A child’s shocking memoir of growing up in Croatia during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. I’m not sure if it’s the author’s personal story or if it’s fiction, but it doesn’t really matter — the stories in this book must have happened a thousand times over the course of the conflict. This is just one account of the “them versus us” nationalism that seized the Balkans and thrust its people into a decade of bloody wars, and many more of suffering.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Some of the stories are downright hilarious, while others are innocent, touching, and even informative. For example, I appreciated the young protagonist’s role in giving the reader a gentle introduction to the Balkans.
I didn’t understand why the Yugoslav National Army would want to attack Croatia, which was full of Yugoslavian people, but when I asked my father he just sighed and closed the paper.
Some of the author’s anecdotes about life in Croatia resonated with experiences I’ve had in Bulgaria, for example the cultural importance of rakija (fruit brandy). For anyone interested in a casual introduction to Croatia, Yugoslavia, or the Balkans in general, Girl at War is a great place to start.