Some of you may remember Yugoslavia. It was a the country made up of a number of smaller countries in the Balkans who were banded together in the period of time between when the Austro-Hungarian empire folded and when the Soviet Empire folded. It is not a country any more because the people who still live there got caught in those folds.
No jokes – the various countries that made up the place started out as separate, then were gathered together, then split apart in a savage set of wars. They had been tending toward it for some time, and when the overall influence of the Soviets was withdrawn the whole place went up in troubles.
Here in Australia at the time we had seen a little of the hatreds amongst migrants from several of the countries played out in the 1970’s and 1980’s with mutual attacks…so when it all erupted into air, armour, and infantry war in the Balkans with sieges, starvations, atrocities, and massacres added, we braced ourselves for a local version. We had many Yugoslav people here in the Perth metropolitan area who had taken up properties in the Swan Valley and I think the town of Midland police force was as nervous as cats – and I’ll bet that set of nerves ran all the way to the central police, Parliament house, and Swanbourne and Karrakatta army camps. The fact that RAAF PEARCE is out at the edge of the Swan Valley probably did not improve the situation. Doubled guards on the armoury?
And when the storms of Kosovo and Sarajevo and Dubrovnik broke we watched the Swan – as well as the football and drinking clubs that the various ethnic groups maintain in other Perth suburbs. And we saw…practically nothing. No shotgun assassinations, no petrol bombings, no fistfights. Nothing.
Apparently there were a number of people from different sides here who journeyed back to the Balkans during the time and go involved there – and one in particular that was arrested later and accused of war crimes. It never came to much but did go to local courts over extradition.
There are still tensions – considering that the peoples involved trace their grievances back centuries, a few years does not erase much – particularly if there are enough recent wars to cut fresh scars. But it is interesting to contemplate just how little trouble went on here in Western Australia at a time when we feared the worst. I often wondered if it was heavy police and government pressure put on the local ethnic leaders to damp everything down or whether the sones and daughters and grandchildren of the original Yugoslav migrants really decided that they wanted a political and ethnic disconnect from Europe.
I hope so. I look to this as a good sign if it is so. If that same second generational attitude can also go for other ethnicities in the community , we may have a good chance of being a safe and sensible nation. For myself, I have determined to regard New Country/Old Country ties with a free outlook…and to allow a past that is far away to remain where it is. Call it cultural isolationism, if you will, but I prefer insulationism – and a good layer of insulation is valuable wherever it can be had.