Early Memories

My earliest vivid memory, strange as this might seem, was of my grandparents and other relatives, but not Mum or Dad. We were sitting on the ground under the cherry tree on a rogozina (a mat made from corn stalks that was used as a ground cover). There, my grandfather was teasing me and trying to embarrass me by trying to pull my shorts down. I was trying to get away from him by walking along the 5-6 cm in diameter corn stalks of the rogozina without losing my balance. I must have been three years old then and the Civil War had finished. Dad must have been away working in the fields or else he was making arrangements to go to Australia. Mum on the other hand had a bad infection in her ankle and was away most of the time seeking a natural cure after being told that her leg needed to be amputated if she wanted to be cured by a standard medical procedure.

That is why I don't remember Mum and Dad under the cherry tree with me.

Memories of Dad are vague and uncertain. I can just see now a faint but uncertain vision of a person dressed in a military uniform kneeling next to me and saying good bye to me. If that was Dad going off to another tour of duty, I would have been less than two years old and not able to remember clearly, or I could have confused this scene with the sketch on the front page of our first grade reader which depicted a soldier kneeling down close to his son and saying good bye to him as he went to war; this was approximately at the age of five years and is more likely to be the correct memory. I still remember the first grade reader, possibly the only book the school had. It was a poorly resourced school, so much so that our village was receiving food aid. We were given powdered milk amongst other essential items including rubber shoes made by the American rubber company "Dunlop" for the cold wet winters. The American aid agencies helped us with food and essentials while the British Air Force bombed our villages. The powdered milk was an insult to us as previous to the Second World War and Civil War we were producing enough milk for our own consumption and selling the excess milk in the nearby town. I didn't drink that powdered milk which was made by mixing water with the powder, because it looked like lime to me - the white watery paste that we used to white-wash the outside of the house.

Dad (front row second from left) with the partizani. After nine months with the partizani Dad escaped whilst on guard duty; he ran down the river so as not to leave footprints in the snow. It is thought that it was then that Dad caught pneumonia which later developed into T.B.

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