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.)
One thought on “Culture Death By Politics”
The first two stanzas of Hedgehog’s Hut in English:
Across the forest, his own best guide,
Hector the Hedgehog roams far and wide.
Famed as a hunter of proven worth
he’s always given generous berth.
His hundred spears deserve respect;
wolves bow to him, foxes genuflect.
Fish tales of Hector heard on the lake
give spiny nightmares to every snake.
His fame precedes him shiny and bright:
Hail to the hedgehog, the woodland knight!
Letter From The Fox
One very fine day, our story goes,
on paper scented and tinted rose,
quick Postman Rabbit, with elation,
handed Hector an invitation.
Of the important words there were few:
“I’m making dinner for me and you.
My dear hero, this is no jest,
do me the honor and be my guest.”
There followed many fancy a phrase
leaving the hedgehog in pleasant daze,
but the gist of the letter was clear:
to the Fox, the Hedgehog was dear.
She offered plenty of food and wine,
a pleasant chitchat and desserts fine.
He liked the letter to say the least
and laughed aloud: “Let’s go to the feast!
Dress we must fine, in shiniest garb,
and clean the weapons to the last barb.
It wouldn’t do to show Fox the rust
so polish the spikes we simply must.
Should danger we meet and need to fight
our defenses must be just right.”