Back then, when we were dead (soundtrack)

Reply Wed 30 Jul, 2008 02:01 am
Hey, I'm waiting too. And probably others are or will be at some point.

Don't be sensitive and feel rejected, this is one of the qualiaty threads of a2k ever. Just go with it.
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Reply Wed 30 Jul, 2008 05:09 am
MOU, "...the wounded yellow building..." was fantastic imagery. That one small phrase made me feel the war.
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2008 10:34 am
osso - I am not, really Smile just that, don't want to bother, but I'm glad you like it...third part is on in hour or so...
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2008 10:46 am
MyOwnUsername wrote:
I'm a little bit busy with my work, but today or tomorrow...
Although, considering huge interest, I might as well send it to you and ehbeth through PM Smile

Lot's of people are reading along, MOU, not everyone comments though.
Regardless, the story should be told, and you have a wonderful way of
presenting us in an excellent manner what happens to ordinary
people in times of war. Please go on....
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2008 11:17 am


(panoramic view of old center of Karlovac)

I am living in a small green town on four rivers. In addition, there are some creeks and swamps, so it's not strange that all this water influenced our lives somehow. That's why people of Karlovac have pretty strong relations with their town and rarely move out. However, that was the case in peace, one and only peace of our lives, before 1991st, because there is no peace after the war. At least not the one we used to know, when you are completely calm and relaxed and sure that you will never be a part of a war, like we were sure while we were kids. Physical casualties are not the worst part of the war, because you can explane those to everybody. But this piece of you, or your soul, that was ripped out forever, that's something that will make you anxious for the rest of your life and you will be unable to explane that to anyone that haven't shared the same feeling. Today, life can be nice, life can be happy, life can be relaxed and worth living. But, life will never be complete again, just like our town will never be complete, without all those people that supposed to become bus drivers, annoying clerks in post office, nice girls in the park, young mothers with cute babies, basketball players, guys in a caffe bar, old guys playing chess on the bench, or anything else. People that were meant to be part of our lives, of our town, but disappeared in those years, back then, when we were dead.


(entrance to a main Karlovac street, Stjepan Radic Street, in the first days of war)


(kindergarten in the main Karlovac park, one that both my younger brother and I attended)


(street in suburbs where I used to rode bike when I was a kid)

3. So. Central Rain/Sanjati*

(*Sanjati - To dream, song by bosnian group Crvena jabuka /Red apple/)

It happens sometimes, in some moments of loneliness. You suddenly feel like The World stopped again, that you are dead again, and that nobody is around, nobody but you, scared 16-year old kid, that at the same time does not want to show his fear and wants someone to understand it, to hug him and to tell him that everything is going to be fine.

It happens that you miss them, that you feel guilty, that you blame them for leaving, like it wasn't enough that we were all dead already...and they had to die even a little bit more, so that they never come back.

And you think about them.
You think about Hasko, summer and aroma of peaches in the air...two of you sitting by the river and singing Crvena jabuka songs....you think of Klajnsek, you see him in Radiceva Street, smiling, all happy, back then in the First World...you think of Hrvoje, poking you with pencil during math exam, asking you to tell him few answers...you think of trees turned into obituaries, dead bodies near fountain, dead 7-year old girl and her grandma, pregnant woman killed in front of hairdresser saloon, near the Children Center...you think of Brka, that first lost his hand, and then lost himself...you think of Branimir, you can see him laughing in his room, while some silly song is on the radio...you think about 10-months old baby, you think about that family in red Yugo45, you think of Sasha's brother....and you think of Suzana, and that policeman with tears in his eyes, hugging her little sister and taking her away from all of this...
You think about cemetary that covers the meadow, so fast...meadow where you used to have birthday parties...
And you think of numbers, read in newspapers, heard on radio and TV, back then, when we were already dead just enough, so that real death was nothing else but another number, another spot of meadow digged up, another numb group of dead people on a hill, entombing a dead one.

And you are sorry.
You are so f*ucking sorry, that you simply have to blame yourself.
And sometimes, in those nights, when you are nothing else but a scared 16-year old boy again, you are sorry that you haven't guarded First World better, or that you never did anything, no matter how small it would be...
That you never, at least, stood in the middle of the street and said:
"Don't. Please, don't".
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2008 11:30 am
Your work reminds me of a picture I saw once of an adolescent girl in the Czech Republic, dressed for a party, standing next to a wall riddled with bullet holes and she was laughing, kind of almost dancing, kicking up one foot.
For some reason, the photographer's perception really got to me. It was as if he had captured the 'essence' of the girl's complex existence.

Your writing style, like that photograph, is visually haunting and beautiful. It really is.

'Effortless' is the word that springs to mind.

Looking forward to the next bit


ps - I think flattery (and I've tried not to do that here - only to be honest) can be a dangerous thing - even a destructive thing. As destructive as negative criticism. So it's not always easy commenting on people's work.

Even saying 'I'm looking forward to the next bit' (which I am) could
1- galvanise you
or 2- paralyse you.
There is always a quandary

A while ago, a member of a2k said something to me that freed me up a bit. They won't mind me passing it on to you, I'm sure.

Don't worry about anyone else- it's between you and your writing.

That was the heart of it anyway

Still, I can understand you wanting conformation.
Rest assured, you have a consensus here.
(and that doesn't happen very often)

Enough said
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Reply Thu 31 Jul, 2008 12:15 pm
MyOwnUsername, your writing is poetic & philosophical at the same time. Thank you for sharing it.
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Reply Tue 5 Aug, 2008 04:05 pm
Endymion - I was on a short vacation so I had no time to respond. thanks for your post, I can only say that I can't agree more with everything you said.

yitwail - thanks
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Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2008 08:04 pm
Legend: Karlovac was always multicultural town - located very near Slovenian and Bosnian border, with about 30% of Serbs, we childishly hoped that we will be able to avoid the war. Few days before the war, Karlovac Choir 'Zora' ('Dawn') made a big concert in Catholic and Serbian Ortodox church on central square in Karlovac. Churches are just 100 meters away, and first part of concert was held in Catholic church, and second in Serbian Orthodox Church. When war started lots of Serbs stayed in Karlovac, and today it's still town with highest percentage of Serbian population of major croatian cities. But, lots of Serbs left and joined other side - some of them were our best childhood friends.

Kordun - croatian region surrounding Karlovac, that was occupied by serbian forces during the war.

Football - what in US would be soccer.


Have you ever felt a stomach-pain due to nostalgia?
I did. Funny thing is that it's always the same scene. It usually happens in the afternoon, shortly before or after nap. Somehow, it feels like time travel - not just like memory. Like I left my body and went there again, or some similar science-fiction thing.

It's summer. The real summer. When you are 16 and on summer break. And we are on the large meadow between four buildings. We are playing football. And then, this scene comes...

Summer, smell of grass, sky turning red, slowly...Zoka is on my left side, I can see his clothes, expression on his face, he is yelling "Come on!".
And I am kicking the ball. I can feel it on my tennis shoes. I can feel grass under my feet, I can see the ball, every tiny mark or scratch on it, I feel slight pressure on my leg when I shoot the ball, I can see a foot of a boy in front of me, trying to block the shoot.

And mostly that's it. But it's so unbelievably real.


- Hey, was that your first kiss? - Zoka asks, while we are walking around our building, and play with firecrackers from time to time. It's New Years Eve. Few minutes ago, I kissed with Marina, and he kissed with Zdravka.
- Yeah - I say, bowing to avoid a lowest balcony of all the balconies in the world.
- And...how was it?
- I don't know...Kinda gross.
- It was, wasn't it!?


Night was filled with scents of summer, although it was April, and although last snow was still smelting on hills around the town.
It was late, late enough for World to look just like the one we used to know. Here in the dark, between voices, and moves, and faces...between friends that will always have 16...

We talked about them.

Them, that are maybe just few hundred meters away, talking about us.
It was a serious talk, although we were kids. Somehow, it was very important to finish that part of our lives, or we just foolishly thought that it can ever be finished.

We talked about Milan and the day when we called some exotic countries from his home phone and then his sister entered the room. He was shocked at first, and then he looked at her all thrilled, and said:
- Can you believe!? We are talking with Zimbabwe right now!

Then we talked about Pedja, Marko, Boban, Goran, Tajana, Natasa...

We talked about everybody but Zoka.
Maybe he was the one that hurt us most.
Or they knew it will hurt me the most, so they never mentioned him.

Nevertheless, I thought about him all night. About one ordinary day, when we were walking near the river Kupa, talking about girls, music, pinball, high school, football...

And I was imagining that I am on Kordun, right now, that we met face to face, that we fight, that I don't know it's him, I knock him down, point a rifle to his face, and then I recognize him....
And everything turns black.

Later, we talked about us. What are we going to be, once, when the world we live in grows.
- I don't know what will I do. I know it won't be the only thing I want - I said.
- What's that - Dinko asked.
- I don't know...to be here. To be here on a highway. I mean, without the war and stuff, war should end, but I would like that it always remain abandoned. I wish they build a new highway, I can't imagine traffic going on this one. So, I would just be here, sitting. And if anyone needs someone to talk to, or just to sit along and watch a sky or something...I would be here.
- You were always weird - Dinko said, and we all laughed.

Later, it's even darker. Valentina is holding my hand, we are slowly walking on a warm asphalt of empty highway.
- I miss Zoka - she says.
- I miss him too.
- And not only that. I miss knowing who I am, and who we are. You know? I miss Zoka, I miss being a little girl, I really miss all that stuff.
There's a tear in corner of her eye, she puts her head on my shoulder, and I really think I would like to stay on this highway forever, all my life.
There's something in my throat, but I am 16, and 16 years old boys are way too cool to cry in front of the girls.

I am staring into this dark, and I know Zoka is overthere, somewhere.
And I wish all those snows to melt really quickly, to flood this town, this highway, all world...
- I am just not ready for all of this - she says, and hugs me.

And I am thinking about Kordun again. Wrestling, Zoka on the ground, I recognize him...and this time pictures go on, it's my world, people are around us, thousands, they are looking at me, they are looking at him, lying on the ground...they are looking and waiting...it's my world and I can cry if I want to...so I cry...I cry, and I know I'm not a boy anymore.
And I grab a rifle and I shoot.
It's too dark, and although it's my world, I don't dare to make it clear and find out who is left dead in the mud.

Then I hug Valentina back, we are walking down our highway...and we talk about school, music, movies...and summer, that will come to our town.
Sooner or later.
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Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2008 08:26 pm

I'm tempted to say what's hitting me there, but I also don't want to disturb your rhythm.

thank you
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Reply Thu 7 Aug, 2008 01:08 am
oh, don't worry about that. or PM me, because you made me curious now Smile
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Reply Thu 7 Aug, 2008 08:32 pm
Another great post, MOU.

That's the incredible thing about civil wars.
You end up -sometimes in your imagination, sometimes in real life- pointing the rifle at your childhood friend. And pulling the trigger.
Anad to have those thoughts crossing your mind at the age of 16 -mixed with pinball & football & girls- is chilling.


(This is something I did not understand until I was an adult. Got into a political discussion with a childhood friend, went beserk and hit his head several times against the wall... another neighbour separated me from him. I told him I was calm, he let me go, and bam!, there I change again to hit my old buddy. There I realized that in a civil war situation I would have killed him. Horrible).
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Reply Thu 7 Aug, 2008 10:46 pm
Yes, another great post..
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2008 02:18 pm
Fifth part is coming in hour or so.
This is explanation about it:

First four parts were more like 'diary' stuff. What I am to put here now is partly a fiction. It's a short story actually, published few times, but this is going to be hard thing to do - it's much easier to translate 'diary' then fiction.
It is about actual event, and out of seven parts, the fifth one is not fiction, but actual memory.

About the title - when bombshell hits concrete, it leaves a shape of a flower. For years after the war, 'flower' near the Central Bus Station was the only one that remained. Even today, part of it is still not covered - when they finally decided that they will cover this part with new asphalt, workers left upper petals of 'flower'.

It's a bit long. I'm sorry. And I appreciate your reading. Thanks.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2008 02:26 pm
MOU - it is always hard to post about my reactions to your writing. As Endy posted, there is a fear of disturbing what you are doing.

You seem to have a real gift for helping the reader visualize things - and then yesterday you helped me understand something one of my neighbours had told me about her experience in Kosovo.

As I understand it, you are in the process of translating what you had already written.

I can not begin to imagine how powerful your writing is in the original.

Thank you again for sharing your work.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2008 03:39 pm


If only I was born in, let's say, Los Angeles. Then nobody would ask me any questions. It's a big city, my brother, very big, and everybody minds their business.
But, I wasn't.
So here I am, where everybody is sticking a nose in your business, and I don't want to fight.
They say I used to sit here before that April, and that I would sit here anyway, because booze is cheapest here, and that everything else are just my fantasies...
They also say that too many people died, that during first autumn, dead bodies were lying on a street for days and nobody was able to take them because of sniper fire...and they say that children were also dying from the beginning, and that there's nothing special in it.
And what am I saying?
Who cares what am I saying, my brother.
All I know is that I will, while I am on this world, come here every afternoon, drink a cognac and cross the road. And then I will step into a war flower that will never be covered with fresh concrete, and that I will feel how tears are running down my face.
Tears that were gone that April, when I needed them most


Honestly, I fired only one.
I know exactly when - April 10th 1992.
It was early afternoon, scent of grass was spreading all over Kordun, and the sky was blue like a sea.
Yeah, exactly like a sea.
Colonel was drunk. I'm not saying anything, we drank and we will. But, it was wrong somehow.
- Fire one - he tapped my shoulder with a smile, and stayed there, next to me.
I hated it.
I really hated it, not because of them, down there in the town...but because of that sun, grass, and the sky blue like a sea.
I wanted to take off my uniform, lie down, take a leave of grass, nibble it...I wanted to watch that sky, and to think about sea and girls...
Dejan filled it, I fired it.
Just like that.
That's all I know.
I don't know where it ended.
And I don't care, honestly.
Or...I am just trying to persuade myself that?


I was screaming.
I ran into a house, screaming so hard that baby woke up immidiately and Ivan stared at me like he saw a ghost.
And it was such a sunny day, it was just like summer, I was watering flowers on our balcony, there was a smell of sunbathing cream in the air, I thought we should go to the river later afternoon...
When I heard that sound, I looked sky with discredit.
It was shiny blue and before I had time to get scared, screaming rocket fell down there, near the bus station.
And I saw it all.
I ran into a house, and I screamed.
Later, I took my baby, cuddle him, and I cried, imagining all the worst things that can happen to him, so that I put a spell on everything bad that can happen.


- Let's pack - boss said.
I was a bit surprised, but look in his eyes was saying that he is serious.
- Come on kid, it's enough - he said.
So, that's why we never finished with that crater near the bus station.
Some people call them flowers, but if you ask me, I think it's a bit sick.
Why we haven't covered that one?
I just told you.
And why my boss decided that is not my business.


Irremediably absent minded prof. Glaser looked through windows and said:
- No kids, they are not shooting...
A moment ago, loud explosion interupted us in daydreaming under warm afternoon sun, but wasn't able to interupt her in writing some equations on the blackboard.
When she peeked to a hall, she realized that everybody is down there already. Principal, scared and hesitant, for a moment thought that there's a chance to drag us all to a shelter, but our protest and yelling "we want home, come on man!" were too much for him.
- Okay kids...but stay close to tall buildings - he said, with sad and scared eyes.
Outside, there was a spring in its best edition. Like spring in some kind of...let's say...peace.
Sun, girls, scents, green....
Bombshells disappeared from our mind, it was silent after all, we were teasing girls, arranging a football match later...and so.
Then we came to a bus station.
And so.

Later, we were just quiet.

Even more later, Mom came to my room, I was listening to a R.E.M. with headphones, she asked me what happened in the town.
- Nothing. Bombshell killed a small girl near the bus station - I told her.
She left.
I wanted her to cry. I wanted her to cry, because I knew that if she starts to cry that mabye I will be able as well.
Totally numb, I was lying on my bed, without feelings, without wishes, without thoughts. Except that I thought how I wouldn't feel a thing if bombshell destroys me that moment.
Then I got up, told her "I'm going out", and I went out. We played Four Fields, then a bit of football, then we talked.
Then it was night and Mom made roast bread.
Moment before I fell asleep, I decided that April 10th 1992 never happened.


- Let's pack - I told him.
Yes, I told him that.
I wanted that flower to stay.
If you ask me why - I will never know.
So don't ask.


- When is my birthday grandma - I asked.
- You asked me that hundred times - she told me and squeezed my hand just a bit stronger, so that I know that she is not mad at me.
Then we talked about who will I invite, what cake Mom will make, what presents I will get, and will I be able to blow all eight candles with one try.
But we haven't talked about my wishes.
You should never talk about wishes, because in that case they can't become true.

It was a bit hot. And my schoolbag was heavy.

Then we come to that dangerous street where cars are running like crazy and little girls are not allowed to cross it without Mom or Dad.
Or grandma. I think it's okay if you cross it with grandma.

We stopped because there was red light.
Cars were really running like crazy.

Then, I heard thunder.
I am scared of thunders, so I squeezed grandma's hand just a litte bit stronger.

When big and loud fire came from a sky, everything else disappeared.
I wasn't scared. And I wasn't hurt. I just thought that Mom will be upset if I don't come to my own birthday.
And I knew I won't.
I knew I'm gone.

Flower is everything that is left of me.
And sometimes I watch it from the sky, and I smile loudly, while I wait my Mom and Dad to come here. Forever.
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Reply Fri 8 Aug, 2008 05:07 pm
I don't want to interrupt your flow either but have to say something..

so, I'll say that was strong.
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