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Hello all! Today's interview is with Jeri and Kelly from Requiem for Vukovar. Kelly seems very laid back and relaxed, while Jeri is on the edge of her chair, looking ready to flee at any second. Kelly is trying to calm her down, with little success I might add. I guess I best get started before I lose Jeri!
Diana: I’ll get right to it since I know you’re both busy women. Jeri, it’s been a complicated route that brings you to the former Yugoslavia. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of your background?
Jeri: Former Yugoslavia? It’s not former yet. This is 1991 and nothing is settled, but that wasn’t your question. Okay, here goes. I was born in Boston and grew up in Southie, the Irish section. It looked like I was going to make something of myself when I got a Rhodes Scholarship, but I got in trouble while I was visiting relatives in Ireland—well, that story is in Rebellion in Ulster. Let’s just say it took me a while to find my way after that.
Diana: You’re working for someone you met back then, right?
Jeri: You mean Rafi Gregoric. We’re more like partners. I’ll never get myself in a position where I have to take orders from anyone again, but I do trust Rafi. Kelly and I are in Yugoslavia because he asked me to get his sister out of the city of Vukovar.
Diana: What’s he worried about?
Jeri: Trouble has been brewing in this area for a while. It’s as if Missouri and Kansas were feuding and might actually go to war. That’s Croatia and Serbia, and the city of Vukovar is right on the Danube River which separates them. Rafi thinks that his sister will be safer somewhere else.
Diana: What about you, Kelly? Is your background as complicated as Jeri’s?
Kelly: Not really. I’m from a farm in Ohio originally. But you know how AIDS is devastating our community?
Diana: Of course. It’s terrible and we’re losing so many of our friends and relatives and lovers.
Kelly: That’s right. In less than a year, I lost three people who were very important to me, most especially my brother, George. I don’t think I was entirely sane when I decided to get away from it all and go to Nepal. I’d never been out of the country but Nepal is where I met Jeri—that’s the story in Rendezvous in the Himalaya—so maybe George is still taking care of me.
Diana: And now you’re in Yugoslavia. That’s a long way from Ohio.
Kelly: Tell me about it. Still, when you’re lucky enough to find your love, you have to go with her. Jeri’s kind of an outlaw, you know, but we belong together.
Diana: Like Bonnie and Clyde?
Kelly: No! I didn’t join her to be an outlaw! She’s trying to make up for her past, and whether you think she even did anything wrong depends a lot on your politics.
Jeri: Oh, Kell, it’s about morality not politics. I don’t make excuses, I was a volunteer with the Provisional IRA, and that’s why I’m wanted by the British. I don’t say what I did was right—
Kelly: History is what decides who was right or wrong. Rebels are always terrorists until they become the government and history forgives them.
Jeri: Honey, I can’t wait for history. It’s not about judgment as much as about responsibility. I’m responsible for what I did then and what I do now. But I have these skills, and I’m trying to be of service, not cause harm.
Diana: There’s no doubt that you’re good at fighting.
Jeri: That’s true. But God help me, I do love it. In the middle of a fight, I feel twice as alive and it’s as if that’s what I was born for. And—well, I won’t have to worry about that now. We just have to get Alenka, Rafi’s sister, and take her to a safer place.
Diana: So you don’t think there will be trouble here?
Kelly: Not for us to worry about. This is almost the Twenty First Century. Do you think that there could be anything like a war in Europe? That’s just silly. The Berlin Wall is down and the Iron Curtain has disappeared, this is the beginning of a bright new era. I’m sure we’ll be fine.
Diana: Are you as optimistic, Jeri?
Jeri: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, that’s my plan. But to be honest, I have a bad feeling about this.
Well, there you have it. Now I understand Jeri's tension from earlier, it's like she is always waiting for something big to happen and she wants to be ready for whatever that something is. And Kelly really is as easy going and calm as she appeared. Maybe she is the calming force that helps keep a bit of a trouble from finding Jeri, but something tells me that could be a full time job. Make sure you pick up a copy of their story, Requiem for Vukovar. See who called it, Kelly with thinking things would go smoothly, or Jeri, the less optimistic of the two, who is always ready to handle anything that comes her way. And do yourself a favor and pick up the first two books of their journey, Rebellion in Ulster, and Rendezvous in the Himalaya. You will definitely want to read all three of these fabulous tales!