Girl at War – Zagreb, New York – Sara Novic

croatia girl at war

Why a booktrail?

War- torn Yugoslavia seen  through the eyes of a young girl.

Story in a nutshell

Zagreb 1991

Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy. She might look after her baby sister Rahela but most of her time is spent running and exploring the streets of the city with best friend Luka.

This happy existence comes to an abrupt end when war breaks out across Yugoslavia – and bombs and air raid drills replace football, school lessons and freedom.

The only future for Ana lies in escape – and so she does to America

Many years later now settled in New York, her past is a secret that she shares with no one. But she yearns one day to return and discover the ghosts she’s left behind.

Place and setting

 CROATIA - Zagreb the main setting for the book This Ban Jelačić Square  Symbolic in the Serbian - Croatian divide. This Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of the city and is named after ban Josip Jelačić whose statue is at its middle The Presidential Palace 241 Pantovčak The official residence оf the President оf Croatia. The president does nоt actually live here but the Office оf the President оf Croatia is here. Symbolic in the nove Banski dvori  - Trg Sv. Marka 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia The historical building on the west side of St. Mark's Square is the historical official residence of the Croatian Bans. but currently houses the Croatian Government.  SLOVENIA - Llubljana “A smaller flatter version of Zagreb” The Cathedral is impressive 
 SLOVENIA  -Čatež ob Savi is a village on the right bank of the Sava River . This is where the children spend a care free day swimming.

CROATIA – Zagreb
the main setting for the book
Ban Jelačić Square
Symbolic in the Serbian – Croatian divide. This Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of the city and is named after ban Josip Jelačić whose statue is at its middle
The Presidential Palace 241 Pantovčak
The official residence оf the President оf Croatia. The president does nоt actually live here but the Office оf the President оf Croatia is here. Symbolic in the nove
Banski dvori – Trg Sv. Marka 2, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia
The historical building on the west side of St. Mark’s Square is the historical official residence of the Croatian Bans. but currently houses the Croatian Government.
SLOVENIA – Llubljana
“A smaller flatter version of Zagreb” The Cathedral is impressive

SLOVENIA -Čatež ob Savi is a village on the right bank of the Sava River . This is where the children spend a care free day swimming.

Croatia –

The war in Yugoslavia was a war which was heavily televised and discussed on modern media channels yet this is a view that we had never read before – personal, raw, through the eyes of  a child and a young women returning to her homeland in order to face up to what she was forced to leave behind.

Imagine being 10 when your country descends into war and everything you have ever known is abruptly taken away from you.  Life in Croatia is confusing for Ana – it is a place of war and heartache but then also at its heart is a magical story about an enchanted wood.

Stribor’s Forest – A classic Croatian story – Stribor’s Forest by Ivana Brlic Mazuranic referenced in the novel. This is  a video of the story we found on Vimeo

America

War in another country seems like something so far away, distant and at times irrelevant to where we live now in our own safe little country. Keeping her past a secret from her new American friends might be hard though as Ana is forced to keep part of her true self hidden. But how would people respond if they knew of her past?

In America I’d learned quickly what it was okay to talk about and what I should keep to myself. “It’s terrible what happened there,” people would say when I let slip my home country and explained that it was the one next to Bosnia. They’d heard about Bosnia; the Olympics had been there in ’84.

True but harsh – Ana is unsure whether people elsewhere can really feel the effects of war in the same way that she does. But she returns to Croatia and her voice in this novel is a strong one which makes you listen.

Bookish musings

I don’t really know the kinds of words I can say to pay homage to this book and to the author for putting down some of her most painful personal memories on paper in this way. Giving the narrator the voice of a ten year old girl is harrowing but so so effective as we see the innocence and the pain of the weakest and smallest members of society who war affects the most, but who are most forgotten.

Hard to read at times when you realise this is true for so many children in war – it must be – and the shame those who carry out wars should feel for the way they kill and destroy innocent children.

I can only commend Sara Novic for having the courage to write this story and for showing us a side of war not often seen.

A remarkable story even it it wasn’t partly true but more so because it is.

Highly recommended

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