english_stories - 78098 - 12.10.2012 : Zeljko Tomic Sokolac - (2)
My daughter agreed, so I began the story:
Once upon a time a war burst out in your mother's hometown. Some evil politicians became leaders of the country, each of them intended to establish their own kingdom. However, Bosnia was only one with three constituent nations living in it: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. It soon became obvious the negotiations would lead nowhere, so politicians handed over guns to their closest followers and each national group occupied the territory on which they were dominant.
Your mother's used to live in a part of Sarajevo controlled by the Muslim forces. On the beginning of the war she resisted all my persuasions to run out of the city. A few months later, she realized there was no way to escape the war zone. While being held in Sarajevo, she experienced many unpleasant situations: in several occasions Muslim solders broke into their apartment looking for money and firearms. During the sleepless nights she was listening the sounds coming from the stairways, always being afraid that evil Muslim soldiers could come back to their place in order to torture her father.
In several occasions her father was forcefully taken to dig trenches for the Muslim army. One day he came back severely injured by a grenade explosion. After that they realized he couldn't bend the thumb, index, and middle finger of his right hand, the very same fingers Serbs bring to a point in order to make sign of the cross. Having those three fingers in a strait position was a big deal during the war because some Serbs would use as a greeting sign between themselves. Since they all knew some Muslim extremists would easily kill him because of that, her father never left their apartment until the end of the war.
However, the biggest problem for them was starvation. After living in a double encirclement for two months, they run out of money and food. The were surviving on the Red Cross parcels I was able to send.
In those sober times, even a smallest wish couldn't come true. For example, your mother was daydreaming for three years about having a decent meal, the same one you eat every day. In one of the Red Cross messages I got from her, she mentioned that she would love to get a can of chicken liver pate for her birthday, which was also known as "Argeta". It was her favorite food from the times before the war. She was also hoping she wouldn't need to share it with her family: father, mother and the sister.
Soon after I received the letter, I begun my search for her favorite delicacy. I asked all my friends and family members to help me to find "Argeta". Even my sister living in Serbia checked out all stores looking to buy a can of the pate. However, the grocery stores were almost empty everywhere in the region. Shortly after I realized there was no way to find it. My last hope was a letter I sent to a cousin living in Slovenia, the country which produced the chicken liver pate before the war. However, the answer from him never came back. A few month later I gave up on my search for "Argeta".
At that moment I looked at my daughter and I saw a bitter disappointment from across her face pushing tears from her eyes.
Shortly after I was recruited into 2nd Romanija Motorized Brigade and sent to a place called The Major's Grave, a mountain top in Eastern Bosnia. During that time, soldiers in trenches would get a single meal per day, which consisted of some tea, a dish of bean soup without meet, and a dry loaf of bread which happened to be so hard and tasteless I couldn't eat it even though I was starving.
One foggy morning, an old man followed by an animal showed up on a narrow forest trail. I easily recognized John, a resident of a nearby village, who was followed by a donkey which he called The Stubborn. They were on their regular trip to deliver food to the soldiers. While he was still far away, I could hear delightful shouts of the soldiers from the trenches he was passing by, so I realized that we were getting something really delicious for that day. When the man appeared in front of me, after his usual greeting "God bless you young man", he handed over to me a daily ration of beans, bread and food. Finally, he took a small can of chicken liver pate out of his military bag and gave it to me. At the first glance I immediately knew it was "Argeta". I was so trilled the chicken liver pate found me when I wasn't able to get it myself.
That morning, a small clearing in the forest was filled up with loud laughter of the soldiers. I decided to stay away from them because I couldn't watch their delightful chewing and resist the smell of the food. Even though I was starving I decided to save the chicken liver pate for you mother!
After a while, I was approached by a soldier I barely knew. He asked me why I was sitting alone. Somehow I felt I should open my heart and tell him my sad story. While I was talking the soldier was listening very carefully, and then, when I was done, he took out of his pocket the chicken liver pate can, and said:
Three weeks later, a small Red Cross parcel arrived at your mother's address. In a small cardboard box she got a small bag of flour, which I hid the two chicken liver pate cans in. This was a necessary precaution because the Muslim authorities tend to steal valuables from the Red Cross parcels. Even though my birthday present arrived a bit late, your mother was trilled with it. She ate the chicken liver pate alone, together with a piece of green onion which they got in exchange for a couple of cigarettes. Her mother, father and sister shared the other can of chicken liver pate.
My daughter quickly hugged me tight and kissed me passionately. I am not sure if I deserved the kiss by telling her a good story or I finally succeeded to convince her that I used to love her mother, almost as much as I love her at the moment.
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