My Dad is fiercely Croatian. Every time I feel sorry or angry about my parents’ decision against emigrating to Canada in 1976 – they were there and so was I, in my Mum’s belly – I remind myself that with his being as Croatian as he is, with everything that entails, I might have grown up a fascistoid little idiot under different (immigrantory) circumstances. So, the universe was kind to me.
Despite my Dad being like he is, I grew up in a relatively a-political household. Nationality was not taught to me in a nationalistic way. (I am still one of the few people living here that cannot differentiate between Serbian and Croatian last names, even some Bosnian ones elude me.) I knew I was Croatian, like I knew I was human and also Yugoslavian. It never occurred to me being any of these could ever be a problem.
So the nationality of Branko Copic was never a thing for me. English wiki lists him as Yugoslav, and names him a Bosnian Serb – I have no idea what he would name himself were he alive. I could Google and find out. I refuse to. Branko Copic wrote an awesome children’s story, in verse, about a hedgehog who loved his home above all, modest though it was, despite whatever anyone else said. I had a now difficult to find edition of the story (and I, of course, cannot find it now, but I know it’s somewhere in my house) and I had it in a song version on a cassette tape and have played it a thousand times, when I was a kid and to my own kid as well. I love this story, and the author for writing it.
Copic was controversial over some nationalistic shit or other, or possibly just shunned because not Croatian. I know someone explained it to me, but I willfully forgot. And no, I will not Google it. I do not CARE. He was the creator of one of my favourite childhood stories.
Later I found out Copic jumped off a bridge in central Belgrade in 1984. So, much before he could be hounded about his nationality and possibly everything else in the not so lovely disintegration process of Yugoslavia. (The bridge is called Branko’s bridge now, not after him originally but that knowledge will be lost, I am sure.)
Why I am writing this? The state of Yugoslavia fell apart and so took with it some good things that should have remained in my, Croatian, heritage. And everybody else’s, too. I could go on about levels, nuances, cultural and political climates and numerous fine and less fine details to illustrate this. Fact is: such small-minded, willful destruction is shaping a very bleak and ignorant reality for my child to grow up in.
In this case, though, a picture may really be worth a thousand words.
The sign on this picture says: “The House of Branko Copic”. I have no idea if this is real or a hoax. But it is accurate – since no one can successfully claim the author for a political purpose, the once hugely popular Yugoslav writer – a cornerstone of many a childhood across generations and one whose most popular story is still beloved by children of all the nations that once were part of Yugoslavia – has had his heritage left to quietly become a ruin. Be it his actual house or his work.
(I do prefer it somehow – and this must be very Balkan of me – to death of culture by capitalism! It must be my inner Yugloslavian, communist child I have no memory of ever being. But that is a whole other post.)