Finally we get to the entrance of the Tito Partisan Cemetery of Mostar. It is completely overrun by vegetation, littered with broken glass and covered with pro-fascist and Nazi graffiti. I stop for what I plan to be my first sketch. Mike goes on to take photographs. Eventually he settles on a bench about 100 ft from me.
I’m quite absorbed in my work when I hear something. I look to my left and across the moat stands a man. He looks like no tourist to me. Eyes locked on Mike and his back to me, he lights a cigarette. I go back to my pad but keep a sideway glance on him. He stays there immobile for fifteen minutes. Mike doesn’t move. I don’t move. Everything is very still. Finally he walks up the path ever so slowly, headed straight for Mike. I watch. I draw. I watch. He arrives at the bench, sets one foot up on it, leans forward with his face inches from Mike. Aware of the situation, yet without flinching, Mike says “dobr’ dan.” The man does not answer. Clearly not intimidated Mike adds “do you speak English?” Through his teeth the man answers “Hrvatsky.” That means “Croat” in Croatian and is in no way intended to be friendly.
After a long uncomfortable silence, Mike points in my direction – the man looks very surprised to see me down there – and mimes “she paints.” No answer. Another few minutes pass. From time to time the man glances in the direction of the park entrance: he is waiting for someone. Slowly and in complete control, Mike stands up “she is done” pointing at me again and calmly walks down the path. Once again in a low whisper “just take your things and let’s go. Now. Let’s hold hands and walk slowly as though enjoying our time here.”
As we reach the entrance, another man with a dog is arriving. With big smiles we greet him “dobr’ dan” and walk on … all the way to our hostel. We never once looked back.