Direct. Provocative. Brutal. Pulling no punches. This is many people's short description of Vedrana Rudan, a Croatian writer who pinpoints events in the region in a very precise fashion that not a lot of people can pull off.
True to form, in her interview with Kurir she openly discussed the Croatian and Serbian presidents, the coronavirus pandemic, the slew of comments prompted by her coming to Belgrade to take the vaccine, as well as her alleged divorce and remarriage, and the new edition of her book in which she shares her experience with violence.
A new edition of your famous book, Love at Last Sight, will be out soon. In it you describe your own experience with violence. You say at one point: "I was a victim of violence as a girl, and then as a married woman, and the guilt and anguish were smothering me even as I was writing […] I wove all my tears and sweat and teeth and skin into this book. Violence is the favourite sport of Croatian males." Do you think that women are more willing to talk about violence now than before, as well as report it? And were you unsure whether you should talk about it?
"Nowadays women are more ready to talk about violence – it's a trendy topic these days, actually. In addition to their lives, women suffer in films, TV series, and books. The only problem is that nothing changes. Males keep on raping, beating up, lying, and whining in the media that they're innocent. Politicians and the church defend them. The courts are against them. Although they have been persecuted and abused, women must always defend themselves because they're called 'liars' and 'whores'. Just cast an eye over your tabloids. In Serbia, women who have been abused aren't trusted, because the abusers are powerful guys in politics and culture. I hope that women don't give up – we have seen some progress in this regard internationally. Many 'reputable' international rapists are doing prison time. I hope that our own will be brought before justice in about 50 years. Both Serbia and Croatia are women-hating countries. I didn't have any doubts about whether I should discuss this topic. On the contrary, I'm proud to be among the first to talk and write about it publicly. Croatian males, writers, wanted to see me in court over the book that you mentioned, as I was apparently 'calling for violence'. What else other than a knife can an abused woman use to defend herself against the attacker in countries like Serbia or Croatia?"
What is it that makes a man physically abuse a woman? Is it jealousy, complexes, or personal failure?
"I should be asking you that. What men are like is seen most clearly in war. Everyone rapes, but 'in the name of freedom and defending the country.' That only shows that the need for rape is a typical male need. It's felt by both 'intellectuals' and 'brutes'. I definitely consider men to be lower beings. As a rule, they maltreat those who are weaker than themselves. They kill women and children, they rape their sisters. Powerful men, those who are in power or close to power, are always on their side, because they're brothers. Hats off to the rare exceptions, of course."
What would be the most appropriate punishment for abusers, rapists, and killers of wives or girlfriends?
You sparked the region's interest a few months ago with the story that you got divorced after 30 years of marriage and went on to marry someone 16 years younger.
"That was a test. Throughout the world, it's perfectly ordinary for an oldster to hold his youngish 'girlfriend's' (aka nurse's) hand in his own shaking hand. When a woman my age embarks on a 'new life' with a man 16 years her junior, that becomes the news. My 'love story' has revealed how hypocritical and backward our society is. I've been living with a younger man for years, and it's inconceivable for me to have an old man who's my age sitting by my side on the couch. As you can see, I'm primitive too, so I fully understand those who like them younger. The problem is that men are allowed to do that, but when women do it, they're called 'sick', or 'crazy'. I've been 'sick' for years, and I enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the brouhaha caused by me 'getting married'. Messing with people makes me happy."
Were you bothered by the complaints and malicious comments in the wake of the news that you had taken the coronavirus vaccine in Serbia?
"You've known me for a long time. You know how much I care about what 'others think'. I don't. What bothers me is people being led astray by ignorance and dying like flies. Corona is real, corona kills, and the vaccine helps, perhaps not as much as we would like it too, but it does help. I'm sorry to see many people opting for death in horrible agony out of ignorance. Serbia is among the first countries in the world to give its citizens a chance to choose between life and death. Sadly, not very successfully. I don't know why people fight against the vaccine and not for bigger paychecks."
You often come to Belgrade. As an onlooker, how does Serbia strike you? Do you still think that the fact we have no political opposition is our biggest problem?
"For me, Belgrade is a city in which my best friends live. I love Belgrade, its streets, its rhythm, its people. Serbia looks the way it deserves to look, if we're talking about politics. When I'm in Serbia, I keep hearing that Vučić needs to be removed. You have elections, so remove him. The question is who will succeed him and what the one who seeks to replace him has to offer. Every now and then I listen to what the 'opposition politicians' say on your TV channels. They promise nothing specific. I don't see anyone in the Serbian political scene that I would vote for if I were here and had to cast a vote. I wouldn't vote for Vučić either. I don't vote because I think all politicians are scoundrels. They're the same in terms of their intentions – they want dough and pow – and they're different only in terms of their shelf life. Vučić is hardy. A tough nut to crack. Those in Serbia who are bothered by him will need to grab an especially big hammer. Or seek help from the outside."
We have touched on politics. You speak in quite harsh terms about the Croatian president Zoran Milanović, calling him a clown, a dimwit, a brute, and an intellectual virgin. What has he done to irritate you so much?
"I'm not sure if he irritates me. I'm irritated by those who voted for him. He was the prime minister, and we got to know him well. An incompetent loafer. How could so many people vote for a man who, while he was in power, spent his time eating, drinking, and talking nonsense? He continued down the same path as president, only the harder. The citizens of Croatia aren't lucky in elections. Each new president – and we've had a female president as well – is worse than their predecessor. Milanović is a court jester in a court without a king. I fear that a lobotomised ape will win in the next Croatian presidential election."
I believe you have heard that he has threatened Serbia with the possibility of not joining the EU, because Croatia has a say in this too, and announced some conditions for this European path.
"Your need to get into Europe is crazy, if that need is there in the first place. What has Croatia gained by joining Europe? What a UK journalist predicted back when we were still waiting to get in. 'By joining the EU, you will get a couple of very well-paid politicians in the European Parliament, and the rest will be a disaster.' Croatia's never been worse off. Young people are fleeing; people are dying of hunger and illness; our economy, agriculture, and shipbuilding are destroyed; all the banks are in the hands of foreigners. People rummage through dumpsters; you cannot live off the 'regular' monthly pay; pensioners are dying of hunger. Politicians shamelessly steal, the courts are corrupt, and we do Europe's bidding. You should count yourself lucky to be outside the brothel, which is thankfully about to break up."
Kurir.rs/B. K. Foto: Rino Gropuzzo, EPA Handout, Zorana Jevtić