Serbs Say What They Think of US Now

Farmer Ljubomir Vujiucie, 80, who offered an American reporter a drink of the potent liquor Slivovic, and who says his family's opposition of President Slobodan Milosevic has brought him only death.
By Bill Redeker

AMERIC, Yugoslavia, Nov. 3 — In the tiny village of Americ, or “Little America,” autumn has brought farmers to their fields to harvest what’s left of the corn crop, plow under the soil, and get ready for winter.

Nothing else much happens in these hills of central Serbia, so there’s plenty of time to think and philosophize and welcome strangers with a stiff drink of Slivovic, a bitter plum brandy that tastes like, well, turpentine.
     Armed with a couple of shot glasses filled with the mind-numbing liquor, 80-year-old Ljubomir Vujiucie didn’t hesitate to welcome this American reporter to his farm, which his family has owned for more than 150 years.
     “My folks were always in the opposition and I’m in the opposition, too,” he told me. “But what good does it do for me? Things are more expensive than ever and President [Slobodan] Milosevic just gets a lot of young people killed with his wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.”

‘Biggest Disappointment is Milosevic’
When pressed about what he thought of the United States, given its leading role in the recent NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia that forced it to essentially relinquish Kosovo, Vujicic admitted disappointment. But he quickly added, “I’m even more disappointed with Milosevic.”
     Another farmer, 71-year-old Zivorad Stevanovic, was even more critical. As he and his wife, Maria, took a welcome break from their chores, he blasted the Milosevic regime.
     “These bastards, I don’t even want to hear about them. They have screwed up whatever they could.”
     What did he think of America, I asked? “They have private property and capitalism that works. I’d be very happy with that. I’m fed up with these guys and their communist ideas.”

Hard to Find Balance
Looking for editorial balance in this decidedly anti-government village was not easy. It seemed no one had anything good to say about Milosevic.
     But we did find plenty who were critical of U.S. foreign policy. Lured by a sign scrawled on a stack of old tires that read “Vulcanizer,” we stopped and asked Zeljko Bosanac what he thought.
     After patching a flat tire in record time, he told me he had “nothing against the American people but the U.S.A. has a big Army and wants to rule the world.”

‘Why Did They Bomb Us?’
A group of schoolchildren playing soccer in a nearby cow pasture said they were scared when NATO warplanes flew over the countryside every night last spring.
     “I don’t know why America bombed us,” said Stahinja, 13. Her younger brothers Goran and Darko agreed. “What did we do?” asked Darko.
     Before we left Americ and headed back to Belgrade, a final stop at a roadside restaurant to talk with manager/waiter Dragan Milojkic best summed up the day.
     “America is a great country but maybe what happened to us [could] have been avoided,” he said. “I pray it will never happen again. I pray our government, somehow changes.”