Border lines

As related to me by a Croatian librarian, when they hosted me in 2008 as part of a speaking engagement:

She was holidaying at her hometown. She began thinking about her long-lost childhood friend. To her immense surprise, the bus she took stopped in front of a house, which she recognised as her friend’s home. She said her jaw dropped. That’s how unexpected it was.

She walked up to the house, which she’d only visited only once — so many, many years ago.

Knocked on the door.

It opened. A man she recognised as her friend’s eldest brother.

She introduced herself and explained who she was. And who she was looking for.

The man also recognised her. Said her his sister (a Croat) had married a Serb and was now residing in Serbia. He provided his sister’s address and phone number in Serbia.

She, the Croatian librarian who was telling me her story, wrote a letter to her friend. No reply after three months.

She decided to call her friend, in Serbia.

Her friend picked up the call. Sounded shell-shocked, as the tale was told: the holiday, the bus ride, the serendipitous discovery, the recognition, the letter, the lack of response. And finally the phone call.

Her friend said she didn’t receive the letter. Even made a trip to the post office to look for it. Suspected that the post office staff might
have thrown the letter away. Said that tended to happen.

Because she was Croatian, living among the Serbs.

I wondered: did the letter get through? Maybe it was discarded or confiscated before it was ever sent. Or maybe the post office staff in the Serbian village still harbored ill-feelings from the war.

Whatever the cause, the fact was that the war was still a sensitive topic.

When the above story was told to me, Croatia is preparing to enter the EU. The Hague was pursuing the 1991 war crimes. Some Croats felt there was a bias; that the Croats were persecuted more than the Serbs when both sides were guilty of war crimes.

It may not be truly resolved for a long, long time.

Yet one can hope.

One must.