For LVB – The synchronicity is stifling as I look at the date on the document, it was Monday 12th August 2002 when I wrote the following...
...The heat is as intense as ever, taking a shower every few hours, but to no avail. Sweating buckets and donning frizzy beach-hair around the city cannot be avoided, as well as the irritation that comes with the soaring temperatures and constant need to drink water, followed by the urgency to find a toilet in the most inconvenient place.
Having just found out that the Bank was restructuring my whole department, and yet again the promised promotion would disappear into the dust for another year. The prospect of a stress-free weekend seemed low.
“How would you like to meet Yoshko?” my friend asked. “He’s a 30-year-old, six-foot-tall, blonde blue-eyed Ex-UN Special Forces Soldier from Slovenia!” I stopped to think for a minute, but it was about half a moment. “I think you know the answer to that question, don’t you?”
As we drove down to the coast I spent time in the car imagining my rendezvous with Yoshko. I knew nothing about Slovenia and its people, or the language, and even less about Special Forces soldiers. Did it matter? As it turned out he was a good English speaker.
Over dinner he showed me and my friend his tattoo of a crying eye, and the scars from knives and two gunshot wounds that he had received while serving in some war-torn area of the globe.
“They trained me to be a killing machine.” He said, “What am I supposed to do, that’s life.” He may have been trying to impress us, but his tone said otherwise.
He started to talk about Bosnia, and what the soldiers did there, and how many Americans got killed, and that the real horror was not Kosovo. A place I had some knowledge of through an old friend who was serving with the RAF, not pleasant things, things that changed the direction of people’s lives forever.
On one occasion he was tasked with checking out and ‘clearing’ houses in villages on the outskirts of Kosovo, searching for small arms weapons and insurgents. Yoshko and his small crew were almost out of ammunition and their radio had stopped working. They had no contact with their commander or base.
As they toured the area, going from empty house to empty house, they came across one that was still occupied. A Serbian man came out looking nervous and ‘twitchy’, talking loudly, but they didn’t understand him. Yoshko entered the house and went into the living room (lounge). Turning over the furniture, it was soon apparent why the Serb was anxious.
Hidden in a hole in the bottom of the sofa, and in the soft-chairs, were dozens of M48s and AK47 rifles and hand guns.
Time stood-still for a nanosecond. A Serb appeared from somewhere in the house with a rifle in hand.
“That’s when I knew, it was either him or me.” Yoshko explained, “It’s war, I’m a soldier, they pay me to kill so I kill. He pulled the trigger and missed, I shot him in the head. That’s life!”
I told him to stop; I didn’t want to know any more. I preferred to live in a world of horrors created by Hollywood, and stoned studio executives, not politics and the blood-thirsty war games that seem to be so easy by hiring young men in search of adventure, to go get themselves killed protecting my so-called freedom.
I felt guilty in a way, after listening to Yoshko’s stories. I had worried about my petty problems, not realising that there are people who sacrifice everyday to supposedly ‘keep the peace’, and stop the whole world falling apart. They allow me to live in relative safety. Never knowing about the dirty side of life, the things we are never told because they are too harsh for our sensibilities. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?
It was now time for a well-earned drink or two, some loud music, and dancing ‘till dawn amongst the debauched British tourists, and forgetting the troubles of the world. The best place to do this would be Ayia Napa, a favourite holiday resort for thousands of visitors looking for the best the island has to offer.
Yoshko had already arranged a spot, to meet up with a friend of his and, if brave enough, join in with the karaoke. I definitely needed something to drink, something to take my mind off the images of death that replaced the taste of my aperitif.
“We’re going to the Bedrock Inn.” Yoshko revealed. I knew the place as a Flintstones themed bar, quite a well-known hot-spot where the staff apparently dressed like characters from the popular cartoon.
I cringed at the thought, but sooner than I imagined I found myself dancing and singing to everything from ABBA to the Blues Brothers. Yoshko’s friend however was quite subdued. Had he graced him with stories of war? God knows they were enough to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
The guy didn’t have the physique of a soldier but was blonde and tanned like Yoshko, clean-cut, and wore Bermuda shorts and shirt. He scarcely spoke two words all night. He smiled occasionally, but didn’t sing only happily danced along and drank his beer heartily. I attempted to speak to him, but he was quite oblivious to our requests to join in with the singing.
I guess I’ll ask Yoshko tomorrow, or should that be today? I had lost track of time, and a few of my senses, as my eyes wondered to different men in the vicinity. As the night/morning wore on we were all too exhausted to sleep and decided to go for a late breakfast. Yoshko’s silent friend disappeared with the dawn.
“Who was that guy anyway, he didn’t say much?” I pried. Yoshko was sober enough to reply, “Oh, that’s Prince Willem, we met yesterday, by accident on the beach. Great guy.”
Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, heir apparent to the throne of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and probably his mother’s, Queen Beatrix, 60% share in Royal Dutch Shell.