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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Serbs Take Refuge in Shelters and Anger

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Some sit in cellars, waiting for the bomb or missile that could destroy their homes and lives. Others defy NATO, going about their daily routines while air-raid sirens sound.

In either case, many Serbs in Belgrade see themselves as innocent victims of aggression.

"This is how they teach us democracy? With bombs and missiles?" Ranko Popovic asks Monday as he stands on the staircase of his tenement, torn between seeking shelter and ignoring the latest threat of airstrikes.

A few yards away in the shelter, a dignified, gray-haired woman who identifies herself only as Mrs. Scekic minces no words about who she holds responsible.

"This is all because of the impudence of one degenerate, decrepit man," she says. "Clinton will burn in hell."

Popovic, a young doctor, and Scekic, a 65-year-old pensioner, are luckier than most in Belgrade. While others have only makeshift air-raid shelters set up in storage cellars, their hideaway, in the basement of a 10-year-old brick building, is as safe as it could be.

Cookies and potato chips are piled in a corner. A cherished hot plate is used primarily for coffee; the strong Turkish brew keeps the elderly going through the night, giving them energy to chat, gossip - and vent their hatred of NATO and the United States.