Imagine There’s A War and No One Takes Part
By: Werner Paczian
Ninety Two Tanks
In early May 1992, more than two hundred men from the village of Tresnjevac in Serbia at the so called “able to fight” age were drafted into military “exercise” by the authorities. People from Tresnjevac knew these “exercises” would take place at the front line in Croatia or more probably in Bosnia; the war was escalating in those days. In a spontaneous reaction, pushed even by women, men decided to resist being drafted into the war. People from Tresnjevac started a demonstration, even though this was forbidden by the local police. While people were marching through their village they realized, that Trensjevac was surrounded by 92 tanks.
This event made protesters even stronger and hundreds of people entered the garden of the “Zitzer-Club”. It was the beginning of a long term peace camp, which lasted sixty-two days. Three days after surrounding the village, the tanks and troops disappeared.
Zitzer Spiritual Republic
On June 26, 1992, the Zitzer Spiritual Republic was founded, the village of Tresnjevac symbolically declared independence from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. This happened after nearly two months of draft resistance by more than two hundred men, who where protected and supported by nearly the whole village, that means about two thousand people.
Since that time, the Zitzer Spiritual Republic (ZSR) has received more and more support from all over the world, even from different peace groups. Hundred of people from outside have asked for symbolic membership in ZSR; in Germany for example about 500 people became members of ZSR after sending their proposal to Tresnjevac.
Some months ago three draft resisters were sent to prison after being tried in Belgrade. One of them, Vilmos Almasi, a main leader of the peace movement in Tresnjevac, was sent into prison on May 16, 1994 and had to stay there for four months despite the fact that I had a five-year-old daughter and has to work as a farmer to ensure his family income. Meeting Vilmos Almasi in the beginning of May 1994, he would refuse army call-up again even if “the punishment is five times higher than this time.”
Because Vilmos Almasi had to stay in prison, two men from Tresnjevac and the mayor of Kanijza (a city of Tresnjevac) started a hunger strike. They were protesting against the fact that war-re-sisters, not war criminals, are punished.
All in all, in the last few weeks pressure on Tresnjevac is increasing, citizens of ZSR have proof that their telephone lines and letters are censured by authorities. Despite that they are determined to keep on with their campaign and fight for the draft resistance all over Serbia.
As far as we know it never happened before in the four years old war in former Yugoslavia and maybe it even never happened anywhere in the world that a whole village, about two thousand people, young and old, women and men, resisted war participation by collective action. They did not even give up when they were surrounded by tanks. They countered by offering the highest and the most peaceful ‘weapon” you can imagine: their own lives. Being strong enough to face an “armada” of tanks, and being successful concerning the tank- occupation, people of Tresnjevac have proved, that collective civil resistance can even damage the power of the warlords and armies and that this might be the only real way to stop war not only in former Yugoslavia but all over the world.
Dream to Reality
People from Tresnjevac have proved that the slogan of the worldwide peace movement “imagine there is a war and nobody takes part” is not just a dream, they have made it a reality.
Worldwide Spiritual Republic
As important as standing together in front of tanks is the fact, that later on the people from Tresnjevac did not stop their activities, did not say “now we are saved from war, let us return to our former daily time again,” Having discovered that peaceful power of a whole village can be stronger than war-blinded authorities, women and men, from Tresnjevac decided to create a forum for peaceful human beings from all over the world to extend the idea of civil resistance. This was the beginning of “Zitzer Spiritual Republic”, ZSR, says its constitution of civil disobedience without any territorial claims. Last June 20, 1994, a peace group from Bremen (north Germany) announced the inauguration of the first symbolic ZSR consulate in Germany.