Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Goodbye Sarajevo review (spoiler alert)

When I turned the last page of Goodbye Sarajevo last week, I breathed a sigh of relief, but not because I was glad the book was over – I didn’t want it to end. I was relieved that I live in such a beautiful, spacious, and war-free country.

Goodbye Sarajevo is the true story of two sisters, Atka and Hana, who were torn apart by the Bosnian war in 1992 during the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, and reunited in New Zealand by the extraordinary kindness of a kiwi family.
In May 1992, 12-year-old Hana was put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing the city, while Atka, 21, was left behind in war-torn Sarajevo to look after their five younger siblings as their mother, working for a humanitarian aid organisation, was unable to reach them while their father retreated inside himself, shocked at what was happening to his city.
Amazingly, the entire family of 12 survived and later settled in New Zealand with the help of Atka’s husband Andrew Reid – whom she met during the war when he worked as a photojournalist – and his family.
The language and the pace of the book was absolutely perfect – not once did I get bored, which is rare for me, and the two different points of view really brought the story together in a way that lets the reader explore these two very different aspects of war – life in a war zone and life as a refugee.
I admired Atka for her courage in the way she did everything she could to keep her family alive and together, despite suffering from malnourishment, kidney stones, and an ill baby during the years of the war, and the raw emotion of Hana’s story balanced with her childlike positivity tore at my heartstrings through chapters that were almost like diary entries.
One thing I would have liked to have seen was a run-down of what everyone in that family of 12 is up to now, but who knows, there may be another book in the future.
I had the pleasure of meeting Atka and Hana earlier this year when I interviewed them about their book, and the thing that struck me most about them was their positivity towards life and the way they have created extremely successful lives for themselves, despite the pain they have been through which still shows in their eyes when they talk about it.
Atka worked as a journalist in Christchurch upon her arrival in New Zealand and later gained a Diploma in Graphic Design. Hana graduated from the university of Canterbury in 2002 with first class honours in law and a bachelor’s degree in Russian, and has since worked as a lawyer for a leading New Zealand law firm and, more recently, for a city law firm in London.
Just goes to show that there’s no excuse for not making the most out of your life – even if you’ve been to hell and back.

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