Yugoslavia R.I.P.

by Alma A. Hromic

March 25, 2002

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History sometimes sneaks up on you and rips your heart out when you aren't looking.

Decades after the dream was born, barely ten days before the third anniversary of a bloody assault by 19 foreign nations, which was weathered with a spirit that is still talked about, the land once known as Yugoslavia has ceased to exist.

And what a dream it was. We were all in this together. We may have worshipped in different temples but to look at us you'd know we came of the same stock, the same tribe, the same people -- we were the Southern Slavs, the clans who migrated into the area way back in the mists of time, settled there, made lives there, made history there.

We lived on a crossroads, and endured much. For the sake of the dream, we endured, perhaps, too much.

But the bloody '90s and the tail end of the Twentieth Century drove one nail after another into the coffin of the dream. The foreigners who could not conquer us by force of arms sneaked in and bought what they could not take, with money, with honeyed words, with lies and delusions and with firebrands who poured oil on the fires of internecine hatred.

Sometime during this period of time Yugoslavia, one of the founders of the United Nations, one of the founders of the Non-Aligned movement, innovator, dreamer, prideful leader and economic powerhouse of the region, first diminished, then crumbled, then disintegrated in flames. It vanished from the atlases, the globes, the encyclopedias. It became hatcheted into warring tribes -- were we Serbs, or Croats, or Macedonians, or Bosnians, or Slovenes, or any one of a number of smaller ethnic groupings? And whom did we have to hate by implication of that label?

I was born a Yugoslav, in a country called Yugoslavia, in a country which, in a proclamation dated March 14, 2002, has been declared not to officially exist any longer. How am I to send mail to that beloved land, when I cannot call it by the name I have always known it by? How much in myself must I change because my past has been blown apart by this...?

I wonder if this song, the anthem I knew as mine, will ever be heard again?
Hej slaveni, joste zivi
duh vasih dedova
dok za narod srce bije
njihovih sinova.
Zivi, zivi, duh slovenski,
zivece vjekov'ma!
Zalud preti ponor pakla,
zalud vatra groma!

Nek se sada i nad nama
burom sve raznese!
Stena puca, dub se lama
zemlja nek se trese!
Mi stojimo postojano
kao klisurine —
proklet bio izdajica
svoje domovine!
Proklet bio izdajica
svoje domovine!
Hey slavs, still lives
the spirit of your grandfathers
while for their people beat the hearts
of their sons.
Lives, lives the spirit of the slavs
it will live for aeons!
In vain yawns the pit of hell
in vain the fires of thunder!

Let now, above us,
the storm shatter all!
The stone breaks, the tree splits
let the earth start shaking!
We are standing steady
like cliffs —
damned be he who betrays
his homeland!
Damned be he who betrays
his homeland!
In a purely fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay, "Tigana," the idea of a spiritual and ethnic belonging is explored in a uniquely powerful way. A country, Tigana, is condemned by a powerful wizard to oblivion by a very simple and very powerful ruse -- nobody who was not actually born in Tigana can even hear, let alone pronounce, that name, which is thus doomed to die and be forgotten when the last living person born in the unfortunate country passes away. Tigana's heir, working to restore his land's name into the language and the memory of all the other peoples of his world, drinks to his task with a toast: "Tigana! May the memory of you be a blade in my soul!"

Yugoslavia, I will not forget or betray you.

May the memory of you be a blade in my soul.



       Alma Hromic, the author with R. A. Deckert of Letters from the Fire, was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. However she has lived outside her native country for much of her life: Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, the UK and New Zealand. Trained as a microbiologist, she spent some years running a scientific journal, and later worked as an editor for an international educational publisher. Her own publishing record includes her autobiography, Houses in Africa, The Dolphin's Daughter and Other Stories, a bestselling book of three fables published by Longman UK in 1995, as well as numerous pieces of short fiction and non-fiction. Her last novel, the first volume of a fantasy series, Changer of Days: The Oracle, was published in September 2001 by Harper Collins. Last January, Hromic won the much coveted BBC online short story competition. Her story, The Painting, was broadcast in the UK in the last week of January 2001.

         Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Alma A. Hromic 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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Published March 25, 2002
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