Zlata’s Daughter – redux

I was reminded that today is an anniversary date in the War between the former Yugoslav states of Serbia and Bosnia and Croatia, inasmuch as the Siege of Dubrovnik commenced on 1st of October, 1991.

It was a shocking affair, and I found myself encountering refugees in the course of my work at the time, in migrant hostels and similar places.

I was inspired to write my big anti-war poem (not an area I delve into all that much). Thought I should re-air the poem. War is always too damn close.

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


c. 2001


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13 thoughts on “Zlata’s Daughter – redux

  1. I concur with the comments of your other readers. I was very moved by your poem. War is, after all, the stories of individual people, those who die for it and those who live through it, forever scarred and damaged.

    Liked by 1 person

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