Obituary for a Bridge

by Mirko Mandrino

Last night NATO finally finished destroying the bridge at Novi Sad, a bridge that spanned the most beautiful river in the world, the blue Danube, the only railway bridge over the Danube linking Istanbul-Belgrade-Novi Sad-Budapest-Vienna, the line of the Orient Express. Thousands and thousands of people are now without water, telephone and to some extent electricity.

The bridge was made of prestressed concrete and constructed by Branko Zezelj, an engineer born in Benkovac, now in Croatia. The bridge was named “The Bridge of Zezelj.” Attacked three times before with a total of 16 missiles, it had already been heavily damaged, thus passable only for brave pedestrians. But it was still standing. Mr. Zezelj was a good engineer! Our bridge became the pride of Novi Sad and thus a symbol. But it also became also a challenge for NATO planners in their air-conditioned planning rooms. So tonight it was the target of six more missiles — too much even for Mr. Zezelj’s Bridge.

Witnesses say the explosion caused big waves on the Danube. Flying stones ruined houses and cars in every direction. Novi Sad shook as if there was an earthquake. We could feel it even here in Pancevo.

Seven bridges over the Danube have been broken in only four weeks — more than in both world wars.

My son Miroslav is asking always: “Why? What can we do?”

Once I had answers. During the earlier wars in ex-Yugoslavia our answers were demonstrations, candle vigils, public meetings, objections to mobilizations, peace activities of any kind. Now it is hard to speak about peace.

Neither Miroslav nor I have been able to sleep any night before dawn since the bombing started. Our city, Pancevo, has been a target almost every night. Maybe the next missile will hit our post office or the very small Pancevo TV station. Both are very close to us. Or once again the chemical factory.

The dawn is near. Can I manage to fall asleep? But what can I dream?

Mirko Mandrino is a well-known peace activist, a founder of a peace group in Pancevo and a conscientious objector to the various civil wars in former Yugoslavia. He sent his “obituary” for the bridge by e-mail the night of April 26.