Friday, February 24, 2006

Slobbo and Ratko

Sub titled: how the twentieth century's dastardly duo happened to be running a modern western European country. And, what's in a name – again.

Trying to make sense of the Balkans has bemused men far more clever than I for many a year. From the first time a Roman legionnaire stepped across the Danube, the rest of the world has been alternatively bemused, confused and befuddled at the unfathomable politics, religions and ethnicity of the region.

A good primer on the subject can be found at:

What is not found there is any sense of how two obvious and obnoxious loonies came to be sufficiently in charge so as to be able to set about a fairly successful extermination campaign in what is supposed to be a civilised country. Shades of old Adolph here.

I confess that I don't know many Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonians (whatever they are called?). But I do know someone whose real name is Slobodan. Fortunately, he is usually called Ted.

His father was a Balkan immigrant to the UK during or shortly after the second world war. Not surprisingly, when Ted was born that proud man insisted on naming him Slobodan. Must have been rough for him at school - though I suspect (probably much to the old man's annoyance) he was always called Ted. In any event his real name is Slobodan and he is quite a nice guy.

As far as I know, there are no Ratkos here in the UK. A search on Google turns up our Yugoslav friend, Ratko Mladic. Frighteningly there are 1,200,000 hits for Ratko. I just don't have the time or stomach to search through all of them. There is a Ratko Zjadca who is, apparently, a prominent and unfortunately named composer. Ratko Varda is a guard for the Washington Wizards in the NBA, so perhaps it's not such an uncommon name – no matter how unfortunate or comical it seems to westerners. Somehow I can't see the fans in the MCI Center raising the roof with a stirring rendition of the Serbian National Anthem ("Boze Pravde" ((God of Justice)) – for those who are interested). Actually, it's quite a catchy tune - so I couldn't resist the temptation to have a look at the lyrics:

Lord! Avert from us Thy vengeance,
Thunder of Thy dreaded ire;
Bless each Serbian town and hamlet,
Mountain, meadow, heart and spire.

When our host goes forth to battle
Death or victory to embrace-
God of armies! be our leader
Strengthen then the Serbian race.

I think you've got the idea! I suspect the Wizards fans make do with, “Come on, Ratko!” - shouted loudly and repeatedly. Or, more entertainingly, maybe they just chant, “Rat, Rat, Rat” over and over again. It would certainly give the opposition something to think about.

Oh yeah, I wonder if God appreciates being called a Bozo, sorry Boze, in Serbian?

Without prejudice, it is apparent to me that no amount pretending is going to disguise the fact that

down in Balkan heaven things are not all that rosy. This latest attempt to join both the western world and the present century is dependent on being able to put behind them the difficulties of the last thousand years or so. This, though very laudable, does not seem very likely.

Slobbo and Ratko will just have to wait until they meet up in the detention centre for a good old Serbian homecoming. God knows what that entails?

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