“You could write a book about my life,” said Sasha. “In fact, you could write several books. The things I have seen and done, you wouldn’t believe. The war. Bodyguard. Doorman. Knife fights. Gun fights. Prison. Casanova. Red Star Belgrade fan. Lone wolf. Patriot. That is who I am. I had the biggest balls in Belgrade, a true guy, willing and able to respond to any challenges, strong and brave and skillful with the fists, with a serious view of steel. To this day my exploits are retold in Belgrade bars and restaurants. I can see it now: a New York Times bestseller.”
Welcome to the world of Sasha, one of the biggest Balkan bastards I have ever met. I will periodically tell you about my adventures with this guy – this mangup, as they say in Yugo, or kiro in the Turkish language. But here I just want to tell you how we crossed paths.
Exactly between Adenauerplatz and Stuttgarterplatz in the district of Charlottenburg was a tailor’s shop run by an Albanian named Bajram, from Macedonia. His customers were German soap stars, pop stars, boxing champs, even the mayor of Berlin on occasion, but also Albanian ex-KLA soldiers, hustlers, wiseguys and a whole panoply of Balkan types of doubtful character.
Bajram’s shop was two things: a tailor’s and an unofficial social club, where all the latest Balkan gossip was gathered, interpreted and assessed. When too many people were standing around chatting, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, distracting Bajram from his work, he would suddenly get upset and shout, “This isn’t a men’s club!” and then turn everyone out.
Sasha popped in one day, looking like a pimp with his long black hair, black Prada shades pushed back on his head, Dolce & Gabana jeans jacket and black suede loafers without socks. A nice Serbian touch is the oversize bling-bling golden crucifix nestled in the thick curly hair protruding through his unbuttoned shirt, which correlated with the cross on his wrist.
“Zdravo, you old carrion,” said Sasha, upon entering the shop and saluting Bajram.
“Oooooh, if it isn’t our Serbian hero. How are you?”
“Like a dick in cold water,” said Sasha. “I have the impression that I am getting a flu. Too much seks and alcohol in the last days has weakened my immune system.”
“This is Aleksandar,” said Bajram, referring to his full patronymic, of which Sasha was his pet name . “Aleksandar from Belgrade. Aleksandar the Small.”
I offered my hand, Sasha took it, crunches it and said, “I am glad.”
“If you want to know anything about Belgrade then you can ask Aleksandar,” said Bajram. “He knows all the criminals. But you don’t have to worry. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Germany has tamed him.”
Sasha preened himself in the full length mirror standing against the window. He flicked his long hair, which is beginning to grey in places, turns to admire his athletic profile, his pit-bull-like shoulders, trained by boxing three times a week at a gym in Schöneberg.
“What do you think of my new jacket? Dolce & Gabana. Oridjinal. Leger , but very elegantno.”
“Where did you steal it from?” asked Bajram.
“It was purchased,” said Sasha, “ordained honestly”.
Sasha turned away from the mirror and addressed me: “Bajram, he’s my teammate. He’s one of our swine. Ex-Yugo. But he is an Albanian. And therefore hazardous to my deep thinking. Down there we would have shot at each other. Here, we warmly shake hands. And yet I do not trust him. Never trust an Albanian. They are hyenas. Snakes. They will smile and say one thing to you, coddling up to you. But the next moment, when you are not looking, they will put a knife in your back. I have never known an Albanian who wasn’t a kriminalac. Albanians, Arabs and Turks, don’t trust them. In that order. In fact, you can forget all Muslims.”
So you can see – not a sympathetic character. An asshole really. So why did I come on to him? I guess it was the journalist in me. My journalistic instincts. Or just plain curiosity. But as we know, it was curiosity that killed the cat.