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Historical Fiction of the World War Two

The start of the second world war in the Balkans was known as the "April War" that lasted no more than 10 days in the operation called "Führer Directive No. 25". The swift conflict ended on April 14th in armistice based on unconditional surrender of Yugoslav military forces. My grandfather was a 22 years old corporal in the former Yugoslav army when he was transferred to a war camp in Germany in mid-April 1941, along with other 30,000 surrendered soldiers. He spent next four years in Nazi military camp leaving behind his young wife and 2-year-old son.

I am sure it was not easy for him to cope the entire time of imprisonment and captivity, especially in the beginning, but considering all the horrors of the most cruel encampments of Nazi Germany, unconditional surrender of the entire Yugoslav Army came with negotiated terms and agreement of fair treatment of all the prisoners during captivity in various labor camps in the following years. Perhaps the main trauma for all the former soldiers came in the second part of 1945, after the fall of Hitler's Third Reich, when all of them along with more than 7 million of displaced people ended for several months in the chaos of the immediate post war traumatic experience of trying to find their way home. After his return to Serbia under completely new regime, the life treated him pretty well and the post-war time is perhaps the best described with his own words "Although I was not a member of the communist party, I think I was respected in society, I became a councilor of the municipality of Nis and a member of the council of the electronic industry. Above all I was proud of my family and 50 years of marriage."

Doing a hard labor in the fields and machine workshop helped him to pass through the war relatively undisturbed and, if we exclude the short April war in the beginning, I am sure the bullet holes in the car he used to maintain was his only reminder of all the horrors of the war. He was pretty quiet about all what happened to him for years, until one of our family gatherings about thirty years ago when he opened his soul and told us the most of what happened in those four years and especially couple of those last months in 1945 when he headed back home on foot. 

I only found two of his photos that appear to be from his imprisonment and I was genuinely surprised that there were any at all. The one with the notebook is the most interesting and by knowing him also not surprising. Who knows, maybe out there somewhere is still waiting to be found that very notebook which possibly contains one extraordinary journal along with couple of potentially untold stories he may have taken with him to the grave, and not told to anyone.

Anyhow, what reminded me of my grandfather and inspired me to write all this was the latest Mark Sullivan's novel "The Last Green Valley", a historical fiction following a remarkable story of one displaced family and their unfortunate and in the same time amazing adventure from the last year of the second world war. It really was one great novel with astonishing feeling composing after each page turned. It simply left me speechless after the last one. 

While we are at historical fiction I warmly recommend two more titles in the genre, Mark Sullivan's "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" with similar heartbreaking story from the same period in northern Italy and Ken Follett's "Hornet Flight" with war adventures based on real events in occupied Denmark.

In the Footsteps of Pino Lella:

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