Friday, June 29, 2007

Zlata's Diary

I put aside Over a Thousand Roads and picked up Zlata’s Diary last night. I was immediately engrossed. I know this entry is going to be serious, but this is a topic I feel seriously about.

Zlata’s Diary is literally Zlata’s diary. Zlata lives in Sarajevo and starts keeping a diary in September 1991, not long before her 11th birthday. She excels in school, enjoys fashion magazines, and watches Murphy Brown on television. Six months later, she is recording the tragedies of war.

Reading about war from a child’s perspective is an interesting experience. Zlata mentions politics several times, writing that “politics has started meddling around. It has put an ‘S’ on Serbs, an ‘M’ on Muslims, and a ‘C’ on Croats, it wants to separate them. And to do so it has chosen the worst, blackest pencil of all—the pencil of war which spells only misery and death” (97). Yet, she does not understand the significance politics plays in the war, never connecting the war with “ethnic cleansing.”

But because politics doesn’t shape or warp Zlata’s perspective, she can truly see and express how senseless war is. She records the death of friends, the destruction of her city; she suffers without electricity, gas, food, and water. Several times, she expresses anger and despair, writing “I really don’t know whether to go on living and suffering, to go on hoping, or to take a rope and just . . . be done with it” (130). Early on, Zlata asks the most profound question of all:

“God, is anyone thinking of us here in Sarajevo?” (85).

I am only three years older than Zlata. If I heard about Bosnia, if we talked about the war in school, I have no recollection. Most everything I know about the genocide I learned years later as an adult.

A few weeks ago, I read the book I Dream of Peace published by UNICEF. The book contains drawings and poems created by the children of the former Yugoslavia. I was most struck by a submission from a fifth grade class in Zenica. They write:

“Our teacher has told us about Anne Frank, and we have read her diary. After fifty years, history is repeating itself right here with this war, with the hate and the killing, and with having to hide to save your life. We are only twelve years old. We can’t influence politics and the war, but we want to live! And we want to stop this madness. Like Anne Frank fifty years ago, we wait for peace. She didn’t live to see it. Will we?” (64).

After the Jewish Holocaust, the international community vowed, “Never Again.” Yet since then, there have been genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda.

Darfur fills me with anxiety. I do not understand how conflict—how genocide—has continued in this region for over four years. Why hasn’t the international community done more to stop this? I want to shout Why isn’t anyone doing anything? How can we just stand by and watch this again? God, is anyone thinking about Darfur?

Yet, what am I doing? How am I helping? Feeling anxious accomplishes little. Zlata’s Diary is a call to action. We—I—must act.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

Wow, very strong. Is this going to be part of your paper? And did you really read Zlata's Diary in one night?

Blogger said...
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Blogger said...

I read the book over a two-day period. It definitely wasn't a difficult read. I hope I'll be able to use parts of my blog for my paper, but I guess we'll see . . .