Serbs shun reality for life in the Wild West

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 2:18 AM
Serbs shun reality for life in the Wild West

He lives in a country bombed by the United States only a few years ago and where anti-American sentiments still run high, but Milorad Sudar says he'd like nothing more than to be a cowboy like those in Western movies, riding off into the sunset.

"It is all there, in that one scene: adventure, freedom, justice," the 62-year-old Serbian economist explains. "Freedom to go wherever you want."

Sudar is among a group of admirers of America's 19th century Wild West who set up the Union of Western Shooters of Serbia. The group of men, mostly in their late 50s or 60s, wear cowboy hats and boots, shoot colts or Winchester rifles and call themselves by names like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

"We are generation of people who grew up on Western movies," Sudar _ or Old Shatterhand _ said during a training session this weekend at a drab shooting hall in New Belgrade.

Serbia's cowboys have faced a number of difficulties _ from financial to political _ since first deciding to turn their dreams into reality several years ago.

Their weapons _ either originals or replicas of those used in 19th-century America _ can only be found abroad and are hugely expensive for Serbia, where average salaries are around euro300 ($420) a month.

"It all costs money," said Slobodan Ilic _ or Hombre Des Nudos _ who heads the union. "We finance this all by ourselves."

Since registering in 2007, the Serb shooters have taken part in three international competitions _ in Italy, Slovakia and the Czech Republic _ but have lacked funds to participate the past two years. They have no support from the state or wealthy sponsors and say many here view their sport "American propaganda."

Yet, the cowboys say, it offers an escape from the grim reality of postwar Serbia into a more just and romantic one.

"Perhaps we should turn our Wild West fantasy into reality and rob a bank or two. We would have more money," jokes Doc Holliday _ known the rest of the time as ophthalmologist Danijel Trajkovic.