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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 6 reviews
on March 10, 1999
Who are refugees? People who fled the wars in Bosnia and Croatia are scattered in Missouri and Ontario, Germany and Austria, Israel and Pakistan, and they are displaced to other towns within their own countries. They are not voluntary emigrants whose bags are packed with hopes in search of a dream. They may be wealthy, or at least they may once have been. The refugee cleaning floors for minimum wage may have been a surgeon in her own life. The eight-year old girl may be the only one in her family who has learned English, so it is only she who can speak with government officials and store clerks. Refugees are anyone and everyone. They are professionals and farmers and little boys and criminals and poets, but mostly they are women and children and the elderly.
The Suitcase gives voice to the people "without context". They speak of their dreams and their losses. Their poems are here and sad scenes of small things washed away forever by tides of war. "War taught us a lot. How the fear makes people irrationally greedy. It is difficult to resist becoming greedy. It is almost like an instinct. To possess, to hold on to something. In shelters, to hold on to somebody. To hold on to your prayer, even if you never prayed before". Some refugees long only for the day when they can return to their hometowns to begin to reglue the shards of their old lives. Some can speak only of Bosnia's beauty or the pleasures of a cup of coffee with friends.
Others close and lock the door on the past with determination. "We arrived here safely. Everyone is fine. Please do not write us or try to contact us. We do not want to be reminded of anything", reads the postcard sent by a Bosnian family after they arrived in Canada in 1994.
The book is well-edited and well-organized along five broad themes. These are followed by three powerful afterwords, of which Dubravka Ugresic's is the strongest as she muses on the fact that the people of the Balkans are one people. Divided by the same language, they look alike, and yet "not one generation in the Balkans manages to escape war, in every family there is at least one killer and one killed, new life only begins on somebody else's dead head." There is one minor error (p.11, Vukovar was attacked in 1991, not 1992).
The Suitcase rings powerfully and true. The simple message here is that refugees are people, and the lives they lead are but a shot away for us all.
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on August 17, 2016
Required for college class.
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on December 3, 2013
This book seriously brought tears to my eyes. My boyfriend was born in Bosnia, but left during the Bosnian/Serbian war.
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