This is Ludo. If you’re wondering, the location is HIS decision.
My daughter (who’s always alert for cats) noticed him lying under a car in a quiet part of Trebinje, Bosnia Herzegovina. On closer inspection he proved to be extremely thin and with both eyes crusted over with infected pus. He had no energy but when picked up mustered a purr. Honestly, if she hadn’t been there I’m not sure what I would have done, but since she was, we took him to the vet, fed him, cuddled him and hid him from bus drivers and hotel owners until we got to Sarajevo, where he is, as we speak, being delivered to a cat boarding facility. Fatter, glossier, and beginning to play like a 7 week-ish kitten should.
Now if I were to head an ethics investigation into the rescue of Ludo I’d probably be pretty harsh. I’d say something like, right, you spend all this time and money on a kitten, but you pretty much cross the street when you see a beggar and when they catch you, you nearly always say no (although ONCE recently you did buy $40 worth of groceries for a Syrian – possibly because he was thin, whereas it’s an unfortunate fact that many of Europe’s panhandlers are butterballs). Honestly I think this is why we invented the welfare state – so we can palm beggars off on to the government. Which, in Bosnia, is unlikely to be handing out emergency cheques and disability support., so no moral kudos for me.
Anyway now that Ludo is safely stowed in his new home I finally have time to look about me and appreciate Sarajevo for the gorgeous Ottoman muddle that it is.
As a city you’d have to say Sarajevo has character. Women in full black niqabs (how do they stand the heat!!) swish about next to embroidered headscarves and minidresses. Men wear what the hell they like, as usual, oblivious to the lustful desires they’re inflaming in passers-by. Turkish tea sets and coloured lanterns are for sale everywhere. The Genocide Museum is not on the tourist map but I go there anyway, knowing that I’ll be overwhelmed (how do people bring themselves to do these things?). It’s full of shoes (some kid-sized) and bloodstained shirts and nasty things to hit people with – and harrowing personal stories. The worst of it is that most of the people who participated in this horror are still drinking Bosnian coffee in cafes and minding their grandkids in the park, somehow carrying their memories of shoving people into mass graves and gang-raping twelve year olds behind a facade of normality. I don’t know what the point is, for me, of seeking to know more about this – a vague feeling that one ought to, I guess, however unpleasant. Nobody in the museum meets anyone’s eyes, it’s too awful.
Apart from that Bosnia is stunningly wild and beautiful, a country of crags and gorges and pines clinging to the slopes and grey-green rivers over white stone…I can’t imagine it’d be easy to subdue, for a foreign invader. Not unless you wanted to spend your time scaling rock faces and abseiling canyons in search of the resistance… Maybe that’s what the place needs! Perhaps if Putin turned his attention to the Balkans everybody would forget their ethnicity in favour of blowing up Russians in mountain passes (that said, I did read an article that ascribed the current tensions in the region more to organised crime than to ethnicity – it pointed out that the diverse leaders of Bosnia are more than happy to cooperate when it comes to raking in the cash).
So, kitten-less, we go on to Mostar…