My father was Irish, English and German. My mother had Italian, Venetian, Slovenian and Croatian/Montenegrin grandparents. After World War 2 she identified as Yugoslav and emigrated to Australia. My parents were married when I was born and, due to an abundance of pregnancies, I was adopted as a baby by an Australian couple who were English.
From this family history it is clear that I have no concept of nationalism. As far as I can tell, people of different ethnicities ought to live together.
‘Good People in an Evil Time’ by Svetlana Broz is about how people of different ethnicities do live together, how they cared for each other during the horrors of the Bosnian war of the 1990’s, and how ethnic barriers and hatred whipped up for purely political purposes did not stop courage, kindness and generosity.
I visited Bosnia in May 1985, and this is how I described it in my diary:
The whole landscape is terribly pretty. Villages are set into the greenery of deep gullies and the caps of the distant mountains are snow-covered. There is still snow by the side of the road, although it has turned to ice. Among the hills nestle little towns with one, two or three storey houses and sloping rooves, very much like Austria. The difference is that the people are poor. Hay is stacked in tall, peaked domes, maybe six or seven feet high. Farm animals live inside the rickety hand-made yards: cows, pigs, big black boars, chickens, dogs, ducks. Without the highways, these little towns and farms with their hand made buildings and fences could be taken straight out of the seventeenth century…To this day, I have not forgotten the sight of a woman in Turkish trousers drawing a plough by hand across a field.
This is the country that was destroyed by politicians in order to fulfill their lust for power. Broz writes: ‘When [Slobodan Milošević] realized it was not possible to be a leader of all Yugoslavia in the way he wished, he tried to destroy it and construct a Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia. But it was a problematic project as people were then living decently together.’ It was therefore decided that fear created by nationalism was to be the trigger for war.
A few years ago, I was corresponding with a man in Istria who told me that, during this time, activists had come to Istria from outside deliberately to stir up ethnic hatred. As I read Broz’s book, I learned that the same was true all over the Old Yugoslavia.
I have just begun to read the many personal stories, and I will write a more extensive review when I’m finished.