[1997:] In the summer of 1994 I was asked to play two concerts for UNESCO in Croatia; one in Zagreb and the other Dubrovnik. [From Zagreb,] I left with our Croatian agent, Berislav Jancovic in his terribly battered Renault 4 to travel to the west coast of Croatia and thence by ferry to Dubrovnik. After travelling through half-destroyed villages I expected to find a city in ruins. The Serbians had shelled the city relentlessly, seemingly trying to break the spirit of the inhabitants (because the city has no military significance), but the city never capitulated and eventually the Serbians retreated. What I found however was a city that was slowly being rebuilt; there were still shrapnel marks on the buildings and some of the roofs were still missing, but it seemed as if everyone was engaged in the rebuilding process in whatever way they could, spiritually, socially and physically laying one brick on another. It is a beautiful city, a jewel in a cluster of European jewels, but what impressed me the most was the sense of pride each person had for their city, and how integral it was for their own sense of self-esteem. This feeling was infectious, so much so that I found myself thinking that any nation which has so much pride in their culture, which will resist to its last breath any force which attempts to destroy that culture, is virtually unassailable.
The song came naturally with these thoughts in mind only a few hours before I was due to play the concert. In a couple of hours I had written three verses and a chorus; I had two tunes and I could not choose which to use. When Berislav came to collect me for the concert I played him the song. He nodded his head in approval, but I was not sure of the response so I played the second tune, and to this he expressed his definite approval. His only suggestion was that I should use the name "Ragusa" (the traditional Latin name of Dubrovnik) and the name used by the inhabitants, and "Libertas" as this was the word written on the city flag.
The concert took place in the open air, in front of the church in the main square. It was a beautiful summer's evening, and as the sun set so the worn marble walking streets reflected the orange hues of the last light of the sun. When I finished the concert the audience asked for another song, and Berislav came to me and said I would have to play the new song as the people would love it. I introduced the song, and explained that I had only written it a few hours previously and that I would have to read the words. However, when I put the words on the ground by the microphone stand, I could not see them. The audience soon realised the problem, and a young guy ran from the audience and knelt in front of me, holding the words for me to read. The reaction was amazing, and it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had during my years as a travelling musician.
The next morning we visited the square where the performance had taken place. We sat in a cafe for a final drink before travelling north. The radio was playing, and I suddenly realised it was my song they were playing. This was incredible; I had only written the song the day before, but here it was on the radio. Apparently the "sound man" operating the P.A. system had recorded it and then sent it to the radio station explaining the circumstances under which it was written.
Since then I've played the song throughout Europe and as far away as New Zealand and it has become apparent to me that during the height of the war in former Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik had served as some kind of symbol - if Dubrovnik fell then the whole of Croatia would follow. I continue to return to this beautiful city, and every year there are more people. The tourists are returning and the city is now alive and vibrant. The pearl of the Adriatic has returned to its former glory. (Taylor, Songs 62f)
[1999:] Dubrovnik war früher die wohlhabendste Stadt an der jugoslawischen Riviera. Jetzt müssen dalmatinische Damen aus gutem Hause im Stadtpark von Dubrovnik wilden Lorbeer pflücken, um ihren Lebensunterhalt zu verdienen. Das Elend macht vor den besseren Kreisen nicht halt. Vier Kriegsjahre und drei Jahre Nachkriegszeit haben Dalmatien ebenso wie das übrige Kroatien in seiner Entwicklung um mindestens eine halbe Generation zurückgeworfen. Der Krieg hatte dem 'Kulturerbe der Menschheit', wie die Altstadt von Dubrovnik Unesco-amtlich heißt, tiefe Blessuren geschlagen. Acht Monate lang, vom Herbst 1991 bis zum Sommer 1992, hämmerten serbische Schiffs- und Artilleriegeschütze auf Dubrovnik ein, einst bevorzugte Sommerfrische der Belgrader Nomenklatura. Zwei Drittel aller Häuser in der historischen Altstadt aus dem 7. Jahrhundert wurden dabei schwer beschädigt.
Die schlimmsten Wunden sind verheilt. Die zerschossenen Dächer sind mit leuchtendroten Pfannen frisch eingedeckt. Restauratoren haben die Einschußlöcher in den Wänden der mittelalterlichen Kaufmannshäuser sauber wegretuschiert. Dabei haben sie auch den Reparaturstau aus Friedenszeiten gleich mitbeseitigt. Alte Dubrovnik-Liebhaber sagen, "das Paradies auf Erden" (so George Bernard Shaw) sei heute noch ein bißchen paradiesischer als vor dem Krieg. Trotzdem bleiben die meisten Gästebetten in diesem Frühjahr leer. Letztes Jahr sah es noch so aus, als sei die Fremdenverkehrsbranche, die vor dem Krieg zwei Drittel des Sozialprodukts erwirtschaftet hatte, aus dem Gröbsten heraus. [...] Dann kam der Kosovo-Krieg und damit die große Stornowelle. (Erich Wiedemann, Spiegel, 24. Mai)