New Internationalist

Esma’s Secret

December 2006

Sara plays football with boys, gets in trouble at school, bunks off, and is touchy and unappreciative. Her mother, Esma, struggles with two jobs – she needs the money to send Sara on a school field trip. But something doesn’t quite ring true. This is Sarajevo and, as Sara’s father was killed fighting in the war for Bosnian independence, she should only have to pay a nominal fee. Esma, though, never gets the certificate needed.

When we discover why, this well-told story of everyday life becomes something deeper and darker. War doesn’t end when the bullets stop flying, its traumas eat away lives and pass down the generations. The ending is hurried and unconvincingly upbeat but this is a bold and otherwise compelling study of a horrifying but common aspect of war.

This column was published in the December 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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