Kosovo / NATO / Serbia / Yugoslavia

Novak Djokovic relives NATO bombings of Serbia

Sitting in his grandfather’s apartment in Belgrade, Serbia, Novak Djokovic recalls living through not one, but two wars. The bombings over his home continued for so long that the young Djokovic became used to the sound of planes overhead. Djokovic recounts some of the more harrowing moments and how he used the experience to fuel his success.

we’re obviously sitting right now you’re

like grandfather’s apartment here in

Belgrade you’ve lived through two wars

the latter of which being 1999 when you

know NATO you know starts yeah bombing

Serbia lasts 78 days you and your family

were living on a second floor apartment

at the time yes what do you remember

seeing what do you remember hearing well

first of all I’m sorry we don’t have an

apple here because when I walked into

this apartment I was talking with with

my wife about that we’re remembering the

the time of our visits here as a couple

as well and me coming to visit my

grandfather one of the most profound

memories would be him cutting an apple

in front of me and he that’s that was a

that was his thing regardless of what is

happening in the world he would come

with his knife and with his Apple and

just cut it in a particular way to do

that I still that I still use today I

use his technique even though it’s

dangerous for my fingers but I do it

anyway because it’s just it’s it’s a

very fond memory of him and this is the

apartment where where where as I said at

the beginning I used to spend a lot of

time with my brothers with my family

with my parents with my aunt and her

family so it was a lot of people

particularly in 99 and when when we had

bombings as you mentioned we did live in

the apartment there is a about 500 feet

away from here we would come always to

to this apartment and always to this

building every single night for god

knows how many nights but but

particularly 1520 nights of bombing

because our building did not have a

shelter so this building had a shelter

underground shelter so it was just a

horrifying experience for everyone

particularly for children that were you

know we did not really real

is what is happening you know why is why

why are the planes flying over our city

and dropping bombs like I mean who does


and but at the same time it’s

unfortunate to say that but after a

month we just really stopped reacting to

it I mean I remember I was celebrating

my 12th birthday party at the Tennis

Club parties and where I where I grew up

and you know during their happy birthday

so there was a plane just flying flying

over you know you can’t really

comprehend how horrifying and scary that

experiences and how helpless you are I

mean you were here on the ground and

someone is flying over and just dropping

bomb in a second and just disappearing

what about when you’re outside one time

and you slip oh yeah that was the first

I think was the first or second night or

something like that of bombing and so we

were just about to fall asleep again and

then a huge explosion happen and then my

mom she stood up very quickly and she

hit the heaters and with her head and

she felt unconscious and so it was us

crying because of the bombs and I was

crying because mom is not reacting and

my dad is there and just you know what

is happening you know and so luckily my

dad manages to to help my mom get back

to to herself normal as much as she

could and we collect our stuff quickly

and just take the necessities and we go

out there was no snow streetlights

everything was shut off and and and I

and and and it was so loud that we could

not hear each other we were very close

to each other but we could not even if

you scream they don’t hear you my dad

was carrying my bride my brothers and my

mom was running with stuff and then I

slipped and I fell and as I turn around

I look towards the building and I see

these you know stealth plane just flying

and just dropping things and and then

the ground is shaking and then of course

that’s that’s one of the most traumatic

experience and images that I had in my

travel and it that stayed with me till

this day

and we were lucky I think our family and

families that we did not lose anybody

that is very close to us there are a lot

of people that lost very close people in

their lives and that’s that’s a

different level of suffering and

different level of trauma I mean I can’t

even imagine the pain that I had to bear

to go through that there was a quote

that you gave that they thought was

interesting where you said you can carry

the hatred the revenge the betrayal

the feeling of anger towards those who

did that to you

to your people to your country but you

can also use them as a tool to make you

believe to make you stronger that’s what

I’ve learned to do hmm

how so yes it’s interesting I think I

remember saying that and at that time I

was still I was still upset I was still

angry and but I used that in a way that

fuels me to be successful in tennis and

but that changed I I don’t I really

don’t have this emotion anymore when I

say I I don’t you will not forget I will

not forget and a lot of people will

never forget what happened but at the

same time I don’t think it’s good for

anybody to be stuck in the emotion of

hatred an emotion of anger rage because

someone destroy your home and people and

killed your close one I mean I can only

imagine you know again the amount of

pain that you feel when you lose your

close one you know how it is possible

that that you know big countries come

together in bombs a small country and

helpless people on the street and and

just destroy everything I just I

couldn’t understand that there is no

justification for war there is no

justification for bombing for killing

somebody for taking away the home I mean

this is you know an ultimate cruelty you

know and that has made me and everybody

in Serbia very angry

and the scars of this of this emotions

of this anger still are today present in

everybody but I worked on myself I I

must say and all those emotions to

forgive because you need to forgive

finally how can you be fueled more by

anything but by love and love is

forgiveness and and and that’s my

philosophy of life and as hard it is it

it might be you know but at the end of

the day you you can and I think you

should forgive because you have to move

on you know if you’re stuck in that

emotion what you know what are you going

to make out of your life I mean it’s

always going to hold you back it’s

always going to hold you down not just

professionally but privately emotionally

you know it’s hard it’s really hard is

this people in Serbia have suffered a

lot you know in the last hundred years

in the First World War over 1 million

Serbian people died you know and but

look that’s that’s a kind of a destiny I

guess that we as people have here and

this in this region but I still believe

that that can make a stronger I really

appreciate everything that I experienced

in life because I know that those

particularly those times have made me so

so resilient and so strong but also so

appreciative of everything that I have

in life today you said your greatest

achievement is your open mind yeah

because you need to have open mind in

order to forgive in order to move on I

mean if you are if you have a closed

mind I mean it’s really hard to learn

anything believe in love believe in this

universal force that binds us together

the unites us all and when you open your

heart and when you open your mind then

you are you know more prone to improve

and love and bring people closer and

understand I think most of the conflicts

in Wars that happen today is because

there is no understanding of really like

there’s a lot of religious wars in the

history of humankind because there’s no

understanding it’s because I’m better

than you and you know my god is better

than your God or whatever it is it’s

like you know I I don’t think that’s the

future that that we want for our

humankind in this planet


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