M

A STORY OF MENDING THE PAST IN METLIKA, on the SLOVENIA-CROATIA BORDER

‘It’s difficult for you to understand, child.’ Mia looked up at her grandfather, his rheumy eyes were moist with restrained tears. He managed a sad smile, ‘It’s difficult for me to understand. My whole life I belonged to one great country.’ His voice trailed off and he shrugged.

‘Can’t we ever go back?’ Mia asked.

‘It would never have happened if Tito was still alive.’

‘Who’s Tito?’

An innocent question, met with a strong rebuke from her grandfather. ‘Who’s Tito? Don’t they teach you anything at school?’ His exasperation subsided when he looked down at her young face. ‘Perhaps you are too young. One day you will learn about him. A great man.’

‘But can we go to our picnic place in the forest again soon?’

‘Not for a while I think, and even then we need documents and travel arrangements, and your parents would have to come with us. You see, our forest is in a new country called Croatia now. And we, we are Slovenians now.’

‘How can they stop us going somewhere we have been before?’

‘That is what happens when politicians and people can’t get along. Barriers are created to maintain control.’

‘Well, what shall we do then? Can we go and visit Uncle Alojz?’ Uncle Alojz was not really her uncle, but her grandfather’s friend who owned a café that served the finest ice-cream in Metlika.

Her grandfather only sighed heavily again. ‘Uncle Alojz has closed his café and decided to return to the town where he was born.’

‘Where is that? Is it near?’

‘It is near, but it is also behind the new border. Uncle Alojz is now a Croatian, just like our forest.’

Mia humphed, ‘This is crazy. Is no one upset about this?’

‘Plenty of people are. We are the lucky ones. Here we manage to accept what has happened and make peace with it. The rest of Yugoslavia will tear itself apart, just you watch.’

‘Why can’t people just get along?’

‘Ah, you are so young an innocent, my little angel. That is not the way of the world. Perhaps when you are older you can help make everyone get along.’

***

Mia took a long draw on the cigarette and handed to Marko, the captain of their unit.

‘Come on, Angel’ Marko said, in English. ‘Break’s over.’ Mia smiled at his use of her nickname.

They went back inside the main command tent.

‘We have one,’ Luka announced. ‘A big one, stretches about two kilometres across.’ He pointed at the chart on the computer screen, an area near to them, in the forest north of Kosovo, was highlighted red.

‘Okay, Mia, suit up. We’ll take this one.’

Mia pulled on her protective suit, marked with the UN insignia. She was tired, never a good thing when entering a mine field.

‘Remember, one at a time,’ Marko said to the rookie. ‘Every mine we remove is one weapon of the war that failed to kill someone.’

‘Will we ever find them all,’ she asked.

Marko only smiled, and replied in Croatian. ‘Ah, you are so young and innocent, Angel.’


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s two countries as we visit Metlika in Slovenia, on the border with Croatia – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

Read more about the break up of Yugoslavia and the decade of war and genocide that followed here: Wikipedia.

84 thoughts on “M IS FOR METLIKA on the SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN BORDER

  1. I really liked the repition of ‘Ah, you are so young an innocent, my little angel’, showing how superficial political borders are!
    How truly unjust it is to divide and deprive people of places that they once called home.
    Thanks for sharing the link to the background of the conflict.
    A very rich story, Iain . And, wonderfully written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Moon. This was the first war I was really old enough to understand what was going on. The arbitrary lines drawn on a map can cause so much conflict and division and they are just made up. It is crazy when thought about in those terms.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds of a song in One of the Bollywood movies “पंछी, नदियाँ, पवन के झोंके ! कोई सरहद इन्हें कैसे रोके ।” means borders cannot stop birds, animals or passing wind , they are created by humans to stop humans.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I got a little confused by the switch too, but it didn’t take a minute to realize what was going on. I hope one day she gets all the mines, but as fast as they are removed one place, more are being laid elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately true. They will still be there long after our generation has gone and it will be our children that will continue to suffer from them. Particularly evil weapons.

      Like

  4. “Why can’t people just get along?” That sounds like a very innocent question but carries a world of wisdom. If all of us could get along easily it would be a wonderful world. I remember Yugoslavia and Marshal Tito. I liked the way you brought in the mines. Great post as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, such a simple question isn’t it, and no one seems to have a good answer that I find satisfying to answer it. There is no reason for so much hatred and violence in the world.

      Like

  5. This is a wonderful theme. Did you have to do a lot of research to get to know trivia about cities?

    That was a heartwarming story. I wish Mia has a chance to tell her grandfather that she could make it to the other side and save some lives 🙂

    All the bst for the Challenge. Do drop by mine.

    Cheers,
    CRD
    www (dot) scriptedinsanity (dot) blogspot (dot) com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I did a little research – no more than a bit of Googling to find a hook for most places, a little more for others. It did take a bit of planning though to visit all the countries. Look forward to catching up on your blog.

      Like

  6. Working mine fields? Shivers.
    It was real enough for me to start praying that sweet innocent Angel doesn’t end up an “angel”.
    I remember visiting friends in a downtown NYC office shortly after the Towers incident/9-11. One was an immigrant from Iran and he was in tears. He grew up with violence/attacks – and had thought he had left it behind him.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I understand unexploded bombs dropped on London during World War Two are still being discovered over 70 years later, so “will we find them all” is a difficult question to answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, one in the news just last month that shutdown London Airport for 2 days while it was removed. And mines are much more difficult to detect, and more numerous. The answer is probably easy – never.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I hope to go to Croatia soon…it is definitely on my bucket list, and I recently made a new friend who is planning a trip there and invited me to tag along! I’m enjoying your stories very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Another masterfully crafted piece Iain. Thank you for these morsels of History.
    I wrote a reply to your comment on your ‘L’ post before reading about Mia today. And nodded and smiled when I read this :”That is what happens when politicians and people can’t get along. Barriers are created to maintain control.’”
    We were driving from Split to Dubrovnik last spring when all of a sudden we came upon Neum, a slice of Bosnia and Herzegovina carved out of the Adriatic coastline. It takes less than 10 minutes to drive through, And before you know it, you’re back on Croatian land (or coastline).
    M is for Mawphlang

    Like

    1. Thank you. Europe is made up of some very random borders, my favourite is Kalingrad Oblast on the Baltic coast, which is part of Russia, but is separated from the rest of it by Belarus and Lithuania and a few hundred miles! Crazy.

      Like

  10. Ah, the former Yugoslavia. I remember watching them compete in an Olympic Games but in the next one, I think they were split into two nations. That was a sad thing for me back then. Have heard a lot about Marshall Tito. Good that Mia is working towards a strife free world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Unfortunately the wars never stop and we never find all the bombs. Technology now has made our generation better monsters than the previous one. Poor Mia! Masterfully written as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve nothing to add to the many comments already made but, I too, feel the echoes with the news of this weekend. As a world we are having to rely on each individual doing what they can in the overwhelming face of governmenal power plays. I shudder to think where we would be without those individuals. Thoughtful & thought-provoking as always.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You have created a powerful story here, I think, built on actual events skilfully combined with the personal experience of the characters. You are really good at this ‘genre’- in all of your A-Z stories. Looking forward to the next ones.

    Liked by 1 person

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