The Untold Story of the Floods in Serbia


Two kilometers away from the Tamnava River near downtown Obrenovac, Snezana Hasanovic didn’t think the flood waters would reach her neighborhood. During the Yugoslav War in 1992, she fled Sarajevo along with her husband and young son, and never thought she’d have to be an evacuee twice in her life

“On Friday at around 1:30am my parents came knocking at my door telling us to get out of the house immediately. The water was now surrounding the house, when an hour earlier my husband and I were watching news of the flood on TV and it wasn’t near us.”

Little did Hasanovic know, both rivers around Obrenovac burst their banks, the Sava and the Tamnava, and by now the “water was almost up to our knees, it was raining, there was a foul odor, and I simply could not believe that we would be leaving our house without anything once again.”

“We are homeless again,” said Hasanovic, who works at the International School of Belgrade – Serbia’s leading school in English.

The rain has stopped, yet the water is still rising, and the media has only just begun to cover the worst flooding to afflict Serbia and neighboring states in recorded history.

As Serbia sinks further into oblivion in front of an international community selective about the natural disasters they choose to assist, scores of people are dying and thousands are displaced. Hasanovic’s hometown of Obrenovac, a sleepy town not to far from the capital, Belgrade, now resembles an Eastern European version of Venice – minus the pulchritude – as bodies are floating across the streets – err, canals. Ninety percent of the city is under water.

The region’s worst flooding coupled with the fact that Serbia is one of Europe’s poorest countries spells a gloomy conclusion to one of mother nature’s worst disasters so far this year. To make matters worse, the international community slept on the story for more than 3 days before really covering it. In those overlooked three days, 3 months of rainfall plummeted on Serbia and the Bosnian state of Republika Srpska.

Even when news outlets like the BBC or CNN began taking the story ‘seriously’, the only reporting came from meteorologists, whose airtime on the respective channels are both minimal compared to anchors and foreign correspondents. Only after the Serbian tennis champion Novak Djokovic lambasted the two news channels did they pick up their reportages.

Understandably, the biggest democratic election was wrapping up in India, Turkey witnessed its worst mining disaster, and 300 innocent girls were kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria, so flooding in Serbia – at least on the first day – was behind in the pecking order. After three days of minimal reports (i.e. news tickers), and a mainstream media estimate of 40 dead and 25,000 displaced, the devastating floods clearly did not receive the right publicity.

According to people on the ground, there has been more than the reported amount of deaths and the number of displaced soars well into the hundreds of thousands. The only correct sum being reported is the amount of aid which will be in the range of hundreds of millions if not a billion dollars.

Had a correspondent been sent to the hardest hit places, the correct figures may have been conveyed to the masses, which in turn would have speeded the delivery of foreign aid to Serbia. With the exception of Al-Jazeera Balkans’ extensive coverage, there are only a handful of reporters on the ground, and due to this sad reality more than just a modicum of media integrity is being washed down the drain.

The hurricane in Tacloban received wide media coverage, as did the floods that hit south Britan and Ireland in 2012, so the question beckons, why have the floods in Serbia not been taken seriously by the media?

In the end, it’s political, as always seems to be the case. Instead of highlighting the nation’s plights such as widespread corruption or human trafficking, the mainstream media – in other words Western media – only dwells on the past tribulations of the war that split up Yugoslavia, and only the mistakes of the Serbs. Every few years Serbia is back in the headlines for someone accused of being a war criminal, and the world is reminded of Serbia as the cruelest of nations. Even calling Serbia a nation is comical, because the West – and not with bombs or guns anymore, but with their weapon of choice which is the press – is dismantling Serbia slowly and delicately. First Montenegro. Then Kosovo. Who’s next, Vojvodina or Sandzak?

As a result, the perpetual castigation of Serbia and its people have tarnished the reputation of a country that was pivotal in the Allies victory in WWII. Even Hollywood has jumped on the smear campaign with movies such as ‘The Hunting Party’, which depicts Serbs as cannibals.

Serbs love meat, fair trade, but we prefer swine over homo sapien.

In the end, the media had to step in, on ethical grounds at the very least. Arguably still being underreported, and with more deathly drops of rain scheduled for Thursday, Serbia will only receive two types of publicity: negative publicity or diminutive publicity. Because the spin can’t blame Serbia (Serbs didn’t flood themselves), the type of publicity is clearly the latter. This intentionally shy approach by Western media will forever keep Serbia in the dark, and in the doldrums.

“I lost any sense of time and could not feel anything at all. At one moment I thought that all this could not be happening, it had to be a nightmare,” Hasanovic added, echoing the sentiments of many other Serbs suffering the repercussions of the floods, but also a fair rendition of pre-submerged Serbia.

Ilija M. Trojanovic can be reached at: ilija.trojanovic@gmail.com.



Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs