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In Pursuit Of Peace
Sam Toperoff
November 04, 1991
Marco Lokar, reviled for his act of conscience at Seton Hall during the gulf war, is now torn by the strife in his native Slovenia
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November 04, 1991

In Pursuit Of Peace

Marco Lokar, reviled for his act of conscience at Seton Hall during the gulf war, is now torn by the strife in his native Slovenia

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The war for Slovene independence gave Marco further opportunity to find out who he really is. It did the same for Andrea, who, in the second week of lighting, still had not been heard from. What if something happened to him?

"Would I feel outrage?" Marco said. "Of course. Would I fight to avenge him? I cannot."

The Lokar family mirrors the polyglot history of Trieste, which at various times in this century has belonged to Austria, Yugoslavia and Italy. Marco's mother speaks Italian with him but mostly Slovene with her husband. Alês speaks Slovene with Marco but teaches in Italian. Marco speaks Slovene with his wife and her family; their child will speak both languages and, Marco hopes, English.

Everywhere Marco goes in Trieste, people recognize him. Some know him from the fuss in the Italian media caused by his steadfast refusal to wear the U.S. flag. Others recall that he once scored 62 points in a junior game. The 41 he got for Seton Hall against Pitt on Feb. 20, 1990, was splashed across Trieste's papers too. People also know Lokar as a former member of Stefanel Trieste, the local Division I professional team he joined when he returned in February.

On the street, he small-talks mostly in Italian, but in Slovene neighborhoods he shifts into the gliding diphthongs and Slavic rhythms of Slovene, the preferred language for extended schmoozing. On the basketball court during a celebratory pickup game the night after a cease-fire was called in Slovenia, Italian was his language of choice. When the game got close, however, Lokar told a teammate in Slovene to set a pick for a long jump shot. Lokar made the three-pointer and ran off five more.

The cease-fire held for the next few days. Then agreement was reached on a truce of three months, after which the two sides—Slovenia and Yugoslavia—would try to resolve their differences. (In neighboring Croatia, however, the war between Croats and Serbs continued to flame.) The planes and bombs and rockets in Slovenia had been silenced. Marco was grateful, for Andrea's sake.

It was Andrea, Marco recalled, who had stimulated his interest in basketball, probably because his older brother had needed someone to play one-on-one with. Marco suddenly broke into a rare smile. "I can tell you now. Andrea had another reason for rushing off to war. He wants to be a writer, so he's living an Ernest Hemingway life."

To an outsider, the passions aroused by ancient ethnic hostilities can be bewildering, but they are an integral part of life on the Italian-Yugoslav border.

Because of differences he had with his coach, Lokar didn't re-sign with Stefanel. He signed with Napoli Basket in Naples and, in so doing, put his ethics to the test again.

In addition to believing in nonviolence, Lokar aspires to a simple, nonmaterialistic life. He often quotes the Biblical warning that it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven—"A camel has a greater chance to pass through the eye of a needle."

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