MEMORIES

Living through the 1990s in the Balkans

Wars, drugs, fights and a lot of booze

Marjan Krebelj
6 min readOct 4, 2021

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A double exposure negative, dating probably to 1980s.

Hi! My name is Marjan and I’ve lived through the ’90s in the Balkans.

(Hi, Marjan!)

I’m from Slovenia, a part of former Yugoslavia. I don’t remember Tito. He died before I was born. My first memories date around 1985 when Yugoslavia was already on its way to collapse. I’m not sure how many people understood what was happening at the time, but there was a certain tension in the air that even small kids of the time picked up and felt in our own innocent way.

I don’t remember much of the 1990/91 aftermath but I do remember what followed.

Our country claimed independence in 1991. It was a short period of war and fear. Slovenia experienced nothing near what Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina had, but there were a few times when we heard the air strike sirens going off, the TV broadcast was interrupted (in the middle of morning cartoons) and we were instructed to take shelter.

My parents grabbed me and my brother and we went to the basement of our house. I never felt such fear ever before and probably never again did either. It was in my fucking bones! There was something very deep and existential about it that no child should ever feel.

Thankfully, it didn’t last long and hope prevailed. We got our very own country and for a while, it seemed like bliss. A thousand-year prophecy came to flesh and Slovenians were finally free!

But a nation that was always ruled by others had zero experience on how to run a democracy and thus wasn’t mentally equipped for independence. We were like a teenager thrown into adulthood.

So this is it? What now?

Or perhaps we were like a peasant boy who finds himself in the city, not accustomed to the urban life. In fear of embarrassment, he starts to fake his way around and with time he somehow manages to appear convincing. Of course, it is all a folly.

On the surface, our streets and towns may indeed look like that of Austria or Germany, perhaps even Switzerland when we try hard enough. But the looks may be deceiving.

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Marjan Krebelj

Once an architect, now a freelance photographer/filmmaker with passion for words.