THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
Whenever I think of Zavidovići, where my father, when I was six years old, went on duty, by decree of the Ministry of Labour, and mum and I joined him, so many images fly in front of me that I can’t believe I spent there only about a year. Both beautiful and ugly, the images rush and change before my eyes just as everything I looked at and saw, with my face glued to the dirty train window glass, rushed and changed in front of them, when we travelled in that direction, to my uncle’s or grandfather’s place, getting off on a station before or after Zavidovići. These images reach and overtake each other just the same as in the cinema, when the film broke, and the projectionist didn’t notice it until everyone in the cinema hall started whistling and clapping their feet, making the film images reach and overtake each other, cover each other and double. Many tracks, turning points and signals at the Sarajevo train station. Suburban houses becoming smaller and rarer. The gardens around them getting larger. The meadows. The forests. The river. The sky. The clouds in the sky and in the river. The iron railings on the bridge. The lonely small station where, passing by, the train didn’t even slow down. The river again. Forests. Maize. Sunflowers. Houses. A place to meet. Train station. Brakes creaking. Station crowds. Some, overloaded with things, get on the train with difficulty. Others, equally loaded with suitcases, bags, cardboard boxes and bundles, get off of it with even greater difficulty. The train dispatcher’s whistle and his hand raised high with the sign. Increasingly faster and louder knocking of the wheels. In the rhythm of daddy’s words, which he sang in a low voice whenever he returned home from a trip: “When-I-get-home-and-I-lift-my-wife’s-legs”. Fences from wooden electric poles. Darkness. Tunnel… And the same thing again, but different.
Once, while travelling to my grandfather’s in Bradići, just as the building of the old railway station in Vinište, where my uncle lived, disappeared from my sight, the train stopped abruptly. Some objects fell down, and those who were standing, preparing to get off, fell back, onto their seats or in the laps of some of those who were sitting, travelling on. Hitting my head against the glass, when swarms of fireflies flew before my eyes, I saw a large white board which, in black letters, said: Zavidovići. I remembered the name of that place for a long time after the big lump disappeared from my forehead, which, before it completely healed, changed many colours, from red, to blue, to greenish-yellow.
Now too I hear how, just as the first time we got off the train in Zavidovići, the white crystal pebbles sprinkled in front of the station building crunch under my shoes. The same ones which they used to sprinkle, and still sprinkle, in the gardens of the old taverns, over which chestnut crowns usually cast their shadows. I see my mother who, holding my hand, and carrying a large leather suitcase in the other one, in high-heeled sandals, walks as if on eggshells. I see the factory chimney from which thick smoke emanates and from which, every first day of the month, exactly at noon, the penetrating siren is sounded. The administrative building high tower of the “Krivaja” wood industry, at the top of which the director Vadnjal lived, a Slovene just like my father, after his eponymous father. The entrance to the sawmill, on which there was always a popular slogan, written on a white canvas. LONG LIVE 1st MAY, THE DAY OF THE REPUBLIC. ZONE A, ZONE B, BOTH WILL BE OURS. WE’LL GIVE OUR LIFE, WE WON’T GIVE TRST. A GRAVE IS BETTER THAN BEING A SLAVE. LEARN, LEARN AND ONLY LEARN – Lenin. And other quotes. Signed by Marx, Engels, Tito. In front of that entrance, I watched with my own eyes, in 1952, how the bear-like porter returned all the women who had a necklace with a cross around their necks. Mostly women from the surrounding Catholic villages. And that refusal of entry into the factory meant that there, not only that day, they had no place ever again. That they had been fired. Some, I saw it, while waiting that morning in the long line in front of the gate, managed to take out the necklace with a cross and hide it. But that didn’t help. Because the party secretary, standing one step away from the porter, with his legs spread and stiff as if being a monument, ordered every woman to extend her hands, as we had to in the hygiene classes, showing if our nails were cut. Not a small number of women had a blue small cross tattooed on their arm. It couldn’t be taken out and hidden, so they too, together with those to whom the porter tore the necklaces from their necks, cutting in and letting blood to many of them, returned with their heads bowed and weeping. I see the long alley of old plane trees along the workers’ colony, on both sides of which there were houses resembling one another like an egg to an egg. Flocks of crows that landed on the high crowns and, emitting croaking noises, took off from them. As if big black leaves were falling in the sky. Loud, squeaky speakers were hung on those plane trees, and with my own ears, like the others in the place, stiff, where the voice of the speakers had caught them, I was listening the broadcast of Boris Kidric’s burial. I see the green coloured iron fountains between every second house, from which, even after a strong pumping, before the first jet of water, only a loud stream of air came out for a long time. I see the Bosna river, in the summer, almost dried up and the bathers at the mill damn, including my father and my mother. He, in red Tarzan shorts, with a white vertical line in the middle, which were tied from the side, jumped from the willow hanging over the water, and she, lifting her slip, slapped through the shallows, submerging her legs only to the ankles. And I see the river in autumn, the colour of cocoa, swollen high. How it floods the bridge, threatening to take it away.