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90 miha mazzini fiction That Winter Adapted with the author from a translation by Tom Priestly 91 The prisoners released before me had flown home from The Hague in airplanes sent for them by their states. I was the first one who wasn’t a national hero. The guard just handed me a train ticket to Sarajevo and some pocket money for travel expenses . I greeted him with “Tot ziens” and he answered with “Tot nooit, hopelijk!”— an unsubtle indication he didn’t want to see me again. In the train I couldn’t take my eyes off the window: moving, everything was moving . Houses, cities, gliding by, going away, a constant flow of change after eleven years of immobility. Waiting for another train in Düsseldorf, I felt like a ghost returning to the world for the first time. I moved out of the way of a person talking to himself, a sure sign of madness at the time of my imprisonment, whereas now everybody had headphones and their mouths were empty of cigarettes. After Munich the landscape got more and more orderly. Austrians took symmetry and tidiness for beauty, their windows vomiting carnations from houses built to last forever. The train entered the tunnel and came out in Slovenia. I expected to see the big steel factory, once the pride of Yugoslavia , but only one chimney still stood, covered with ads for supermarkets and foreign brands. Nobody entered my compartment— Slovenia was now part of the EU and there were no more border policemen or customs officers in Europe. But at the Croatian border I was asked for my papers. A pair of Slovenian officers browsed my​ 92 ecotone documents: “Den Haag—The International War Crimes Tribunal for crimes committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.” They looked momentarily bewildered, until the policeman, still a kid, sucked air into his spreading chest, soaking his words in venom. I looked into his eyes and the air left him. His partner, the customs officer, elbowed him out the door. The Croat officers didn’t know how to react and quickly went away; they had their own war with the Muslims and some of their heroes had been my prison buddies. When the train stopped in Zagreb, I bought myself some newspapers . The Croats had buried one of their fascist commandants from the Second World War. In his camp they had killed at least seventy thousand people. Though he fled to Argentina after the war, escaping hanging, he had been in prison, unrepentant, for the past decade, after having finally been extradited. At the funeral the priest said the prisoner had slept peacefully throughout his life, since he knew that God had forgiven him everything. The train entered Bosnia on the Serbian side of the country and when I offered my papers to the officers, they stood at attention, saluting me like windup toys, while they retreated backward. The staff of the small border station started walking up and down the platform, pretending to be running errands, stealing glances through my window. I dug into the corner and shame covered me like an icy blanket. The Sarajevo train station looked forlorn , as though no one had used it since the war began, sixteen years ago. Cigarette smoke drifted from the cafés in front of it. I waited on the abandoned platform until my bus arrived and I almost ran for it, my head lowered. I had not called anybody in my village to let them know I was coming. The last time I had seen my former wife was in court, on the witness stand. She was talking about how she had begged me to dissolve the factory but I had beaten her into silence. I stopped listening to her. The knowledge that this must be the same lie my daughters were hearing from her I had not called anybody in my village to let them know I was coming. The last time I had seen my former wife was in court. 93 miha mazzini dripped from my heart through my body like acid, leaving just burnt hollowness inside. For her testimony she got a change of identity and...


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pp. 90-106
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