BIOGRAPHY


THOMA - Tomislav Petranovic - Rvat

 

My mother Barbara (nee Sulicek), and father Andrija, witnessed my birth, on January 28, 1934, in the village of Prvca near the Nova Gradiska ,small town of the Croatia province of Slavonia, right on the edge of the river Sava flood-plain. The little house I was born in was more like the Biblical Stable of Betlehem than a dwelling fit for human habitation. My great-grandfather was bequeathed this log-cabin, formerly a distillery in which , a form of brandy was distilled. Your very good healt! It was exposed to the four winds, and the rain went through the slate roof as if it were a sieve.

My mother went there from the village of Psarjevo Gornje near Zelina in the Hrvatsko Prigorje ("Croatian Foothills") region and married my father, a Slavonian, who, by origin, came from Gorski Kotar. My father’s mother had settled down there after coming from Bohemia, so I can regard myself something of a "mongrel". My childhood began the same as that of any other village-born child’s – early contact with nature, farm-labouring, poverty, and a particular bend for curiosity, inquisitiveness and feeling all around me that concerned me.

There was always something to read in our house, of the type one might expect there to be in a peasant dwelling, namely, the "Danica" calendar and the profusely illustrated peasant-farmers’ calendars, as well as various news-sheets. I learned the alphabet at an early stage, and wanted to flip through books and - even more so – to scribble in them, as well as on village fences.What I loved best of all the one I drew on the lid of a hardboard-box that my father kept a few documents in; it was the figure of some soldier, and I can remember it well. It was before the war at a time when the army was a favourite topic of conversation, and we childern liked playing at war.

My village, Prvca, lies about half-way between the Psunj Downs and the River Sava. I was still very young when I was first struck by the clarity of the lowland streams and the waters, which were overspill from the Sava in which weeping willows and other wonderful plants looked at themselves. It was particularly beautiful in spring. Keeping an eye on our old cow Ljuba in our plot of land, I had all the time in the world to run barefoot, study the birds, flowers and insects&ldots;

The odours of the land at ploughing-time and sowing-time allured me.

DEATH CLOSES IN ON THE RAILWAY MAN’S COTTAGE

At the beginning of the war we moved into a railway man’s cottage, near to a suburb of Nova Gradiska. My father became a track maintenance man. The house was lovely in contrast to out old one at Prvca. The hut was at an isolated spot , about a mile from the first house in the newly-built suburb. There was nothing but fields all around, mostly meadows and trains rattling their way past. All this pleased me right at the beginning, but later I longed more and more for my Prvca. I never liked that area even though I spend a good part of my childhood there.

Something new took its place in my life here – the trains, bunkers and the stern-faced soldiers who were always angry and swore. There was shooting all around and fear began to reign. They started the firing-squads up. They brought people in – usually peasants – as hostages, near to our cottage and killed them there. First of all they dug the pits themselves. My mother cried and we knelt for a long time, praying aloud for those unlucky people....parts from AUTOBIOGRAPHY by THOMA

 

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