The door to my homeland

croatia_dalmatia_dugi_otok_sali_uvalaI just arrive from school. There is a good smell from the kitchen where my mother is fixing dinner mixed with a  tobacco smell from my father’s room where he is typing furiously in his typewriter the column for tomorrow’s newspaper about international news immersed in a cloud of smoke. Some static sounds emerge from the radio. The cat is as always looking fixed at the paper trembling and advancing at the hits of the types. I close the door. Both Mom and Dad say in my language: “Hello, my sweetheart”. I just leave the street I live and enter my homeland.

It is 1968. We are Croatians living in Spain, the only ones in our city. We are forbidden to go to our homeland because my father was an independent journalist during the WWII and was in jail with the fascists and in a concentration camp with the communists and had to fly. My Mother couldn’t left the Country until 12 years after my father. They were faithful during all this time of separation and, reunited again, continued the family life here. But here we even cannot say from where we were after our surname surfaced without paying a lot of explanations. Croatia was into Yugoslavia unknown to almost everybody. My first language is Croatian. My home is the place where I learn about our traditions, some central european culture I never hear about out of there, the only place I feel understood, without the need to explain to everybody why my name is so strange or to keep silence and try to be invisible to avoid strange questions or jokes; the place to hear my language, so sweet in my ears. My home is also my homeland.

Now, almost 50 years later I still living in Spain and my homeland is not anymore at my door, but far away. The history changed. I’m free to go whenever I want because Croatia is now an independent State. And I do, but not every day. My father is not here anymore.  I don’t have the need to explain where is that little place from where my family comes when people hear my surname and my door leaves me simply from my street to my home.

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