Recently I was invited to join Something or Other Publishing as a principal, conducting interviews and giving pre-release reviews of their authors’ books. Today I introduce you to Aleksandar Veljic, author of Genocide Revealed.
Most of my interviews are with fiction writers, but Aleksandar has written a non-fiction book about the massacre of Serbs and Jews under Hungarian Occupation. Since this would not be considered ‘light reading’, I would like to include the book blurb before the interview:
The untold story of the massacre named “Razzia” (Raid) which took place in January 1942, committed by the Hungarian Nazi forces in an occupied part of northern Serbia – Backa. This book unveils the most important details of the massacre, implicating the Hungarian regent (governor) Miklos Horthy. Besides murdering Serbs, Jews and Roma, Horthy had also committed numerous crimes over Ukrainians, Romanians, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Russians and Hungarian antifascists. The book primarily deals with the genocide committed in January 1942, where at least 12,763 civillians had been tossed into icy rivers Tisa and Danube. One of the main perpetrators, Sandor Kepiro, was released in Budapest court on July 18, 2011. He died in Budapest in September 3 of the same year.
IDI – Tell us, what is an ordinary day in the life of a Aleksandar Veljic?
AV – I don’t have morning rituals. I just get up and go about daily chores. First I pray, thank God for another day, remember the sick and needy. Then I go to see the latest news and check emails. Then most of the day goes by as I try to read all kinds of things, share various useful materials to others and respond to various messages asking me to read and/or comment something. Occasionally I go out for a walk. When there is big events coming up, I spend days gathering inspiration and to remind people about it. Such an event would be a Memorial march in honor of Razzia victims 1942, March Against Monsanto and Novi Sad Art-eco market.
IDI – Genocide Revealed is not what most would consider light reading, but offers insight into a subject known by few. It has been said that we, as writers, draw from within. How much of you can a reader find in your book?
AV – I started writing Genocide Revealed from the point of view: what if I were there instead of those victims? What if something like that happened to me and nobody knew? If I were forgotten as if I had never existed? So I felt I had to write a book and knock on the door of everyone’s heart with a question: how and why forgetting that genocide? I constantly remind the world about it. How much is that of me? It is my entire heart and that is what a reader finds in my book.
IDI – Who is your audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
AV – My targeted audience is those individuals who want sheer facts in order to understand the nature of certain personalities and events. My book describes gruesome acts committed 70 years ago, a genocide that virtually nobody had an idea it ever happened, let alone why and how it happened. We have to know that some innocent people were tossed into freezing Danube. It is the very title of the book that gives the greatest aspect of my writing – a genocide is revealed! Recently, a UN file has been publicized which corroborates what I have been saying for years: there is a covered-up genocide that this world has got to know about because very often I feel that we are on the brink of seeing it repeated everywhere.
IDI – Give us a rundown of your writing process, beginning to end.
AV – I usually aim to achieve several key goals. I outline priorities that are to be pointed out and then I fill the content around those. For example, in the English edition of my book on the crimes committed by the Hungarian occupiers, I refrained from publishing lists of all the victims I have identified so far. Rather, I listed just the last names of those families that had been annihilated in the terrible 1942 January Razzia in Novi Sad. It served the point and it achieved a very important goal.
IDI – Can we get a look at what you’re working on now?
AV – I am currently studying the ancient history of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and ancient Israel. To tickle your taste buds, I would just say that river Danube flows in eight countries. The most beautiful banks of that river are in Serbia. The river was called Ishtar once upon the time after the pagan goddess, “the queen of heaven”. It was renamed by the members of the tribe of Dan which migrated through the area and went north.
IDI – What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about writing? How has that lesson helped you in your writing?
AV – The most important thing I have learned is what not to write. If there are things I cannot say, I don’t make fabrications. There are things that cannot be written, or that people don’t like to see written. Those unwritten things help me learn better why there are certain consequences and developments.
IDI – How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
AV – How could anyone be a good writer without having reading habits? I use every opportunity I can to read, even when I am travelling. The richness of expression and vocabulary can only be developed through reading. Our spoken languages have been so impoverished and massacred with the flood of mass media expressions and general lack of interest of many to read educational things.
IDI – What’s the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
AV – There was a marvelous gentlemen Michael Hornyak, a Ruthenian (Russyn) by origin. He was born in a village where a terrible genocide occurred in January 1942. He lost the closest family members in that pogrom. From the very start he was supportive of my research and writing. The best advice I had from him was to let the facts speak first, and my emotions second.
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?
AV – Express the truth with passion. If your driving motive is fame, money or prestige, it is useless. Unless you write with passion, you never really become a writer.
IDI – Have you ever wanted to give up? What stopped you?
AV – Yes, I have. And even to this day I have been tempted to give up. When one faces indifference by the world at large, one tends to think that perhaps it was not worthy after all. But what stopped me from giving up is the fact that I have kept in mind that I could have been one of the victims. The victims cannot speak for themselves. I have to be their voice. I don’t write books to become famous, but to inform people and reveal certain aspects of events or personalities. That stops me from giving up. One way or the other, the world will have to value the information I have given. Horthy’s genocide has been revealed, that revelation can never again be stopped. The world cannot say it was unaware.
IDI – Everyone has visions of where they see themselves in the future, be it a year or five. Where do you see yourself in five years? Where did you see yourself five years ago? Did you make it there?
AV – I see myself in a cottage surrounded with a mountain scenery. I saw myself in a smaller town five years ago. I didn’t get there yet. In the meantime I realized that I actually need a modest cottage with my library at hand and Internet connection. How and when will I make it there, I have no idea. Serbia is the poorest European country that has been ravaged by the civil war in former Yugoslavia, as well as by the current corruption on all levels and people’s bad habits. Yet, it is a country with the beautiful countryside of which I dream every day.
IDI – As a writer, what is the one thing you would most like people to know about you?
AV – Uncompromising. There are forces that have worked against me, yet I have never compromised on my values, beliefs and truthful facts. The truth sets one free. That is why the truth about the Genocide committed by Hungarian regent Miklos Horthy had to be revealed.
IDI – As a person, what are three interesting things you’re sure no one knows about you?
AV – First of all, I have understood the major frame of my identity in 2009 and that has regenerated my personality and outlooks. Secondly, deep down I have a fear of this world that I perceive as ever-growing cold in natural love. Thirdly, I am deeply ashamed of the fact that I have wasted much of my precious time and modest talents helping those who appealed for my help, yet have given nothing in return. Today they are well situated, which is wonderful, while I myself am still in this harsh world without having at least a home, not to mention any feasible security.
IDI – Thank you Aleksandar for the most interesting interview. I wish you the very best with Genocide Revealed and your future endeavors.
If you’d like to learn more about Aleksandar and his work, follow the links below.