My partner Alexander Crown and I were assigned to a major mission in Dubrovnik but for the fourth time we were intercepted and redirected. This time our directive was an assignment in Macedonia along the Albanian border. The U.S. State Department commissioned our distinctive peace skills to find a way to save the students. Dubrovnik would have to wait until after this affair was over and we returned to refresh our specialized training in California.
The Serbian Government military forces ruled the former country of Yugoslavia when civil war erupted by a few of its six republics. Montenegro remained regulated by Serbia, a government resolved with communistic ideals, full of political wisdom, judiciously circumspect and fortified against rebellion.
At the start of our three previous assignments Alexander had told me, Ivan, you should not determine whether you like something or not until you’ve tried it. Life and death may depend upon your judgment. I didn’t want to try and live the life of a communist.”
We were unfamiliar with this culture and language in a country where violent inheritance was a brutal historical fact, a county where blood lines influenced life and death, whether it was right or wrong, good or bad, locals lived to fight wars.
They died fighting to preserve heritage and property within the limits of their imaginations and within the boundaries of their geographical borders. They seemed to live just to be killed, to be a tiny part of the romanticism that circumscribes martyrdom in this part of the world.
Driving along a narrow road in a confiscated Volkswagen, which was loaned to us in Athens by the American Consulate, we were now headed for Lake Prespa, two freshwater lakes that were shared by Greece, Macedonia and Albania.
We stopped at a road block consisting of three heavily armed Serbian government policemen. In gray uniforms with handguns the three faces were detailed with weathered angry complexions. Without shades their eyes squinted and their bellies hung over their wide belts. They stood in the middle of the roadway and waived their revolvers like batons for us to stop our car.