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Book Review | Zlata’s Diary

The people must be the ones to win, not the war, because the war has nothing to do with humanity. War is something inhuman. – Zlata Filipovic

Zlata’s Diary

Likened to a modern day Anne Frank, Zlata Filipovic provides us with a pre-adolescent’s first-hand account of the war in Sarajevo from 1991-1993. Written with both a childhood innocence and an adult-like perspective, Zlata’s Diary captures the hearts of readers, old and young alike.

Zlata’s diary pages contain a mixture of normal, everyday thoughts of a young girl regarding movie stars and famous singers and the deep philosophical musings of a child that has looked war in the face and grown up too quickly as a result.

It is filled with poignant passages such as:

The City Maternity Hospital has burned down. I was born there. . . The mothers and babies were saved. . . When the fire broke out two women were giving birth. The babies are alive. God, people get killed here, they die here, they disappear, things go up in flames here, and out of the flames, new lives are born and I keep wanting to explain these stupid politics to myself, because it seems to me that politics caused this war, making it our everyday reality. War has crossed out the day and replaced it with horror and now horrors are unfolding instead of days. It looks to me as though these politics mean Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. But they are all people. They are all the same. They all look like people, there’s no difference. They all have arms, legs and heads, they walk and talk, but now there’s ‘something’ that wants to make them different.

I couldn’t put this book down. I had to see how it turned out for Zlata. I had to keep reading to see what more she had to endure. I wanted to know how she, as a teen, just coming out of childhood, reconciled all the horror she had been through.

While the book made me sad to think of Zlata (and who knows how many other children and teens) living through such fear and sadness, it refreshed me at the same time. It reminded me that our children-teens can focus on things like movie stars and clothing, and yet in each of them there runs a thread of depth and maturity that we, as adults, are often unaware of. For most, that thread will not reveal itself. For others, like Zlata, because of what they have to endure, it will. When we, as adults, get to catch a glimpse of these deep threads, our hearts are touched to the point of tears.

Here is pain and here is beauty. Beauty born of pain. Painful beauty erupting from a child’s heart. You can not read of it and not be somehow changed. It causes you to look within yourself and examine if you could come through the same situation with as much gracious wisdom as Zlata does. Being confronted with it results in the heart becoming more contemplative about the things that really matter and profoundly grateful for the blessings that abound.

This book will grab your heart and keep it gripped long after you have finished it.

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