Sad Serbia: memories of a former Belgrade school student who suffered a massacre | International

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Some people light candles for the victims near the Vladislav Ribnikar school in Belgrade on Wednesday.Armin Durgut (AP)

A 14-year-old boy has fired a firearm in a central school in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, killing eight classmates and a security guard. The first news I receive on Wednesday morning has taken place not only in my hometown, but also in my old school.

Created in the 1970s as a state-owned school under an agreement with France, the school Vladislav Ribnikar It has been emblematic for offering bilingual education —Serbian-French—, something unprecedented in a socialist country at the time, where all education was public and, of course, free. They say that now local politicians and gangsters choose her for their offspring. In my time I was the intellectual elite who wanted a good education for their children. I remember that among the fathers (and mothers) of my classmates there were musicians, actors, architects and other renowned professionals. Also students from working-class families, who thanks to this first solid training were later able to undertake significant professional careers.

When the war began in the former Yugoslavia, many of my classmates from this school ended up as translators, journalists and other employees in international organizations who moved to my former country due to the war situation. Many others, including myself, went abroad, always with the baggage of having learned different languages, which I think is worth twice as much as everything else one can learn in life.

It is hard to imagine that one of those classrooms where we spent long school days could have become a scene of death. I see that the history office, where the crime took place, is still on the ground floor, as it was more than 40 years ago.

The terrible news about the underage murderer shooting at a school in the center of Belgrade opens our eyes to the sad social and spiritual reality of a country that has carried out its democratic transition so badly so far. In Serbia there are 39.1 firearms for every 100 inhabitants, according to the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. It is, with that of Montenegro, the highest figure in Europe and the third in the world, only surpassed by those of the US and Yemen.

This abundance of weapons is a consequence of the wars in which Serbia was the protagonist in the 1990s, in which it was seen more as the aggressor party. These traces are still visible. Something that is noticeable when reading the comments of the fatal news: "You wanted the West and here you have it", "the war was little compared to what has come in this later period", comments in which the Americans are blamed Or the Russians. Tragedies always exhibit incapacitating prejudices. They show reluctance to look in the mirror and first assume their own responsibility, be it individual or collective.

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