Andrej Nikolaidis est né en 1974 à Sarajevo dans une famille mixte issue du Montenegro et de la Grèce. Jusqu'à l’âge de 6 ans, il a habité à Ulcinj, où il est revenu en 1992 quand la guerre éclatait en Bosnie. Depuis 1994, il écrit pour des médias régionaux indépendants et libéraux, ainsi que pour des magazines culturels. Il est souvent considéré comme l’un des jeunes intellectuels les plus influents de sa région, connu pour son activisme contre la guerre et pour son combat pour les droits des minorités.
Andrej Nikolaidis a aussi publiquement défendu les victimes de tortures policières, raison pour laquelle il a été victime de menaces à maintes reprises, dont une menace de mort lors d’une prestation en direct à la radio. Il a souvent soutenu qu’il considérait la liberté d’expression comme étant à la base de la liberté.
Il a travaillé comme chroniqueur pour le magazine hebdomadaire Monitor et pour des publications dont Vijesti (Montenegro), Dnevnik (Slovenie), Slobodna Bosna (Bosnie-Herzegovine), E-novine (Serbie) et Koha Ditore (Kosovo). Depuis 2010, il est consultant pour la culture et la société libre au parlement du Montenegro.
Translated by Will Firth
The first shades of night were falling. The sun was setting once more behind my great-uncle’s olive grove, which is what we called the hill laden with rows of overgrown olive trees. In fact, it was fifty hectares of viper- and boar-infested scrub blocking our view of the sea. My father claimed he had once seen ‘something other-worldly’ come down to land behind the hill. I never managed to convince him that it was just the sun. Evening after evening, we sat on the terrace waiting for darkness to fall. We watched in silence as the sun slowly disappeared behind the silhouette of the hill, which had always stood between me and the world. When the light was gone, my father would get up, state resolutely, ‘No way, that wasn’t the sun!’ and disappear into the house. From then on, the only sign of his existence would be strains of Bach which escaped from the dark of the bedroom, where he lay paralysed by the depression which had abused him for two decades. That evening the hill caught on fire. Instead of feeling a breeze from the sea, I was hit in the face by the heat of the burning forest. The fire would erase all my father’s labours once more, I thought. After each blaze, the police scoured the terrain searching for evidence which would lead them to the culprit. Needless to say, they never found anything: not a single piece of broken glass or a match, let alone a trace of the firebug. ‘They’ll never find out who sets fire to our hill, I tell you. How can they when the fire comes from the other world?’ my father repeated. When the hill burned the first time, he saw it as a sign of God: ‘My whole life had passed by without me even taking a proper look at the olive grove my uncle left me. Now there’s no olive grove left – just my obligation to the land,’ my father said in the fatalism so typical of this crazy, blighted family. He built a fence around the entire hill. He worked his way through the charred forest step by step, breaking stones and driving hawthorn-wood stakes into the rock, as if into the heart of a vampire. Then he tied barbed wire to the stakes, which tore into the flesh of his hands. For months he came home black from head to toe like a coal miner who had just come up from the deepest pit. And that’s what he was: a miner. He delved into the heart of his memories. He wasn’t clearing the charcoaled forest but digging at what was inside him, breaking the boulder which oppressed him, shovelling away the scree which had buried him alive. He came home all wet and sooty for months, until one day he announced that his work was done. The property was fenced in and cleared. He had built new dry stone walls and planted olive saplings. He took me and my mother onto the terrace and showed us my great-uncle’s olive grove for the umpteenth time. ‘I’ve resurrected it from the flames,’ my father said.