The museum, like a wormhole tunnelling through the history of the city from roughly 19th century, through the years of growing anti-Semitism, then the worst years of absolute annihilation of anything Jewish or in discord with Nazi views, all the way to the communist era and post-communist times, is not only a great document of the history of Krakow but also the best museum I have visited so far. I cried half of the time: personal objects; photographs; pleas of the children; grandmothers with fear and nothingness in their eyes; endless numbers and facts; replicas of the Ghetto walls; speakers sounding broadcasts of terror; German proclamations; then death, death, death; often the prayers to at least escape through death the monstrosities of the everyday.

There were no words; one could do nothing but cry and feel nothing but endless injustice and sorrow. How can anyone become so deranged and perverse to get such pleasure out of someone else’s suffering and destruction? I thought to myself as I was passing through endless corridors with walls full of those photographs, letters, cries of despair. Yes, I thought to myself, the old trick of dehumanisation; we have theories of everything and excuses for anything. I came to the section with replicas of solitary cells, where one could go inside and imagine what it felt like for that poor person to be locked up, when I saw it. A pink little wallet in a glass box inside the wall; next to it were various other tiny personal objects. I did not read the name of the prisoner or perhaps it was not even there. I began reading the description of the contents of that glass box and was joined by a group of Hungarian visitors who were awfully loud in the otherwise quiet place. The wallet, I read, was made of human skin.

The wallet, I read again, was made of human skin. The Hungarian visitors, two couples, were laughing. They were taking selfies behind the bars on the window of the cell. Smiles and everything. The wallet, I read once more, was made of human skin. Pink. Smooth. Almost charming; some sepia shade to it. The smiling blonde was now posing for her boyfriend who was trying to take a snapshot from a good angle. My guts were in my throat. The wallet, I let it sink in, trying at the same time to block out the laughter, was made of human skin. Made of the skin of someone’s sister or grandfather, who loved strawberries and a neighbour across the street perhaps; who wore shoes; who sweat and swam, and dreamt at night. Who cried ‘Mama!’ while a child. Who dreamt of becoming a doctor, a teacher, a carpenter or an athlete. A wallet now.

I walked on in exasperation and out of protest, but the laughing lot who were evidently having fun with their smartphone cameras in every section trailed along after me. The end of my four-hour tour came as a great relief. The final door saved me. I was furious long after and the feeling still has a remarkable quality of springing back up like an enraged horse, at the very thought of those instances of complete lack of compassion for another’s suffering. Leaving for a moment aside the systematic destruction and debasement of a whole people, and numerous others who for various reasons did not fit the horrific scheme of the poisoned minds, how could the fact that someone living was turned into a wallet, there on display, not drive out a single sigh or glance of commiseration?

Then a few days ago that feeling of fury sprang back up again. Going through the headlines I was drawn to an article on the website of The New York Times from the 14 July 2014: ‘Israelis Watch Bombs Drop on Gaza From Front-Row Seats’. A number of Israelis brought chairs, armchairs and sofas to hilltops to watch the bombings of Gaza over a cigarette, one of them even observing through binoculars (to get a closer look and cheer more passionately, I assume); and it was not even the first time they had done this. The article also features video footage of the 2009 bombings during the Operation Cast Lead with Israelis gathered passing cold-blooded comments in support of the mindless bombing, one of them, Keren Levy, emphasising that in her opinion Gaza should be wiped out completely, adding, with a mischievous smile, ‘Yes, I’m a little bit fascist’. By this, she and the gathered have not only shown a complete lack of sympathy for human beings dying in their midst, but also for all those who were killed by the original Fascists – their own people. (It would be the same as if I called myself a little bit of an Arkan’s Tiger or a Chetnik.) After this blood-freezing article, I watched The Guardian video footage of the four Palestinian children killed earlier that day, as reported also first-hand by Ayman Mohyeldin on Twitter. Four children, among hundreds of others in the recent bombings alone, robbed of their life; photographs of mothers in tears around mutilated bodies. I could not help but remember my Kraków visit and I thought how it is now the state of Israel who desires to boost its economy and increase its territory by producing wallets. Pink little wallets of sepia shade: wallets which, before the bodies they were made of had been butchered and dehumanised, dreamt of becoming doctors, singers, astronauts . . .

V. B. Borjen (Velid Beganović) is a doctoral student in the programme Literatures in English at the Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic). He holds a BA degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and an MA degree in Gender Studies from the Central European University in Budapest (Hungary). His current research focuses on literary visions of unity and unification of humanity in the years leading up to the Second World War.

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Ako gajite iluzije o raju,

zaboravite na njih.


Nedavno sam posjetio Krakov. Stari glavni grad Poljske uprkos kišovitom vremenu bio je veličanstven; ulice preplavljene muzikom i plesom (u toku je bio nekakav festival) i turisitma koji trčkaraju naokolo rustikalnih dućana smještenih u zgrade stare nekoliko stoljeća. Odsjeli smo u lijepom hostelu sred Kazimierza. Zidove hostela ukrašavale su slike i citati starih komunističkih vođa, sada stavljeni u službu kapitalizma. Zbog nekoliko dobro opremljenih knjižara, vratio sam se u Brno sa vrećama punim knjiga i osmjehom. Ipak, ova posjeta je također bila puna suza.

Bio sam dovoljno tvrdoglav u svojoj odluci da preskočim obilazak Ausschwitza, jer sam pretpostavljao da će me to odvesti na mračno mjesto gdje se iskreno ne bih želio naći. (Rođen i odrastao sam u Bosni i stravično iskustvo jednog rata mi je dovoljno za cijeli život). No ipak sam, idućeg dana, posjetio Schindlerovu fabriku van grada. Pošto nisam ništa pročitao o modernom muzeju smještenom u historijskim postrojenjima fabrike, očekivao sam obilazak dužine od otprilike jednog sata. Ostao sam šokiran. Muzej se poput crne rupe prožimao kroz historiju grada od nekog momenta u devetnaestom stoljeću kroz godine rastućeg antisemitizma, nakon toga kroz najgore godine potpunog uništenja svega Jevrejskog i svega što se suprostavljalo Nacizmu, pa sve do komunističkog doba i post-komunistički vremena. Ovaj muzej nije samo dobar zapis historije Krakova, već je i jedan od najboljih koje sam do sad posjetio. Pola vremena sam plakao: lični predmeti; fotografije; molbe od djece; bake sa očima punim straha i ništavila; beskonačne činjenice i brojevi; replike zidova geta; radio emisije govora terora; njemački proglasi; nakon toga smrt, smrt, smrt; često moltive da se strahote svakodnevnice izbjegnu makar kroz smrt.

Nije bilo riječi, jedino se moglo plakati, jedino što se moglo osjetiti je beskrajna nepravda i tuga. Kako neko može postati tako poremećen i perverzan da bi na takav način mogli uživati u nečijoj patnji i uništenju? Na to sam mislio dok sam prolazio kroz beskrajne hodnike sa zidovima punim tih fotografija, pisama i jecaja očaja. Da, rekoh sebi, stari trik dehumanizacije; imamo teorije za sve i opravdanja za bilo što. Došao sam do djela sa replikama samnica u koje se može ući i zamisliti kakav je bio osjećaj te jadne osobe koja bi bila zatvorena u istoj, kada sam je vidio. Unutar staklene kutije ugrađene u zid nalazio se mali ružičasti novčanik, pored njega nekoliko sitni ličnih predmeta. Nisam pročitao ime zatvorenika, možda čak nije ni pisalo. Pročitao sam opis sadržaja staklene kutije, pridružilo mi se nekoliko mađarskih posjetioca koji su bili užasno glasni na mjestu gdje je obično jako tiho. Novčanik, kako sam pročitao, napravljen je od ljudske kože.

Novčanik, pročitao sam opet, napravljen je od ljudske kože. Mađarski posjetioci, dva para, su se smijali. Slikali su se iza rešetaka na prozoru samnice. Smijeh i sve. Novčanik, ponovo sam pročitao, napravljen je od ljudske kože. Ružičast. Gladak. Skoro pa šarmantan; sepija boje. Nasmijana plavuša je pozirala dok je njen momak pokušao da je uslika iz dobrog ugla. Petlja mi se popela u grlo. Novčanik, pustio sam da se slegne, dok sam pokušavao da prigušim smijeh, napravljen je od ljudske kože. Napravljen od kože nečije sestre ili djeda, osobe koja je voljela jagode i možda komšiju preko puta; osobe koja je nosila cipele; osobe koja se znojila i plivala, i sanjala noću. Osobe koja je, dok je bila djete, plakala za Mamom. Osobe koja je sanjala da postane doktor, nastavnik, stolar, sportista. Sada je novčanik.

Iz protesta i ogorčenja, nastavio sam hodati, ali nasmijana grupica se izgleda zabavila sa svojim fotoaparatima i pratili su me u svaki dio. Kraj mog četverosatnog obilaska došao je kao ogromno olakšanje. Posljednja vrata su me spasila. Bio sam ljut dugo nakon toga, a taj osjećaj ima neviđenu sposobnost da iskoči kao ljut konj na samu pomisao na trenutke gdje ne postoji nikakvo suosjećanje za patnju drugih. Ostavimo na stranu sistematsko uništavanje i istrebljenje cijelog jednog naroda, i drugih koji se nisu uklapali u planove otrovanih umova, pitam se kako činjenica da je neko živ pretvoren u novčanik, tu u izlogu, nije potakla ni najmanji uzdah ili kratak trenutak suosjećanja?

Prije nekoliko dana, isti gnjev mi se vratio. Čitajući naslovnice primjetio sam članak na stranici The New York Times od 14.7.2014.: ‘Israelis Watch Bombs Drop on Gaza From Front-Row Seats’. Nekolicina izraelaca se popelo na brda sa stolicama i sjedaljkama da uz cigaretu posmatraju bombardovanje gaze, jedan od njih je imao čak i dvogled (kako bi bolje vidio i navijao strastvenije, pretpostavljam); to čak nije bio ni prvi put da su to uradili. U članku također se mogu naći snimci iz bombardovanja iz 2009. godine tokom vojne operacije Cast Lead. Snimak je poraćen sa hladnokrvnim kometarima nekih izraelaca koji podržavaju besmisleno bombardovanje, jedna od njih, Karen Levy, naglašava kako po njenom mišljenju Gazu treba u potpunosti izbrisati, dodajući, sa iskvarenim osmjehom, ‘Da, malčice sam fašista’. Takvim činom, ona i ljudi tu s njom nisu samo pokazali totalan nedostatak suosjećanja za ljude koji umiru iz njihove sredine, ali i za one koje su pobili orginalni fašisti – svoj vlastiti narod. (To bi bilo isto da sam se ja nazvao malo kao Arkanov Tigar ili četnik). Nakon tog užasnog članka gledao sam i snimke na The Guardian-u o četvero ubijene djece ranije tog dana, kao što je iz prve ruke izvještavao Ayman Mohyeldin na Twitter-u.  Četvero djece među stotinama drugih u bombardovanjima, svi ti oteti životu; fotografije majki oko osakaćenih tjela. Morao sam misliti na moju posjetu Krakovu misleći kako država Izrael želi da podstakne svoju privredu i poveća teritoriju proizvodnjom novčanika. Ružičasti mali novčanici sepija boje: novčanici koji prije nego što su bili zaklana i dehumanizovana tjela, sanjali da postanu doktori, pjevači, astronauti…

One Response to “What Is Wrong with Us? Šta to ne valja s nama?”
  1. hamilrah kaže:

    Sorry, but what is wrong with you? It’s a rhetorical question by the way. When there is a conflict which lasts this long, how dare you dismiss its complexity by pretending that a simple, par excellence ideological cry “How could they be so cruel!” can be anything else but an open call against one of the sides? Especially in times when there is a spontaneous coalition of far right antisemitic forces with the left taking place as it is at this very moment. Communism – analysis, fascism – obviousness. Deal with this couple.


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