I want to share some information I’ve learned about the other side of my family, my dad’s side. His parents came to America from Croatia just before the first World War.
I’ve contacted my father’s cousin. She wrote me a long letter at Christmas. She told me that her mother, my grandmother’s sister, had 17 children. More than enough for a soccer team, they used to joke. (I look like this grandmother.)
Ten of them were killed in WWII. Of the remaining, most were killed in the Bosnian war. She’s the only one left, and lives in a big city now.
In our old village, our family has died out, or I should say, has been killed off.
My grandmother went back to visit in the sixties. When she came back she didn’t say much about it, other than that it was a bad place. We thought she was referring to the primitive poverty. Now I know she was referring to the holocaust her sister’s family had lived through.
We never knew it, but it was, in fact, a Third World country, however anomolous that is for a European country. We also never knew it, but we were not Croatian as we had been told. We were Serbs living in what became Croatia. The Serbians were colonized for 600 years, mainly by the Moslem Turks, who were cruel to us because we would not convert to their religion and assimilate. After the first WW, we were ruled by the Soviets. Exactly 600 years of foreign rule didn’t end until ten years ago, when the war broke out. (The Bosnians are Turkish settlers.)
I knew nothing about any of this. But in a way I did know. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a Third World perspective on things. And people living through holocausts were incredibly compelling to me. And all those years they took me for a white girl shiksa. God, how I hated that. Made me feel so invisible.
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