Thursday, November 20
Yesterday morning, I awakened with a jolt as I heard Roman head for the bathroom. It was past seven. I bolted from bed, dressed as quickly as possible and headed for the post office about three blocks from the hotel. I called Kay at home to ask her to involve Delta Airlines in the search for my luggage. I cannot figure out why I have been so obsessed with finding my bag. All I know is that I was about ready to ask to go home if it didn't show up by Thursday evening.
The landscape along the way to the Ugljevik training site was almost of Christmas card quality. The smattering of snow that remained on the ground in Bijeljina quickly turned into an inch or two as we climbed into the Ugljevik area. I was particularly struck by the beauty of the white snow on top of the yellow brown corn stalks.
Gianfranco Corti, known for some reason as Kiko,1 was my group's trainer for the day. We concentrated on the mechanics of opening, manning, and closing the polling station on the first day, which will be on Saturday next. Kiko is an Italian who has done graduate work in history at Cal Berkeley and now lives with his wife in Boston. Entertaining and serious at the same time, he did an excellent job, apparently much better than his counterpart, a flip Scottish lass, who antagonized a good number of those in her class with whom I talked.
As the training day began, I again raised the problem of my lost baggage with Leendert. He took notes on the back of his hand and promised to "do my best" before taking off to return to the OSCE office in Bijeljina. "Do my best" is never very reassuring, but again I had faith that he and Federico were genuinely concerned. Before the afternoon session began, I got word from Federico that my luggage had indeed been found in Zagreb and was being transported at that very moment by the Swiss Army to Bijeljina. My new friends rejoiced with me, but with my memories of how slow the Swiss Army was at delivering mail last spring, I was not convinced that the saga was yet over.
The van leaders, of which I am one and Roman the other, had been requested to report our departure from Ugljevik and arrival at the Drina Hotel by radio since a demonstration was in preparation. About half way to Bijeljina, Leendert got on the radio to tell me that my bag had actually arrived at the Drina and was waiting for me. Improvement in my morale was instant. It is scary that I should be so affected by such a non-life threatening set back.
Jenny Sowery, the election officer for Bijeljina, gave us a rundown on the local political scene with an explanation why the outcome is so important to the prospects for any degree of cooperation between the government of the Republika Srpska and the international community. I had no idea until today the extent to which the OSCE is actually financing the growth of opposition parties to the SDS political faction in Pale led by Dr. Radavan Karadjic, indicted for war crimes. I fear foreign involvement to this degree will backfire.
After a day spent learning how to supervise a polling station on Day Two, we eagerly awaited our polling station assignments and the assignment of drivers and interpreters to us. I was given a mobile polling station at Drornje Crnjelovo to the northwest of Bijeljina, which means that we will be in two different, though nearby locations, on Day One and Day Two. Tomorrow we will meet our personal staff and then the chairs of our respective polling station committees.
I have been trying to get in touch with three people since I arrived: Daniela Stanojlovic, my original interpreter; Vesna Bodirogic, the chair of my voter registration center and Milos Karisik, the vice chair. I finally found Daniela's telephone number; when I called she was surprised but apparently happy to hear from me. I suggested that I take her and her husband, Vesna and her husband, and Milos and his girlfriend out to dinner. She was noncommittal but promised to try to contact Vesna.
Daniela told me Thursday morning that she had reached Vesna and that she would contact me. When I got back to the Drina on Thursday after training, there was a note in my box saying that Daniela and Vesna would come to the hotel between seven and eight o'clock. It was already 7:15 by the time I got back. I waited for them until about 8:20 and then gave up and invited Roman to be my guest for dinner. He was happy to do so, but tried to pay for his share of the dinner. I introduced him to the srpska kruna, which I figured was a bit on the steep side for him, so I insisted more than ever that he was my guest. He was generous in his thanks and invited me to a meal in Prague the next time I get there. I told him that I had not been to Prague for forty-eight years, over twice his age, but would make a point of getting back sooner next time. He is obviously proud of his city and the course it has taken since the overthrow of communism in Czechoslovakia.
1. I learned later that it was originally Chicco, a common Italian nickname meaning "Baby."
2. Given name first. Other committee members are Cviko Novakovic, Ljubisa Jeremic, Vaso Kojic, Boro Milenko Zakic, and Milenko Mirkovic.
3. Bruce Black from Baltimore and Bob Kinter from Denver. I had met Bob last spring in Vienna on our way to Bosnia. He was not assigned to Bijeljina then, but was with the Tuzla group.