United States: Serbian Couple Struggles to Get Children Back

By Sasa Milosevic

A U.S.-based Serbian couple Vuk and Verica Nastic have been going through hell since June 2010, when the U.S. Child Protection Agency (CPA) took away their children, son Damjan, 8, and daughter Nastasija, 5, because of alleged negligence and sexual abuse.

According to the Serbian media reports, the drama began when pictures of Vuk's naked children were found on his laptop, after which the police and CPA representatives burst into Nastic’s house in California. They handcuffed Vuk and Verica and took them to prison, while the children were sent to live with a Mexican and, later, an Arab foster family.

Eventually, Vuk Nastic was released on $18,000 bail; his wife was released six days later.

According to a statement issued by the Nastic family, it had been little Damjan who took the photos while playing with the camera, while his parents were downstairs.

On Sept. 1, the Nastic family's attorneys and the CPA signed a deal, according to which the Nastics were guilty of negligence (because they allowed their children to use the camera), while the other charges were eliminated.

The Nastics have engaged a team of Serbian psychologists, who sent a letter to the California court explaining cultural differences between Serbia and the United States: “In our culture children are perceived as completely asexual and it isn’t unusual that they take baths with their parents. It is nothing unusual that they are photographed and I believe that everyone has in their family album their own naked photo (as a child), or their child’s. It does not produce any erotic feeling, they are just perceived as little kids.”

Members of the Facebook group “Podrska porodici Nastic – Support to the Nastic family” call people to post their own naked childhood pictures as a way of public defiance. Some have posted photos of their own children.

Marina Markovic posted three childhood pictures of herself:

Me when I was 6 months old, and 4 years old…

She also posted a mock warning about a YouTube video of two American children who were recorded in a bathtub.

Dubravka Grmuša Hoe explained:

They are not only naked, but they are also playing with plastic cutlery in the water that they had probably pissed into. Just imagine what would happen if they slipped (because I did not notice a cloth or something similar under their butts) and swallowed a knife and a fork. The parents should have been imprisoned [for this]. But they are “American” parents…

Boni Macanovic shared an experience similar to that of the Nastic family:

I've lived in the USA for 20 years, and at one point they could have taken my children. They arrested my wife because she had brought the children to the edge a Metro platform, showing them what the rails looked like. They let her out the same night because the prosecutor dismissed the case as unfounded, but social “workers” besieged the house for a few days until I called a lawyer from “Civil Rights.” We paid them about $850 and they threatened them (the social service), after which the case was closed. […]

Mira Popovic-Keser was not surprised by the story, but she could not hide her own bad feelings:

Really horrible! It would be difficult to find a photo album in Serbia and the former Yugoslavia without such pictures, especially when sons have been born. Dads are proud of the children! But on this American continent you risk a lot even if you stroke your own child, let alone those of other people… Sick and perverted people, without emotions, fears… Serbia would definitely have to get involved in this case […] to protect the Nastic family.

After six months of silence, the Serbian highest authorities did indeed get involved.

The Serbian President Boris Tadic personally engaged in solving this problem, treating it as a problem of the highest diplomatic level. Vuk Nastic wrote a letter of gratitude to the President.

At the same time, people who think that photographing naked children should not be called culture and tradition also reacted.

Natasa23 wrote:

It is not known exactly when and what happened, but if a little 7-year-old boy is photogrpahing his 4-year-old sister while bathing in a tub in the presence of the father, it is not normal for me and it is far from the culture.

CHRISTINEAMNOTTE asked this at the SerbianCafe forum:

Where have you seen in Serbia or ex-Yugoslavia a big boy who takes pictures of his naked sister and parents who take pictures of naked big boys? We all have 1-2 pictures when we were naked as babies, taken by our parents while we were bathing in the little plastic tray, but taking pictures as grown-up children is not normal. It seems the “cultural difference” is not exactly like that.

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