Sometimes people ask why my stories so often tie together political events and personal ones. I’m never quite sure what to answer, really, but today I realized the answer is “Because that’s just the way it is.”
We’ve been in Serbia about three weeks now, with consistently sub-freezing temperatures during the day (yesterday, we reached -10 C/14 F). As a result, we stay in a lot, no matter how bored we are, because Margo just came off a few weeks of sickness, and we don’t want a relapse.
Then today, at around 7 PM, we learned that the heating and hot water to our district of Novi Sad would be cut off at 8 PM. No one knew when it would be turned on again.
You guessed it—Russia’s Gazprom argument with the Ukraine, resulting in drastically reduced flow through its Europe-bound pipeline. Turns out Serbia is one of the countries affected.
As you can imagine, we’re pretty annoyed here, collecting all the electric heaters we can get our hands on. But where to direct our anger? At Russia, or the Ukraine? Or maybe that’s a waste of emotion, because not all of Serbia is affected, just this northern region, Vojvodina. And not all of Vojvodina either, just the areas whose heating runs off of old machines that only work with the missing type of gas.
So do we blame the local politicians who left our areas with outmoded machines? Or the politicians who never thought to save surplus gas (as forward-thinking Hungary did)? Or maybe the nationalists who are working their damndest to keep Serbia out of the EU, because of its love affair with Russia?
It might be smartest to blame the politicians in Belgrade. Because Vojvodina, ironically, is the oil-producing area of Serbia, and it sends its oil down to Belgrade, where the residents are being told they have nothing to worry about—no one down there will be going without heating on Christmas evening.
Christmas? Yes—all this has occurred on Serbian Orthodox Christmas, which explains the Serbian “Merry Christmas” in the title of this post.
Despite this annoying start to the new year, the title line holds, particularly if you’re a Serb out in the cold this Christmas evening. Srecan Božic, to you, and here’s hoping for a better rest of the year.
(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)