Zlata’s Daughter

I met zlatica when I was young
on a visit to the old country
we held hands at the village dance
and walked evenings on the corzo

when I left
she gave me golden dice on a chain
and said osjećaj me – remember me


zlata is a mother now
a grandmother         a survivor of war
between croats and serbs

I don’t understand what the hell
they thought they were doing
to places where we went to talk and dream
and hold hands as we walked
across the corzo cobbles


zlata named her daughter mariana
srce moj (my heart)
grew up an imitation americanka
but in a landscape painted small
with dinars instead of dollars
she met dejan on the corzo before a dance

mariana couldn’t help herself        fell for a serb
and dejan chose wrong blood        mariana        a croat
there was hatred in the village for kids like that
betrayers of kin
consorts of the enemy
damn fool pacifists
he should have shaved her hair        put her out on the street
she should have cut his throat in the middle of the night


I met zlata’s daughter        her dejan and their child
at a migrant place in dandenong

she told me it was better here
australians haven’t learned to wear
the look that gets etched into faces
from living with war

she said she was a little lonely
no-one from home comes to visit
but they leave messages on the outside wall:

no place here for a croatian-serb
no place here for a serbian-croat
no place here for people like you
go away        go away        become invisible

she said they would leave in the morning
to go to a far away town
where no-one knows where they come from
who they are        what they are
leave the war behind them
and find a place where their child will grow
without an accent
without a heritage
without knowing hate


when I last saw her
zlata’s daughter was wearing golden dice on a necklace
struggling with a new language full of strange words
and keeping up a job through difficult early times

I picture her now in my minds eye
walking with dejan and their daughter
on a dusty australian corzo
in a small town she calls moje oslobođenje

my escape to freedom

© Frank Prem, 2001


7 thoughts on “Zlata’s Daughter

    • Hi Ali.

      Thanks you. I recall being incredibly moved and angered at the helplessness of it all, back when I penned this.

      Now, on review, I am struck by how much worse the situation has becoem for those fleeing persecution since then. ‘Zlata’s Daughter’ has a direct counterpart (in my mind) in ‘Resigning from Australia’, and it is appalling.

      I better not get started or I may need more pinot noir than I have to hand as I write LOL.

      Thank you, as always, for reading and your thoughts.


      Liked by 1 person

  1. As already noted, this is an extremely powerful piece. And yes, it still holds incredible resonance today, as you’ve said, perhaps even more so. Which upon reflection, is really just too sad.

    The following stanza:

    she told me it was better here
    australians haven’t learned to wear
    the look that gets etched into faces
    from living with war

    this is such a pivotal point in this poem, for me – the idea of war and living in and with war – how it “etches into faces” ….. it makes me think of the actual etching process …. of metal being eaten in carefully constructed ways, by acid – and metaphorically, it really captures all the layers, all the ways, obvious and subliminal, that affect people who have lived these horrors.

    Great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you again Wildchild. It saddens me to reflect that Australians now have other things etched in much more than formerly – none of them very good.

      It’s a sad old world.

      Never mind, we can only write with our hearts, the best that we can.



      Liked by 1 person

  2. Today it is definitely worse – people as individuals are lost in this clamour for independence/isolation or umbrella justification for racism, intolerance and everything else ism or phobic. What are we becoming is a redundant question – to ask that is a bit like the horse and stable door. But that said, this was so much a powerful and maybe cathartic piece, written so well obviously and passionate and highly emotive.

    I read earlier about your hesitancy in posting a longer piece but this would surely be an exceptional fit. and easier on the pingbacks lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well thanks so much for yur warm comments about the poemAnita. As to the state of the world, we seem to have some accord on that.

      I’m happy enough to have the poem appear at the site, but I’m a little lost as to how to post in the comments with italics and so on preserved.

      Let me know if you have any ideas.

      It’s a poem I hold dear because the elements remain personally involving for me, even after the passage of time.



      Liked by 1 person

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