Assault On The Serbs: `Betrayed by allies in Second World War'

The Serbs in Britain
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The Independent Online
FEAR IS one of the few common threads between the Serbian and Kosovo Albanian communities in Britain. Politically and socially apart in exile, they share the anxiety of having friends and relations trapped in the war back home.

But while for the Kosovars this fear is accompanied by a sense of elation about the NATO bombardment of those they consider their oppressors, the Serbs feel angry and betrayed. The British, they say, have forgotten the terrible sacrifices made by them as allies in two World Wars.

Today is an auspicious day in modern Serbian history. It was on this day 58 years ago that the Yugoslavs deposed Prince Paul, about to be forced to sign a treaty with Hitler, and decided instead that they would never surrender to the Nazis. The result was years of some of the most savage fighting of the War, with countless massacres by the vengeful Germans.

"We're having a demonstration in Whitehall. It's a good day to remind people that when the rest of Europe was giving in to the Nazis, we stood firm along with Britain," said Nenad Petrovic, sitting in a Serbian centre next to the Serbian Orthodox Church in Notting Hill.

Mr Petrovic's own memories include years fighting as a Chetnik against the Germans before he came to Britain in 1947. He continued: "Churchill said that on that day, 27 March, Yugoslavia found her soul. It is a pity that the present political leaders in this country choose to ignore all this. What they are doing is wrong and is not going to work. It will just strengthen Milosevic's position. He will be a patriot taking on big powers."

Mr Petrovic's views are echoed by many among the around 40,000 Serbs who had been, until now, living a contented life in Britain and cannot understand the "demon- isation" which has taken place.

Sofia Milic, a 27-year-old postgraduate living in Birmingham, said: "Do people really think all Serbs are guilty? That we're all responsible? Now, you mention Serbia and people start talking about ethnic cleansing. People have a very simplistic view of what went on in Yugoslavia. My relations were forced out of their homes by Croats and lost everything. But it's not fashionable to talk about Serb suffering."