Granted, this is not the most original headline but hopefully it got you here…
Three days ago a small package arrived from my Mum in New Zealand, we have been talking a lot recently which we have both been enjoying. We often talk about what we’ve been reading and Mum has been talking about a recent release that she had really enjoyed and been recommending to her friends, Goodbye Sarajevo – Atka Reid & Hana Schofield.
A book! In English!
I was really moved by the story of Atka and Hana that unfolded overnight as I read, tears were rolling down my cheeks as the sun peeked up around 6, and my new book was finished. I know for sure I will re-read this story and look forward to sharing it with friends here if they are interested.
Very briefly, Atka and Hana and their family and friends were stranded amidst the ‘Siege of Sarajevo’ in 1992 when the Serbian military attempted full control of the city. The seige lasted for 43 months, during which time thousands of lives were lost and many more were wounded, tortured and displaced.
Atka and Hana are sisters from a family of 10 children, this book tells their parallel stories, a story of living under siege and living away from your family, friends and culture as a refugee. The story opens with Atka tearfully saying goodbye to two of her sisters, Hana & Nadia, as they take two remaining seats on a UN evacuation bus that is heading to an unknown destination on the Croatian coast. Knowing that it will be safer for Hana & Nadia to be away from the snipers that are targeting Sarajevo’s streets and assuming that the ‘trouble’ will be over in a matter of weeks, sending the two sisters to safety seems like a sensible option, albeit a sad one.
The story that unfolded is remarkable, it is told in a straightforward manner that I found very compelling. Vivid pictures were created in my mind as the books chapters switched between telling by first Atka and then Hana. Atka dealing with life in a war zone and looking after her younger siblings with the help of her Grandmother, and Hana & Nadia feeling so far away in Croatia living as refugees, displaced and not knowing if and when they would be able to return home. There is a lot sadness and confusion but there are also very strong messages about love, friendship and the kindness of strangers and random events that ultimately led to a massive change of fortune for the entire family.
Reading about the day to day hardships of Sarajevo citizens during the siege certainly put my slightly irritating summer cold into perspective and made me think again about all those in the world who are caught in similar situations now, victims of war and violence.
I’m sure there was an extra resonance for me in reading Goodbye Sarajevo, with being a New Zealander married to a Croatian, thankfully Doka and I met in a much easier climate than Atka and Andrew, love is a mysterious thing, who knows where it will bloom and led us in this world.
I found a short interview with Atka and Hana here, http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2011/04/27/hana-schofield-and-atka-reid-authors-of-goodbye-sarajevo-answer-ten-terrifying-questions/#comment-6834 if you are interested.