I was asked why I left Serbia...
We are now 20 years away from 1993, the year in which the highest post WW2 inflation on European soil ruled one country. The name of that country was Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). It was not the country I was born, though. The country I was born in is Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), consisting of 6 Republics: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia, and of two autonomous regions within Serbia: Kosovo and Vojvodina. With only one (Communist) party in power, we did pretty good compared to other Eastern block countries (think East Germany, USSR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania...)
I would say that I had pretty normal and good childhood. It was marked by one man, though. That man was dead. Tito. He died some month and a half after I was born in 1980. However, his spirit was still omnipresent. Every 4th May, at 15:05h, the sirens would sound, marking the exact time he died. Only three weeks later, a great celebration took place on one of the biggest stadiums in Belgrade - Relay of Youth. While he was alive, youth of Yugoslavia would would run a symbolic relay race, spreading "brotherhood and unity", and presented him for his birthday.
In 1991. it all fell apart. I still remember the shock of watching the weather report and instead of my beautiful SFRY, I saw only Serbia and Montenegro.
First Slovenia declared independence, followed by a very short war, soon the Croatia followed, also with war, and then Bosnia decided to break free as well. All in all, Serbia and Montenegro formed FRY, the heir of SFRY, while Macedonia formed a state of its own. Two wars were raging - in Croatia and Bosnia. There was no war in FRY, but that doesn't make it a happy place to be in the 1990-es. The UN rightfully concluded that FRY (mainly Serbia and it's president Milosevic) was waging a war in Croatia and Bosnia, and installed the sanctions. For those who don't know: that means no petrol, no imported goods, no travel without visas, no electricity, no heating, no medical drugs, no cigarettes, no money, no nothing...
My parents are respected people, mom is a judge, dad is a high-school teacher (now retired). In 1993, their combined paychecks would come up to 5, maybe 10 Deutsche Marks. I remember waking up in those days (remember that I was only 13 at the time) and the very first thought that would come to my head was "What's the price of DM today?" To put it in perspective, a sick person living in one town could hear that the drug he needs can be found for the price of five million Serbian dinars in a town some 20 Km away. So he would sit on his bike, ride the cold weather to the next town, only to find out that the price is now eight million. We have done maybe 5-6 devaluations from 1990 to 1993. The largest note was 500 billion. Yes, you read that right.
How we survived? My mom made bread every day. My dad and some friends bought a whole cow of some 400 Kg, split it in three-four parts and froze it. Not to mention that we did not buy that much clothes back then.
So in that time, it's pretty normal that the lowest scum of the Earth comes to the surface and makes it ugly existence disgustingly obvious. People who haven't finished primary school would make the rules. The wild bunch of former prisoners and soon to be war criminals became the idols of young boys (myself included, at least in those first days). Silicon tits and no brains for the girls. Turbo-Folk on TV, in combination with horrors of war in the news. All the while Milosevic and his regime claimed that we are living the dream.
I still remember that on January 24th 1994., we did the last change of currency. One (new) dinar was equal to one DM, and for some reason it stayed that way. The life became not normal, but bearable. Compared to 1993 - better, for sure. But still a long way from normal. In 1994 I went to high school, one year later my brother went to University. The same year, the war in Bosnia and Croatia ended, alas only after the Srebrenica massacre and the Croatian operation "Storm". By 1999, I also went to Belgrade University, and the aforementioned "bearableness" became normal. Then NATO started a war against us because of Kosovo. After 77 days and nights of air-raid sirens, Milosevic signed capitulation, declared victory (?!) and went on with his business. Fortunately, on October 5th 2000. he fell down.
Zoran Djindjic soon became the Serbian PM, we were accepted back to UN, there were no more sanctions, and the future looked bright. We still needed visas for pretty much any destination, but Bulgaria was not one of them. So on March 12th 2003 I went to Bulgaria on a single day shopping with some relatives that lived near the border. At half past noon, some Bulgarians told us that Djindjic was assassinated in Belgrade... The remains of the government declared the state of emergency, publicly stated persons they held responsible for the killing (they turned out to be right, but people who gave political orders, support, protection etc. still remain out of justice's reach). In 2004, one of the main protectors of conspirators - Vojislav Kostunica became the Serbian PM. Oh, and if you wondered what happened to FRY, it transformed into "State Union of Serbia and Montenegro". Kostunica said his main goal as PM would be to keep the Union. In 2006, it fell apart when Montenegrin voted on a referendum to break free from Serbia. In 2008, Kosovo did the same. Kostunica organised the demonstrations in Belgrade, they burnt down the city center and the US Embassy, killing one men inside.
These events coincided with my going to live and work in Switzerland. I was 28. Only then was I finally able to live my life to the full.
So, back to the original question:
It was not a single event that happened after which I realised I could not live there any more, rather an unbroken series of bad decisions made by the political "elite" that whispered (shouted!) in my ear that I was not welcome there...