Through the Sniper Fire to Internet Marketing
My name is Bojan (J is pronounced like y, but it doesn’t really matter, because everybody gets it wrong… LOL) and I welcome you to my blog.
Let me tell you something about myself.
Through the sniper fire to internet marketing? Yes, my story is kind of unusual, probably not the one you hear every day.
In the next few paragraphs, I will try to tell you my story and you are welcome stick around if it sounds interesting to you. I promise you laughter, sadness, mixed emotions, maybe even tears, but then again also sense of pride and glory in watching great success emerging after years of struggle.
Okay, where do I start…
I was born and raised in former Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe. Actually, it’s more Southern Eastern Europe.
It was a nice country.
We had a good life, much better than the rest of Eastern Europe that belonged to Warsaw Pact under former Soviet Union control.
Yugoslavia didn’t belong to any of the blocks, eastern or western. It was somewhere in the middle, which was pretty convenient.
We used to go to vacations to Adriatic Sea, go to movies, theaters, concerts, traveled all around the world without visas. Generally, majority of people had a standard of living like in most Western countries.
That all ended with the end of eighties, slowly but surely.
And the war came…
It was something just unreal. Before that, we used to watch war on TV that was happening somewhere far from us. Yes, war was happening to some other people somewhere else, in some countries we just heard about on the news and majority didn’t pay much attention to it.
Everybody had his own life and his own problems that will soon become absolutely insignificant in comparing to what was about to come.
When the war started, I was a teenager. I played keyboards and the guitar and I had my own band. It was a fun time. I dreamed about playing big venues and about getting my song on MTV.
The news about war were still distant.
Initially, fighting started on the opposite side of the country. It was quite far, but it became more real as time passed. My friends suddenly started getting “invites”. That is how they called a drafting order at the time.
In former Yugoslavia, army duty was mandatory and all men had to report to the forces when they reached 18. For me, it happened in eighties, luckily in peacetime. It lasted a year. After that you were considered army reserve and you could have been called in any time.
That is what happened to many guys I knew.
They got the call and they went.
I knew that it was just a matter of time when army courier will knock on my door.
And he did.
My official address was at my cousins’ house, but I didn’t live there.
One day my cousin called me and let me know that the “invite” with my name came. They told the courier that I used to live there and that I moved. They also told him that they were not aware of my current address.
There was no way I was going accept the “invite” and report to the headquarters.
From that moment and on, I became a fugitive. I couldn’t say my real address anywhere. It was a horrible feeling, like I was some criminal.
The hiding went on for several years ahead, until the culmination of war activities in the region: NATO bombing campaign.
It started just a few days before my birthday…
War at My Doorstep
As I mentioned previously, the bombing campaign started. It was 1999.
Suddenly, my surrounding started turning into something that I used to see only in war movies and documentaries. The city was hit hard. It was just unreal. You could see whole blocks turn into ruins. You could see desperation on peoples’ faces.
You could see people dying.
The martial law was declared and every male person above 18 was a property of the government. People got drafted forcefully on the streets, on their work places and everywhere else.
They were sent somewhere to fight, no one was sure where. Some came back, some didn’t.
Let me tell you one thing: I am no warrior. All I cared about then was my music, my poems and computers. There was no way for me to take the gun and start shooting people.
That was the first time that war came to my doorstep. Before that, it was far enough from me that I could avoid it. Finally, we met face to face. And it wasn’t nice.
I stared to the face of war and I saw something out of the horror movies.
In the movies and books, often war is associated with some sense of glory and positive feelings. Let me tell you one thing: there is nothing glorious about war.
It is just destruction, desperation and emptiness.
It is bad, bad business.
I’m not going to go into political reasons why did it happen, who is right and who is wrong who started it and who finished it. I’m not a politician. I personally didn’t do anything wrong to anyone.
I was also not a soldier, as I already mentioned, but if I let them put me in the uniform, who’s going to believe me? Who is going to care in the first place? I will be a legitimate military target. I would have target painted on my chest.
Decision had to be made. So I made it.
One night, little after midnight, I changed everything. I put the end to who I was. I could not change the system. I had no control over that. But I could amputate the whole system off of me.
I did not belong there anymore.
Some people could call me a traitor, but I couldn’t care less. The country where I was born and raised did not exist anymore. There were just a tiny countries that came to exist after the whole thing broke apart, each with its own small dictator.
I came to the border in the middle of the night. I wasn’t alone. My good, good friend Zoltan, a buddy one can only wish to have, came with me. He actually drove me there.
The town where I lived is relatively close to the border. We all knew where it was. We used to come to the nearby picnic area. The border was visible in the distance, so were watch towers.
I never dreamed that I will be crossing it there.
I was dressed in black. I put on the darkest clothes that I could find. Even my sneakers were black. I realized then why in the movies you can see special forces painting their faces in black. In the darkness of the night, only my face and hands were glowing. Well, since I don’t have any black cream or shoe polish, I guess this will have to do, I thought to myself.
Yes I was about to escape the country.
Country that was in the war. We knew that there were soldiers at the border. The place where I was about the cross was in between two watch towers. I knew that they had snipers up there. They had night vision as well. But there was no turning back now.
Yes, I knew I could die. Then again, at least I tried. I didn’t just sit and let others use me as a disposable pawn in their insane chess game.
It was a dark night. The towers were there, like two silent shadows, waiting for me.
It was like they are daring me to come closer.
There was no way for me to know what kind of a terrain was in between towers. All I could see was a flat, grassy area. We came to the edge of the woods. Open space was in front of us.
It was time to crawl.
In the Embrace of the Swamp
I thanked Zoltan and told him to go back, but he refused. He said that he was a scout in the army and he knows how to move quietly and be invisible.
I tried to talk him out of it. If we got caught, chances that they are going to believe that he had no intention of crossing the border, were very slim.
He decided to stay with me and make sure I’m safe. You can’t find friends like that easily in life, that is for sure.
So we started crawling slowly, inch by inch. Then my elbows and knees started sinking. I wasn’t sure what was happening, then it struck me: the swamp. We were crawling through the swamp. I was sinking deeper and I could hardly pull out my feet without losing my shoes.
The water was not deep, but the mud was everywhere.
The terrifying thing was the sounds that we were making, because we were crushing all kind of plants in the way, It sounded to me like a rhinoceros running through the bamboo field.
I was convinced that everybody can hear us miles away and that the sounds of flying bullets around us is just a matter of time.
Not much later I realized something was wrong. My hands were burning. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Then I realized that I’m crawling through the field of stinging nettle. It is a very common and unpleasant plant in that area and it is known to cause a rash. It just happened that the swamp we were trying to get out of was covered with stinging nettle.
My hands were in burning blisters. It felt like I’m crawling through a molten lava. I pulled down my sleeves as much as I could and just continued to crawl.
Then we saw the border. We knew that was it, because there was a huge stone right on the no one’s land in between two countries. On one side of the stone it said “SFRJ” which was outdated name and it meant Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia and Hungary on the other side.
There we were, on the very edge of two worlds in that moment in time.
Behind me, destruction, despair, uncertainty, emptiness, lack of basic common sense, death.
In front of me – unknown, but with a trace of hope. Was it enough for me to proceed?
You bet it was. No turning back.
I turned to Zoltan and said:
“Okay buddy this is as far as you will go. Now go back the same way we came and don’t look back.”
He said: “Right. Good luck, my friend and be careful.” And he slowly disappeared into the night.
Looking in the direction where he went, all that went through my mind was thank you.
Thank you, my unbelievably caring friend for risking your life so I can get across safely. I don’t think I could ever return a favor like this, but knowing you, you would never ask for anything in return.
And that was it. Million things went through my head as I stared into the darkness on the other side. I was listening carefully and all I could hear was a sound of wind playing with the grass and trees of Hungarian woods.
There was no more crawling now. Technically, once I’m on the Hungarian side, they cannot shoot from Yugoslavian watchtowers at me any more, because it would be an international incident. Bullets can’t go across the border.
That was in theory.
The question was if they would care at all. If I was lucky, they might have been drunk up there. They might have been sleeping.
If I was lucky.
Run Into Darkness, if You Dare
Are you ready for the next part of my story? Are you enjoying it so far?
I suspect you are, since you are still reading.
In any case, if you have some comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
I always love to read a feedback, good or bad.
Ok, so I got to the no man’s land in between two countries.
The only way to advance from where was running as fast as I could. Will I be running straight into my death? There was only one way to find out.
I tried to push every single thought out of my mind. I slowly got up into a crouching position.
No more thinking, no more hesitation… here we go… and I ran…
After a couple of yards I felt ground disappearing under my feet. For a second, I was in the air and I landed into a ditch, which was full of mud.
I did not count on that. Apparently, they dug a ditch on the border for whatever reason. More mud was just what I needed.
I was petrified on the bottom of that ditch. My heart was pounding like crazy. I stopped breathing for a couple of minutes listening to the sounds around me. I expected to hear gunshots and bullets flying at me.
I stayed there for fifteen more minutes. Finally I got out of the ditch and continued to run. When I got into the woods on the other side I knew it was over.
I knew that I’m going to stay alive. Relief I felt was just unbelievable.
Hungarian border police was very understandable those days because they knew people are fleeing the country. My intention was to give myself in and explain everything.
As I stopped running I started walking slowly, looking around and listening.
When I heard a sound (or I thought I so) I raised my hands and walk towards the sound. Realistic expectation was that I’m going to be picked up by Hungarian border police as soon as I cross the border. Well they should be guarding it, right? Wrong!
No one was there. I had no choice but to keep on walking. Again, I thought I hear a sound and I was wondering should I raise my hands again. Then I thought it’s kind of stupid to walk like that.
Not a soul in the woods.
I spent the next half an hour trying to find somebody on the other side of the border. I even found their watch towers and went close to them. There was nobody there.
The whole enemy battalion could’ve just walked across the border and no one would know.
Unable to find anyone, my only alternative was to keep on walking.
The soil in that area is pretty sandy. As I was walking my feet were sinking into the sand. There were no roads or even paths, there were just sand, grass and occasional bushes.
It was a quiet night and I could hear sounds from all around. I saw lights in the distance belonging to several villages around. Also I could hear loud music, probably parties or even clubs in the open.
That part of Europe is a flat land. Long, long ago, there was a Pannonian sea. The whole Hungary and some parts of Former Yugoslavia are in fact a basin of this vanished sea. As you could imagine, sound carries far in the plain. It is often windy, but everything calms down at night. I could hear sounds from miles away.
I heard music coming from somewhere in the distance, where distant lights were flickering in the darkness.
I recognized the song.
It hit me like a thunder. It was Lenny Kravitz’s song called “Fly Away”.
I never paid attention to those lyrics until that night, but I will never forget them as long as I live.
He was singing:
“Oh I want to get away
I want to fly away
Yeah yeah yeah…”
O mighty irony… I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
I just erased my past.
I did get away.
I did want to fly away.
Lenny Kravitz was greeting me with his song. Welcome to the unknown.
I kept on walking for several hours through the total darkness. I couldn’t see any roads nearby. I just walked through the sand, trying not to walk in circles.
I saw some isolated lights and decided to walk towards them. As I got closer I realized that those were lonely ranches.
Then I found out I wasn’t alone anymore.
Fidos, please don’t chew on me, OK?
I heard something moving fast all around me.
Out of nowhere pack of dogs appeared and surrounded me. They were all barking like crazy. Well, that was a problem.
I love dogs. I owned a few and I know their psychology.
When the dog is alone there’s no reason to attack you, unless it is trained to do that or if it’s rabid. If you don’t make sudden movements or anything to agitate a dog, you’ll be fine in most cases.
When dogs are in the pack, the rules change. Like with most animals in the group, psychology is different.
In short, they will attack.
I stopped instantly making sure I don’t make any abrupt movements. I had a flashlight, so I tried to assess the situation. I came this far and it would be pretty stupid to end up like a dog food.
I looked at the dogs, trying to figure out which one is the biggest, because that one is usually the leader.
A big grey one fit the job description, so I turned in that direction. I started making growling and barking noises moving slowly towards the leader, lifting both of my arms to look as tall and big as I can.
The dog kept on barking increasing the pitch but was also slowly moving backwards.
Inch by inch, I moved towards the dog and I got out of the circle. Not turning my back to the rest of the dogs I walked backwards slowly.
And the whole pack remained there barking but not going after me.
When I reflect to that picture today, I can’t help but thinking that I could have been killed by dogs there on the spot. There were no trees close by or any kind of shelter where I could hide. I certainly could not outrun them.
The question is if anyone would have found me ever.
I probably would not remain in one piece.
I kept on walking towards ranches and every one of them had at least one big dog that barked at me from the dark.
There was nobody awake in the middle of the night. And somehow I didn’t want to jump over the fence trying to wake up anyone. I have a feeling that it would not end well for me.
Then, a major breakthrough. I got out on the paved road, finally. Paved roads lead to civilization, so things finally started looking better for me for the first time that night.
After an hour or so I saw the lights in the distance getting closer. It was a village.
A small one.
It was quiet which would you expect at this hour and yes, in every alley, there was a dog that would start barking at me immediately when I passed by. Please Fido, and the whole brotherhood, just go back to sleep.
I had enough of you for a whole month, at least.
And then I saw a phone booth.
My intention was to give myself up to the Hungarian authorities. I was really tired of being a fugitive in my own country. I picked up the phone and dialed the police.
Sleepy voice answered on the other side of the line. I said I crossed the border illegally and I would like to turn myself in. The answer was not really what I expected.
“So what do you want from me now?”
“Well, whatever the procedure is.” I replied, a little bit surprised.
“You know, I am really busy right now. You should get to the next village and there is a police station. You can turn yourself in there…”
And the just hung up on me.
Wow! Efficient police, no doubt about it here. I was speechless.
Hungary was in a transition from a communist regime and it seemed that old habits die hard. The system was anything but efficient. Anyway I kept on walking not knowing what to do next or where to go. I had no idea how to locate the village the sleepy cop mentioned.
Farewell to Arms
And my story continues…
When this Hungarian cop hung up on me, I was really in doubt what to do next.
Then the answer came unexpectedly.
I saw a car approaching. It slowed down and finally came to a stop. I recognized an old police SUV. The car model was Russian Lada. That was the official police and military car those days in Hungary.
Two young border policemen were inside and when they saw me they were not really happy. They told me that their shift just ended and now they have to turn back and bring me in. They were really disappointed.
I said I was sorry, trying hard not to start laughing, because it seemed like a pretty funny scene.
Then, they started arguing how they are going to bring me in, because on the back seat, they had bunch of Kalashnikov guns. One suggested that they should cuff me, which made me laugh, because I never had cuffs on my hands in my life.
In the end, one of them sat on the back seat and hugged all the Kalashnikovs and they put me on the front seat, without cuffs.
They took me to the station. There, everybody was really nice. They questioned me, but they already knew why I was there. There were a few more fugitives like me and I’ve been asked to be a translator, since I speak fluent Hungarian.
Not much later, my friend came to the station with my wife. She left the country couple of days earlier. Women luckily, could leave the country legally. She stayed with my friends and they came to see me.
The police wouldn’t let them visit me as I was about to be transferred into a border police headquarters and the paperology needed to be done, which wasn’t quick in the old bureaucratic system of former communist Hungary.
One the young policeman was watching it from a distance. He was just a boy in the uniform and I guess he felt that he could bend the rules at least a little. When his commander left, he pulled my wife aside and told her to go around the station and to wait by the window.
He came inside the cell where I was with a few more people and winked carefully giving me a sign to be quiet. He showed me towards the window.
Outside, in the pale street lamp light, stood my wife.
I gave her a quiet smile and saw tears in her eyes.
We both moved towards the cell window and the bars were wide just enough to allow a brief kiss.
And that was my “Farewell to Arms”, as Hemingway wrote.
I was free…
My story doesn’t end here as you could suspect and it wasn’t walk in the park afterwards either.
I left the war behind me, but other battles were yet to come, almost equally challenging.
If you stick around, I promise that I will tell you some more later.
Thanks for reading it so far, I really appreciate it.
P.S. Guns are silent now, but I didn’t give up the fight for better and more fulfilled life, which gives me the chance to help others achieve their dreams. To check it out, click this link: