My father’s life stands out to me when I reflect on my family’s past because of the depth of his experiences and the historical setting in which they occurred. In communist Yugoslavia, it was mandatory for men to serve in the military, as my father did. This was a survival decision rather than one motivated by ideological conviction. Ignoring service meant running the risk of being labeled a traitor and facing jail time.
Unlike the Soviet model, Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito began a harsh and unusual socialist/dictatorship path following World War II. Strict political control and economic difficulties characterized this age, impacting all facets of society.
Being Croatian, my father, when he left his life on the farm, experienced a unique tension under this regime. The struggle to maintain their national identity against a forced Yugoslav identity was a constant undercurrent.
“The Soul of a Shoemaker,” my book, is a tribute to my father and all the others who weathered these stormy times. The storyline skillfully intertwines the individual’s hardships with the wider historical background of residing under a communist government. This story is about more than just surviving oppression—it’s about the pursuit of freedom. My father’s journey serves as an indicator of Croatia’s path to independence.
Telling this tale to family and friends is not just about retelling history but also about safeguarding our shared recollections. It serves as a reminder of the intricate nature of our ancestry and a monument to perseverance in the face of hardship.