M IS FOR METLIKA on the SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN BORDER

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 responses to “M IS FOR METLIKA on the SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN BORDER”

  1. Good you brought up land mines in this story. I am enjoying how each day, you are relating your stories to a place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Trina, they are still clearing them to this day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed that Iain. Keep it up. The quality of your challenge pieces is outstanding

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Geoff, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 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

  4. This was one of your best ones of this Challenge. I never saw the second part of the story coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alana, glad you liked this one 🙂

      Like

  5. Things may have changed but she’s still that innocent angel. Nice one Iain.

    A-Z of My Friend Rosey!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “…his rheumy eyes were moist with restrained tears.” Love these words.

    I didn’t see the switch from a sweet girl asking her grandfather questions to a woman who enters mine fields for a living! Nicely written.

    https://writingiscommunication.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/moonlight-the-space-between-bookstore-presented-by-a-to-z-100-word-stories/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Growing up into the realities of the world. Thank you for reading.

      Like

  7. This story is heart-touching. We need all people to think like this little angel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it is difficult to stay positive and innocent in the world today.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 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

    1. That is such a truth, wise words indeed, and exactly the sentiment of this story. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 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

  10. “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

  11. Took me a minute too to realize the switch from young girl to adult. I paused when I read the part about her smoking. I can’t imagine living like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine doing that job, a whole new level of bravery required. Thanks Janet.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You’ve done an outstanding job with this challenge, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you CV – halfway there, plenty still to go!

      Like

  13. Even though she’s grown, she still cares about people, thus her career removing mines. Well done!

    https://katseaholm.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/m-is-for-money/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, doing what she can to make the world a better place.

      Like

  14. War and military conflicts leave behind a terrible legacy. Weekends In Maine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And yet from the news today, we still don’t seem to have learned this simple fact. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. 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

  16. I love that Mia held onto her innocence through the years. It’s a shame that we are all subject to the whims of government and must do the things we’re told because they said so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is, the news from Syria today is a perfect example of that.

      Like

  17. 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

    1. It feels like there is no escaping it, and those that are lucky enough to have much to be thankful for.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I constantly count my blessings – no matter how tiny – nothing can be taken for granted

        Liked by 1 person

  18. 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

  19. So well written. so thought provoking, so sad….

    Donna B McNicol, author & traveler
    Romance & Mystery…writing my life
    A-Z Flash Fiction Tales: http://dbmcnicol.blogspot.com
    A-Z of Goldendoodles: http://ourprimeyears.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  20. 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

    1. Thanks Gail, I have heard it is a lovely country, I hope you get to visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. What you are doing is fabulous here. Its a part of British history in a way–the thoughts of citizens during intense change. Great matching of visual and story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Shari, glad you liked it 🙂

      Like

  24. This is your the best one so far. And what a Happy coincidence, both of us chose Mia as our respective lead character’s for the same day. How cool is that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Must be something to do with the letter ‘M’! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

      Like

  25. 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

    1. Thank you, some technological advances have definitely made the world a worse place.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Another excellent delivery. We follow the world news, of course, but your tales somehow make those countries, the people and their history come alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Hester, that is a lovely compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Ah yes, the politicians who thing they’re doing the right thing… Crazy political boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if some of them even think about whether what they’re doing is right or wrong….

      Like

  28. This was a very good, moving one! Great job! I do hope that the coming generation strives for peace!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Joy, we live in hope 🙂

      Like

      1. You are welcome and yes got to keep hoping! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  29. It is not easy to convince a child of what the elders have seen,.
    Lovely tale

    Tongue Twister for N
    Tongue Twister for M
    Tongue Twister for L

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Being born to parents/grandparents of a land divided, who had to leave everything they owned and travel thousands of kilometers in herds during the partition of India, this is so relatable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More lines being drawn on maps that have devastating consequences for real people. I’m glad you could relate to this story.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. 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

    1. Thank you Debs, it is a seemingly insurmountable task at times, but hopefully there will always be those who try to do the right thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Aren’t those metallic barriers so forbidding? Indeed an important question, why can’t people just get along?

    http://www.volatilespirits.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a simple question too. Thank you Anupama.

      Like

  33. 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

    1. Thank you so much, glad you are enjoying them 🙂

      Like

  34. Great story, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Iain.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Partition, borders and landmines! Felt the surge of pain when Mia asked the question that lies buried in our hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anagha – it’s a question we all ask, and yet there seems to be no reason why not.

      Like

  36. Landmines are a blight on this planet. Another great story , you are maintaining the quality I see. I’ve started to flag and have just reached ‘M’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep going, you’re halfway there!

      Like

  37. Love this one! You’ve made it circular and very personal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sascha 🙂

      Like

  38. Poignant story. Your use of the repeated line by both grandfather and Marko is so effective. Ties it all together.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. This is interesting. I will try to catch up on the rest soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jazmin, hope you get the chance to read some of the others.

      Like

  40. Loved the repeated use of words and endearments when Mia was a child and adult – cleverly done.

    Liked by 1 person

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