Tito’s Lost Children War Three: Historical References

Tito’s Lost Children is an alternative history series set during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It asks the question: what if Maršal Tito, Yugoslavia’s strongman, had secretly named a totally untested successor? The main characters and plot are fictional. However, they are set amid the real historical events of the Yugoslav Wars, and the characters often encounter real historical figures. Below I take a battle-(chapter)-by-battle look at some of the real history behind War (book) Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can find similar posts related to books one and two here and here.

Hopefully I won’t give away too many spoilers, but if you really mind them, consider yourself warned! Let’s get started.

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Battle One: The Return. During the more intense shellings of Sarajevo, the patients at the Sarajevo hospital had to be moved to the basement as the wards were too dangerous. The Serb forces took over the main power plant of Sarajevo, largely depriving the city of electricity. This included the water pumps, leaving the city without running water.

Battle Two: A Meeting with the President. President Slobodan Milošević of Serbia is, of course, historical. His connection with Predrag is totally fictional. President Alija Izetbegović and General Divjak are also historical. The plan they hatch with Hristijan is made up my me. All of the locations are real places that have been as faithfully represented as possible, though I based the floor plan of Mojca’s apartment on the flat I rented during my first year living in Slovenia, which would have been built at about the same time. Mojca’s apartment in Sarajevo, however, has the bad luck to front on a road called the Vojvode Putnika – present day Zmaja od Bosne. This was the infamous Snipers’ Alley during the siege of Sarajevo.

Battle Three: The Defenders of Srebrenica. Srebrenica was one of the four main Bosnian Muslim enclaves surrounded by Serb forces, during the war. The UN fact-finding mission to Srebrenica, led by General Morillon, is historical. So are most of the ensuing events related to it – minus Mojca getting a gun pointed at her. Nasir Orić, one of Srebrenica’s head defenders, is historical as well. It is generally true that some Mujaheddin forces did come to fight with the Bosnian ones. There were also fighting units of the BiH army that were Muslim in their orientation.

The prison in Belgrade is fictional.

Battle Four: Under Siege. I must credit the descriptions of daily life under the siege of Sarajevo, and the ‘hacks’ that Jovana’s neighbors come up with as ways around shortages of basic items, as largely being informed by Barbara Demik’s Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood.

The Vance-Owen peace plan that Predrag mentions is historical, as is the Bosnian Serbs rejection of it. Cave bars in the Belgrade neighborhood of Savamala are a thing. Shady money changers flourished in Belgrade during the war, due to rampant inflation. The White Eagles paramilitary really did exist. The mission Predrag sends them on is, of course, fictional.

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A 500 billion dinar banknote: barely enough for a few basic items due to inflationary spending.

The young couple that Hirstijan meets while on a ‘water run’ to the Sarajevsko brewery is heavily based on Boško Brkić and Admira Ismić, the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ of Sarajevo. I elected to leave the couple in the book unnamed.

Beyond general things like the presence of the United Nations Protection Force, and signs that say ‘look out, sniper!’ all of the characters and events in Mojca’s ‘siege’ are fictional.

Battle Five: Bastards’ Revenge. The resort of Sveti Stefan and the Villa Miločer are real places and you can go there. Slobodan Milošević and his wife, Mirjana Marković, really did have two children named Marko and Marija. Their presence at Sveti Stefan at the same time as some of the main characters, and the ensuing mayhem, is fictional.

The peace talks on the HMS Invincible, a British aircraft carrier, are historical. The treacherous dirt path going up Mount Igman was the only way to get in or out of Sarajevo and into to government held territory over-land for most of the war.

Battle Six: Maršal Tito and his Mistress. Milovan Djilas and Davorjanka ‘Zdenka’ Paunović were real people. They were, respectively, a member of Tito’s inner Circle, and Tito’s mistress during World War II.

The Roman Well cistern in Belgrade and Njegoš’s tomb in Montenegro are real places (Indeed, the latter is where the author got the inspiration to write Tito’s Lost Children!). There really is a bunker built during the 1950s in Belgrade’s Kalemegdan Fortress. On a visit to Belgrade, I was told that there are rumors that another one that might have been built with access to the Roman Well. Anything about imprisoning Zdenka inside said rumored bunker and the ensuing vendetta is made up by me.

Battle seven: Building Bridges. The iconic stone bridge in Mostar really did get blown up in November 1993. The Croat and Bosnian government forces did turn on each other even as they were both fighting the Serbs, until the Washington Agreement ended this conflict-within-a-conflict in February 1994. Part of the Croats’ and Bosnian Muslims’ common front line with the Serb forces really did run, more or less, along the Neretva River valley gorge. I may have exaggerated how precisely it did and/or how much of a no-man’s land it was for dramatic effect. The situation of the feuding Croat and Bosnian Muslims refugees that Mojca and Hristijan must escort up that river valley gorge on their way to Sarajevo, is based on the forced population flows between Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Croats. The justifications given for the two groups enmity are based on the historical conflicts in the region. However, the feuding refugee group itself is fictional.

Battle Eight: The Marketplace Racketeer. Food racketeering was rampant in Sarajevo during the siege. The mention of the siege and fall of Vukovar is historical.

The Palace of Yugoslavia – today’s Palace of Serbia — is very real. The Serb war summit that takes place there in the book is fictional. However, there is some evidence that the Serb leaders did premeditate ethnic cleansing in Bosnia to some extent.

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The former Palace of Yugoslavia, now with a modern ‘I love Serbia’ hashtag in front of it.

The shell that fell on the Sarajevo Marketplace in February 1994 is historical, as are Bosnian Serb claims that the Bosnian government forces were, in fact, responsible. In real life, international investigations into where the shell was fired from proved inconclusive.

Battle Nine: June Twenty-Eighth, 1994. The coup against President Milošević is completely fictional. However, the Topčider command bunker is very real. As mentioned above, the second bunker in Kalemegdan Fortress is rumored to exist. It is likely based on the one that has already been discovered there, and serves as the basis for Milošević’s bunker in the book.

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Underground bunker in Belgrade’s fortress, with sunken stairwell and supply delivery outlet.

Battle Ten: Ostrog Monastery. The Ostrog monastery is real. Anything about Serb paramilitaries showing up and shooting at it is not.

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Ostrog Monastery, perched in a cliff side on the Zeta River

Battle Eleven: Flight. Ostrog Monastery getting shelled with artillery fire is just as fictional as paramilitaries shooting at it. Zlatko’s reference to “the camp at Foča” is a reference to one of the most infamous rape camps during the war.

Battle Twelve: The Hunting Party. Having been on it, I can confirm that the road which winds along the Piva River is indeed treacherous. General Kurvić and anything he did to Mojca’s family is fictional. However, I very loosely based his position and war record on the real Drina Corps Chief of Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska. He was one of the first men to be tried for war crimes by the ICTY.

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The road along the Piva River to the Hum border post, barely wide enough for the bus to fit on.

I should note that the title of this chapter and the mention of the village of Čelebići is a shout-out to a movie also called The Hunting Party. It makes a good, funny watch, especially if you are, or grew up around, TV journalists and like dark humor. But, I digress…

Battle Thirteen: Verdi Rewritten. The Kanli Kula amphitheater is a real place. Dobrica Ćosić was a Serb nationalist writer and president of Yugoslavia. Anything about him completely retooling an opera to make it a Serb propaganda version of the main characters’ adventures is, of course, totally fictional.

Battle Fourteen: Scorched Earth. The October 1995 ceasefire is historical, as is the reference to the summer 1995 massacres at Srebrenica and Žepa. Milošević’s plans to use the ceasefire as a smoke screen to gear up for the full-on invasion of Bosnia and the massacre all of all non-Serbs is fictional. However, in real life, many Serb paramilitaries remained active during the ceasefire and the CIA did uncover evidence that Serbia was trying to secretly resupply the Bosnian Serb forces, despite Milošević’s dubious assurances to the contrary. General Mladić is historical.

Milošević’s plans to become the next Maršal of a Serbanized Yugoslavia, after the fictional invasion, are also fiction. However, in real life he later did leave the office of President of Serbia to become the president of rump Federal Yugoslavia, which I suppose is the next closest thing. So, who knows? Maybe those were his plans?

Battle Fifteen: Reunited. All events and characters are fictional.

Battle Sixteen: Dayton. The Dayton peace talks, Richard Holbrooke and General Clark are, of course, historical, as are all the events that one of the characters participates in, including: napkin shuttle diplomacy, the PowerScene virtual maps machine gambit and the thirty-seven minute ‘peace agreement’. I based the dialogue on the descriptions of these events in Holbrooke’s memoir To End a War and The Death of Yugoslavia, one of the most authoritative accounts there is of the Yugoslav Wars. The Bosnian Foreign Minister is also historical.

Battle Seventeen: Into the Deluge. The Rajska Dolina Hotel is a real place in the Jahornia ski resort near Pale. It served as the seat of the Republika Srpska’s parliament during the war. Dr. Karadžić is, of course, historical. Anything about an overly paranoid twenty-something sticking a gun in his face and ordering the entire Bosnian Serb leadership evacuated from the hotel is totally fictional.

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Pale: the Bosnian Serb’ wartime capital. Rajska Dolina Hotel in the hills above.

The renewed siege of Sarajevo, as well as the post-Dayton Serb invasion and ethnic cleansing of government and Croat held Bosnia are fictional (See Battle Fourteen). During World War II, the First Proletarian Brigade really did retreat over Mount Igman.

Battle Eighteen: Republic Day. The title of the chapter is a reference to November 29th, when the action in the chapter takes place. It’s the anniversary of when the partisan leadership declared that there would be a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia if they won World War II. It was one of the most important holidays in Yugoslavia.

All fighting, duels, attempted assassinations and other events are fictional.

Peace. All events are fictional. However, the location where the final scene of Tito’s Lost Children takes place, overlooking Sarajevo, is very real. If you haven’t read book three yet, I’ll leave you to guess what happens here:

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The setting for the final scene of Tito’s Lost Children, except at sunset in May 1996.

 

Tito’s Lost Children War Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina is available here.

 

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Tito’s Lost Children: Inspiration and Acknowledgements

When I got off my Air Montenegro flight in Podgorica during the summer of 2017, I still thought I that would go into academia. I was set to defend my PhD in Brussels, where I was living at the time, in only a few months. I had come to the Balkans for summer holiday.

Fate had other ideas. There were a lot of things on that trip that led to the moment when I saw, in indefinite terms, what became the Tito’s Lost Children trilogy laid out in front of me: walking the walls of Dubrovnik for the first time, heading to the town of Trebinje in Republika Srpska, standing in the courtyard of the Cetinje Monastery, gazing up at the cliff-perched Ostrog Monastery, standing on the beach before the resort island of Sveti Stefan….

More than any  of the others, though, I’d have to say that the idea for the Tito’s Lost Children trilogy hit me like a ton of bricks while I was standing on the dais behind Saint-Poet-King Njegoš’s tomb. I remember walking up the covered concrete stairways toward the tomb on the summit of Mount Lovćen. Speaking with the tomb’s caretaker, him telling me how Njegoš and Slovene poet France Prešeren were both, in some way shape or form, advocates of Yugoslav unity. He spoke Serbo-Croat and I spoke in Slovene. Then I went into the tomb itself, with its large obsidian statue.

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The large stone statue of Saint-Poet-King Njegoš.

Finally, I walked out onto the dais. All of Montenegro was spread out before me. It just clicked: What if Marshall Josip Broz Tito had named a successor, ordained to try and keep all of Yugoslavia’s nationalities together after his death? I saw the whole story in a flash: a young woman suddenly faced with an overwhelming undertaking and responsibility, her country-bumpkin, scrappy brother, their hard-fighting but mute sidekick, a hung-out army captain determined to win redemption in the eyes of his father. I had been coming to the region for years; it was like I’d never seen that the (very fictional) story was just sitting here, waiting for someone to tell it. I knew what I had to do.

At the time, a friend in Ljubljana was moving to a bigger flat. He had offered to connect me with has landlord. At first I declined, telling him that I planned in remain in Brussels at least for the time being. Shortly after my return from Montenegro, I decided that I would take the plunge. I contacted him again. By December the newly minted Dr. Anžur Clement had moved to Ljubljana. So, thanks to that friend for presenting the opportunity that brought me to Slovenia, the country of my ancestors where Tito’s Lost Children was penned.

Writer in Ljubljana

Ljubljana in winter, with the Historical Fantasy series that I finished before starting TLC.

Thanks as always to my mom, who is my first-line beta reader. She is first to tell me if a draft has gone off into left field. With Tito’s Lost Children she not only did that, but she also proved quite useful to bounce ideas off of, drawing on her years of experience as a journalist, editor and her memories of reporting on the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. Indeed, the character of Mojca would not have been as rich and complex if it weren’t for her suggestions early on. Thanks to my Dad as well. You both have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process of my moving to Slovenia to pursue my writing career.

Near Postojna Cave, Slovenia

The whole family, on a cave adventure near Postojna, Slovenia

For Tito’s Lost Children, I was also fortunate enough to find a superb copy editor and proofreader, when my old one proved unavailable. She always makes sure that I spell the names of the towns right, when writing in English about a place where I understand the language results in a sort of cognitive dissonance. She was nice enough to be okay with it, when I accidentally sent her an earlier version of book one. She whipped the manuscript right back into shape.

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Additionally, thanks to my friends here in Slovenia, who proved largely supportive when I told them that I wanted to write an adventure story set during the breakup of Yugoslavia, even though I grew up a continent away. In many cases you were willing to share your own personal stories and even offered a few corrections when I got a detail or two wrong. You’re input doubtlessly improved the text. And, to my PhD supervisors who, in addition to putting up with me during my PhD, made me a good enough researcher to pull off writing these books, if I do say so myself. And, to one of my best friends from high school, who created a monster: you know what you did.

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Finally, my most sincere thanks to my readers; especially those who have taken the time to not only read Tito’s Lost Children, but to have found this. I hope you had as much fun reading Tito’s Lost Children as I had writing it! Thanks for reading the stuff that comes out of my sometimes-crazy head. If you’d like to let me know what you thought, the best way is to leave a review here on Amazon.

Tito’s Lost Children War Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina Launches!

Like the title says, the final book in the Tito’s Lost Children trilogy, War Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina is finally out! It’s launching at 99 cents until the end of November 5th, when the price will go rocketing up to $2.99.

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As part of the launch, Book One,  which relates to Slovenia’s Ten Day War, will be free. Book Two, which takes place during some of the most heated parts of the ensuing conflict in Croatia, will be 99 cents.

All three promotional prices will last until the end of November 5th, when all three books go back to their regular price of $2.99.

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Don’t miss this chance to get all three books in the alternative history trilogy that dares to ask the question — What if Marshall Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia’s strongman, had named a totally untested successor? — for less than the price of one.

10 Interesting Facts about Slovenian Independence

My latest spot on Total Slovenia News. This time, I talk about some interesting things that I learned about the Independence of Slovenia, the country where I live, during the process of doing research for Tito’s Lost Children, an alternative history of the breakup of Yugoslavia:

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I talk more on TSN about my inspiration for writing Tito’s Lost Children War One: Slovenia Here.

A Brief Serbo-Croat/Slovene Pronunciation Guide

Most of Tito’s Lost Children theoretically takes place in some combination of Macedonian, Albanian, Serbo-Croat and Slovene. However, the characters talk and narrate the story in almost the same way that modern day twenty-somethings would in English. The reason for this is simple. I write in English; I want the characters snark and sarcasm to shine through. However, to give the books more local ‘color’, I have maintained all of the original spellings of names and places, unless there is a generally accepted English place name, such as Belgrade (in place of Beograd). This means that a lot of the names might look like a mouthful to many native English speakers. Fear not, reading words in Serbo-Croat or Slovene is easier than it might look.

Below I give a brief overview of how to pronounce words in Serbo-Croat and Slovene. Then I give examples of how to correctly say some of the names of the major characters in Tito’s Lost Children: Book One.

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Road signs in the town of Pale point the way to Sarajevo and Goražde in both of Serbo-Croat’s Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.


The Serbo-Croat and Slovene alphabets:

For some, Serbo-Bosnian-Croat words like Baščaršija (the central neighborhood of Sarajevo) might look a little too intimidating to even take a stab at. However, in many ways knowing how pronounce a word is easier in Serbo-Croat or Slovene, than it is in English or French. This is because, once you know what a few new letters mean and are aware of the sounds that some of the other letters are for, you basically say what you see.

The vowels:

The vowels in Serbo-Croat or Slovene are easy. Both languages use the same five European vowels that you would learn in a French or Spanish class: A-E-I-O-U. There are no long vowels, and no nasalized A’s (like the first A in ‘Aspire’), as often occur in American English.

The ‘special’ consonants:

There are three letters in Slovene that are not found in the English alphabet. They are:

Š = SH

Č = CH

Ž = ZH, like the S in ‘Treasure.’

Additionally, Serbo-Croat has two more (I only use one of them in Tito’s Lost Children for purposes of simplicity; there is an accepted way of transliterating it, which is sometimes used in Croatian.):

Ć = ch(i). This is quite similar to the English CH, except it is slightly ‘softer,’ as though there were an ‘implied’ I sound at the end of it. To teach yourself how to make it, stand in front of a mirror and say CH while smiling over and over until you hear the difference.

Đ/DJ = basically like J in ‘Jug’, or G in ‘Giraffe.’

The other consonants:

Most of the remaining consonants make the same sounds as in English. However, there are a few important exceptions, which hold for both languages:

C = TS, like in ‘Tsunami.’

J = Y, like in ‘You.’ (Except when it appears after D, as above).

R = All R’s are rolled, like RR in Spanish.

H = Kh, or like the ch in ‘loch.’ Basically, it is a guttural sound in the back of your throat.

 

From the above we have our answer: the Sarajevo neighborhood, Baščaršija, is actually phonetically pronounced Bash-charr-shi-ya.

Examples from Tito’s Lost Children:

Let’s get practical with some examples of the characters’ names from Book One. Some of them, such as Zlatko, or Predrag, the Serbs who are after the main hero, are relatively straightforward and are pronounced almost the same as in English. Others, such as Jovana, the main heroine, require a little more adaptation: Yo-va-na, instead of like the English Jo-Ana.

The other main characters’ names are a bit less straight forward:

Hristijan, Jovana’s adoptive brother, is pronounced Kh-rris-ti-yan.

Mojca Kovačević, their friend and sidekick, is Mo-yi-tsa Ko-va-che-vich(i).

The pronunciations for some of characters that the main protagonists encounter in Book One are as follows:

Nataša is pronounced Na-ta-sha.

Duško is is pronounced Du-sh-ko.

Jure is pronounced Yu-rre.

Djordje is pronounced Ge-orr-gie.

Janez Zupančič is pronounced Ya-nez Zu-pan-chi-ch.

Antonija Mohar is pronounced An-to- ni-ya Mo-kharr.

Milan Kučan, the former president of Slovenia, is pronounced Mi-lan Ku-chan.

You get the idea from here on out. Hopefully, knowing a bit about how the names and places in Tito’s Lost Children are correctly pronounced makes the books more concrete and enjoyable. At least it does for me. Happy reading and tongue twisting.

Researching Tito’s Lost Children

Tito’s Lost Children is an alternative history fiction series set during the 1990’s breakup of Yugoslavia. It may be obvious that  creating and writing it required doing a lot of research. In addition to my extensive travels around the western Balkans, writing and developing the story and characters often consisted of investigation into how things would have been in the Balkans during the 1990’s, in addition to tying to figure out what meeting the real life historical figures I depict in the novels would have been like.

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A lot of the resulting research consisted of watching old footage of things like the Slet following/during the Yugoslav Youth Relay, and the Slovenian independence ceremony. However, there are also a number of non-fiction works that greatly shaped Tito’s Lost Children. Below we’ll take a look at some of them and I’ll talk a bit about the trips I made specifically to do research for Tito’s Lost Children, followed by some pictures of the locations that might hint at what happens on in Book Three, without giving anything away:


The Literature:

The Death of Yugoslavia by Laura Silber and Allan Little is my ‘bible.’ A well-thumbed copy sat next to my computer at all times while I was writing Tito’s Lost Children, and it’s still there as I write Daughter of the Federation, the sequel to Tito’s Lost Children in case I need to refer back to it, even though the sequel is set mostly in Brussels, Belgium during the 2010’s. The Death of Yugoslavia is perhaps the seminal work written in English on the wars. It serves the historical backbone for the events that occur throughout the novels. At times, such as Slovenia’s declaration of war in Book One, or the conversation between the news anchor and President Izetbegović of Bosnia and Herzegovina, during his kidnapping in Book Two, as well as his rescue, are inspired by the quotes of actual conversations chronicled in this work, as are the events surrounding Hristijan and Mojca’s ordeals in Srebrenica in March 1993.

Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival after World War Two by John Corsellis was indispensable to my understanding of the conflict between the partisans and the Domobranci (Home Defenders) in Slovenia during WWII, the legacy of which rears its head once out heroes make it to Slovenia in Book One. It helped to shape the ending of Book One and the Slovenian characters, Antonija and Janez, that our main heroes meet once they make it to Slovenia. I read it by chance while cat-sitting for a friend in Bled; I was glad I did. The plot of Tito’s Lost Children Book One would not have been the same without it.

Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood by Barbara Demick provides an enthralling and informative account of what it was like to live through the siege of Sarajevo. While I studiously avoid depicting any of the real-life people described in the book, or the street itself (except for one vague reference to a concrete building at the top of a hill in Book Two), it provided a lot of the details regarding what it was like to live during the war and the siege. Many of the everyday references, regarding the positions of the Serb forces surrounding the city come from this book (in addition to maps from the Library of Congress). Jovana’s vignette during the chapter entitled “Under Siege” in Book Three heavily draws on Logavina Street’s accounts of day to day life under the siege. It has been helpful not only for that, but also for providing details about what it was like to live in the region at the time, sneak out of Sarajevo etc…

To End a War by Richard Holbrooke is a memoir penned by the man who negotiated the Dayton peace accords, bringing an end to the war in Bosnia. It provides an inside account of the negotiating process and was helpful as a look into what some of the main political leaders in the region, such as presidents Tudjman, Izetbegović and Milošević, were like in person. Of course this influenced the entire series, especially Books Two and Three. My depiction of the Dayton negotiations themselves in Book Three (if not the completely fictional context surrounding them) is largely informed by To End a War, including the shuttle diplomacy with restaurant napkins, the PowerScene  Scotch drinking session, and the fallout from the ‘peace agreement’ that lasted thirty-seven minutes.

Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia by Richard West is by far the best historical overview about the origins of ethnic/religious tensions in the region. It helped me to better dramatize and explain simply why there isn’t much love lost between ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia.

The Hotel Tito by Ivana Bodrožić. It’s an autobiographical, first person novel about an internally displaced Croatian girl during the wars. It was great character research for one of my protagonists (if you’ve read some of Tito’s Lost Children, you might be able to guess which one), who has a similar back-story, but with way more skeletons in the closet.


The Field Research:

I live in Ljubljana, have Slovene roots and have been travelling to the region of the former Yugoslavia for over ten years, having been to every country that used to be a part of it. In the beginning, my travels were the inspiration for the books, not the other way around. I got the explicit idea to write Tito’s Lost Children while on a family vacation in Montenegro and southern Croatia in the summer of 2017. The inspiration for it struck while I was standing on the dais behind Montenegrin king Njegoš’s tomb on Mount Lovćen. I spent the rest of the trip creating the characters and envisioning them inhabiting striking places like the walled city of Dubrovnik, the Sveti Stefan resort island and the cliffside Ostrog Monastery, all of which my characters visit — or revisit — in Book Three.

Mount Lovcen panorama

The author gets the inspiration for Tito’s Lost Children atop Mount Lovćen.

Since then, my research trips to Sarajevo and the Bosnian Serb wartime capital of Pale were valuable for location and character research, as well as my trip to Belgrade in June 2019 as I was preparing to write Book Three, the conclusion to the Tito’s Lost Children trilogy. It should be out during October 2019.

Below are a few pictures from my research visits to Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, some of which might hint at what happens in the final installment. I also have a pic of where the final scene takes place, but I think I’ll save that one for later…

 

Tito’s Lost Children War (Book) One: Slovenia is available here.

Tito’s Lost Children Book Two Historical References

I’ve said it more than once and I’ll say it again: Tito’s Lost Children is a work of fiction and all of the main characters are completely fictitious. However, many aspects of the books are inspired by real people, places and events. Let’s have a chapter by chapter look at some of the real history that War (book) Two: Croatia is based on.

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Battle One, The Cult of Personality: As I mentioned in an earlier post about the historical inspirations behind Book One: Slovenia, Franjo Tudjman, the president of Croatia, is historical. He was accused, in some circles, of emulating Tito’s cult of personality in order to consolidate his power. The Carrington Plan is historical as well. The Cetinje monastery in Montenegro’s former capital is very real.  The Serbian warlord Arkan and his Serbian Tigers paramilitary stayed there while they helped lay siege to Dubrovnik. Miroslava, his fictional bastard daughter, references this in the book.

Cetinje monistary

Cetinje Monastery: a base for Arkan’s Tigers where Zlatko recruits Miroslava

Battle Two, The Battle of the Barracks: The title makes reference to the fight that resulted from the Croatian police forces surrounding the Yugoslav People’s  Army garrisoned in Croatia in their barracks. The JNA forces in Gospić tried to bust their way out, resulting in the destruction of most of the town. The character of Colonel Čavar is historical; it is true that the commander of the barracks was found dead after the JNA surrendered to the Croatian forces, though it is arguable whether he was killed by his own troops, or whether the Croatian forces killed him. The book gives its own answer to this, later on in battle four.

Battle Three, Causalities of War: The specific photo-op that occurs with the wounded soldiers at the Zagreb train station is fictional. But, the scene was inspired by a Slovene friend’s memory of being at the train station in Zagreb at the time and seeing the wounded soldiers there. The siege of Vukovar and the fighting in East Slavonia, which occurs in the background for much of book two is historical. While we never go there in the books, Vukovar comes back in a big way in book three. Sorry, I can’t give away more without major spoilers.

Map of vukovar siege

JNA actions in Eastern Slavonia Sept. 1991 – Jan. 1992

Battle Four, Daggers in the Back: The Yugoslav Air Force bombed the Croatian presidency building in real life. The plotline related to the Croatians rigging their own presidential palace to explode as a publicity stunt is fictional, but inspired by Serb accusations that the Croatians had really had done that, rather than admit to the bombing. The succession of Macedonia is historical. Anything about President Tudjman getting a gun stuck in his face by a really pissed off twenty-something is, of course, completely fictional.

Battle Five, Island Lessons: Barren Island and the remains of the Yugoslav political prison on it really do exist, as does the resort island of Sveti Stefan. The family Predrag protects and their situation is completely fictional.

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The author stands in front of the beach where Predrag got his bichaq dagger growing up

Battle Six, On the Run: The state of the bridge between Rab island and the Croatian mainland is historically depicted, though in real life the road was mined. I took a bit of dramatic liberty with our heroes’ escape on the ferryboat. The ferry, too, would have been within range of Serb artery on the front lines.

Battle Seven, The Hrvatska Dubica Massacre: The Hrvatska Dubica massacre is historical.

Battle Eight, The Gypsy Way: Trebinje and the hills between it and Dubrovnik are very real. The National Opera of Niš is fictional, through I did loosely base the physical theater and its location off of the Sindjleć theater in that city. The siege of Dubrovnik and the positions of the Yugoslav forces are historical.

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The hills  near Trebinje on the BiH/Croatian border. Try getting over these mountains…

Battle nine, The Cold Reality: Predrag’s description of the ruined house that he is staying in is consistent with what Serb paramilitaries often did to the homes of non-Serbs when they ethnically cleansed a village. Anything about deflecting bullets with electromagnetic knifes is totally fictional, though an engineer did tell me it could work.

Battle ten, The Convoy of Peace: There really was a convoy of peace led to Dubrovnik by a ship called the Slavija One. In reality it was headed up by Stipe Mesić, the President of the by-then-defunct Federal Presidency. It was filled with journalists and dignitaries, many of whom spent their time in the ship’s bar and was stopped in the Mljet channel by the People’s Navy. Jovana’s actions in the book are based off of Mesić statements and actions during this stand-off, as is the captain’s attitude, except Mesić didn’t also have to deal with a drunk and misbehaving adoptive brother at the same time she was negotiating passage!

Battle eleven, The Siege of Dubrovnik: Refugees from the surrounding villages did flee into besieged Dubrovnik as the JNA advanced from Montenegro. Not a single boat was left afloat in the harbor of Dubrivnik’s old town by the end of the siege. The specific shelling of Dubrovnik is fictional. As for that secret cache of experimental Yugoslav weaponry that Hristijan finds out about? Well, you’ll see…

Battle twelve, Objekt 505: Objekt 505 — the Željava air force base — is historical; Serb forces really did blow it up. The television program that Mojca is watching at the beginning of the chapter is also historical. The reference that Duško makes to President Milošević of Serbia unseating the president of the SAO Krajina is based on real events, as well. The evidence that Jovana discovers of US-Yugoslav collaboration on the space program is fictional. Actually, I put it in as a shout-out to the mocumentary ‘Huston, we have a problem,’ which is worth a watch if you want to see another alternate history of the region.

 Battle thirteen, Roads to Sarajevo: The Bosnian Serbian Autonomous Oblasts mentioned in this chapter were the precursor to Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity that fought the Sarajevo government.

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Serbian Autonomous Oblasts that would later band together as Republika Srpska.

Battle fourteen, Sarajevo, We Have a Problem: Warren Zimmermann was indeed the US ambassador to Yugoslavia and he did meet with Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović at the same time their ‘characters’ do in the book. Shortly after, Izetbegović declared Bosnian and Herzegovina independent, leading to theories that Izetbegović was encouraged to do so at the meeting. The reception held for Zimmermann at Sarajevo’s national library is made up by me. It is true, however, that at the war’s outset, President Izetbegović was reluctant to believe that there would, in fact, be a war. The Bosnian Presidency members Fikret Abdić and Biljana Plavšić are historical; so is the ethnic cleansing of Bijeljina by Arkan’s Serbian Tigers and Mirko’s White Eagles. The Banja Dvorovi spa complex is real. Civjetin Mijatović, another World War II hero with the partisans, is historical as well.

Battle Fifteen, The Council of National Salvation: The Council of National Salvation really did happen, minus my fictional characters, of course, as did the Serb takeover of the police academy on Vrača hill. The woman Jovana sees get shot as part of the resulting demonstrations is implied to be the first causality of the siege of Sarajevo. The Sarajvsko Brewery was one of the only two major factories to remain in production throughout the siege of Sarajevo, the other being the Drina cigarette factory. The house the General Aksentović gets on Jekovac street is a real place.

 

Battle sixteen, “I believe I Have Been Kidnapped.”: President Izetbegović really did get kidnapped by the JNA after landing at the Sarajevo Airport on 2 May 1992. His conversation with the anchor on the news has been represented faithfully. Zlatko’s plot for the kidnapping to be part of a take over of all of Bosnia is, of course, fictional; though some evidence may suggest that Fikret Abdić did attempt to take power and form a quisling regime with Serb support. He denies these allegations. Generals Kukanjac and MacKenzie are historical, as is the incident where the latter mistook Muslims for Serbs in Lukavica, while trying to rescue Izetbegović.

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The JNA offensive in Sarajevo on the day of President Izetbegović’s kidnapping.

Battle seventeen, A Question of Unity: The character of General Divjak is historical. The Bosnian forces really did try and stop the JNA when it attempted to leave the Sarajevo barracks. The voice that yelled “Talks tomorrow are out of the question” over General Divjak’s walkie-talkie has never been identified. So who knows, maybe it could have been Hristijan? The fight in the Sarajevsko Brewery’s basement is made up by me.

Battle eighteen, Civil War: The measures taken at Sarajevo’s Koševo hospital during a shelling have been represented as faithfully as possible. The Serb forces did have a position on mount Trebević, where Predrag is observing the besieged city, about to go back to Belgrade. We will get to meet his father — President Milošević of Serbia himself — in War Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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All novels in the Keepers/Voyages universe now in one ebook!

With Tito’s Lost Children Book Three: Bosnia and Herzegovina probably launching sometime in October, I’ve decided that now is the time to bring out all six novels set in the Keepers of the Stone historical fantasy universe together in one omnibus.

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It’s available here on Amazon, or here basically everywhere else (Ibooks, B&N, Kobo). Now is the chance to get it at the limited time price of $0.99 before it goes rocketing up to $12.99 on September 4!

 

Tito’s Lost Children. War Two: Croatia Launches

War Two: Croatia, the second installment in the Tito’s Lost Children series is here!

 

It’s launching at the special discount price of $0.99 down from $2.99, so grab it while you can before the price goes back up on July 21st.

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As part of the launch, Tito’s lost Children. War One: Slovenia will also be FREE on Amazon through July 20th. Now is the perfect chance to try out this action-packed alternative history series that dares to ask the question: what if Maršal Tito, the strongman of Yugoslavia, named a completely untested successor to take over for him?

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Tito’s Lost Children Historical References

 

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I’ve written this as a sort of companion to Tito’s Lost Children War (book) One. One of the things I enjoy about writing these books is the idea that a story like this could have happened in the real world, in real places that you can go to. So, to give the book more of a grounding in real history, the identification of certain historical events and persons may prove helpful and interesting to readers.

Let me start by saying that the books which comprise Tito’s Lost Children are novels. The main characters, Jovana, Hristijan, Mojca, Predrag and Zlatko are fictional, as are their actions and (mostly) those of the real historical figures they encounter. However they sometimes also encounter real events and people that were important to the breakup of Yugoslavia.  I will point some of these references out by chapter (battle). Hopefully, it won’t give too many spoilers if you haven’t read the book, but if you really mind them consider yourself forewarned. Here goes:


Battle One, Ohrid Trout: All of the news the characters mention happening in the background of their lives is historical. The village of Vevčani really exists and tried to declare independence as it’s own country after Macedonia became independent, because the inhabitants didn’t like the idea of being surrounded by ethnically Albanian villages.

Battle Two, Government in Exile: The parliament of Kosovo really was shut down and subsequently met secretly in Kaçanik. Jusuf Zejnullahu did serve as the prime minister of its self-declared republic for a time during the early nineties. His actions in the book are, of course, fiction.

Battle Three, The Partisan’s Granddaughter: General Popović was a real person and was considered a war hero in Yugoslavia. The First Proletarian Brigade was a real fighting force in the Second World War; it’s continued role in the books is fictional. So is the character of Mojca’s grandmother.

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Near Dubrovnik, where Jovana discovers the true purpose behind her upbringing.

Battle Four, The Brigade: The design of the 1974 Yugoslav constitution that created the Presidium has been presented as faithfully as possible, though Jovana’s role in Yugoslavia and the ‘secret’ amendment to that constitution are, of course, completely speculative.

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In Book One our heroes must make their way from Ohrid, Macedonia to Ljubljana, Slovenia on the opposite side of the country.

Battle Five, Our Lady of Medjugorje: Medjugorje is a real place, as are the things in it like Cross Mountain. Some of the people there who claim to have visions of the Virgin Mary, continue to have them on a regular basis.

Battle Six, The Serbs of the Krajina: The Serbian Autonomous Oblast of Krajina and the Log Revolution are historical, as are President Babić and Police Chief Martić. The rest of the characters are fictional. The JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) did aid the Krajina Serbs, though in the story, the extent of the aid at that specific point in history may be exaggerated for purposes of simplicity.

Battle Seven, The Croat of Knin: The declaration that Duško wants Jovana to give her support to is historical. The fighting and stealth techniques that Jure (and others) practice are completely made up by me, but the knives they use are real kinds of knives, as is Hristijan’s and the Serb Cutter.

Map of the Serbian Autonomous Oblast of Krajina (in red).

Battle Eight, Duško’s Gambit: The Pakrac Clash is historical and has been presented faithfully. While it is true that the Krajina Armed Forces did persecute Croats on its territory, the specific ‘tax’ Duško mentions is fictional.

Battle Nine, Plitvice Lakes: The Serbs’ Meeting of Truth and the conflict that occurred at Plitvice Lakes are historical, as is Milošević’s/the JNA’s attempt to call a state of emergency in Yugoslavia. The Croatian combatant who dies so that Hristijan and Jovana can get away is implied to be the first person to die in the Yugoslav conflicts. The Veliki Slap is a real place, as is the waterfall that plays a role in the story on the way to it.

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The Veliki Slap (Big Waterfall), Plitvice Lakes

Battle Ten, Yugoslav Youth Day: The House of Flowers is where Tito is buried and Kumrovec was where he was born. The existence of Yugoslav Youth Day and the Slet are historical. However, as the fictional mayor of Kumrovec states in the book, the specific ceremony and baton relay differs somewhat from how a ‘real’ one would have looked, while still being based on it. The Serb Volunteer Guard and Arkan are historical, though the daughter Predrag mentions is fictional.

Battle Eleven, Bura: The Bura windstorm is really a concern in north west Croatia and costal Slovenia. The bunker Jovana hides in is a reference to the bunkers that the Albanian totalitarian dictator Hoxha ordered built all over his country. The place where Predrag likes to brood in Belgrade is real, though the specific statue  is fictional (there’s a different statue there).

Battle Twelve, Galeb, or the International Community : The Galeb was Maršal Tito’s personal yacht, and it’s location at the time has been faithfully presented. The Navy base’s Admiral is fictional. The arena in Pula is very real. President Poos is historical as well, though his visit to Yugoslavia at that time is fictional. The Metelkova barracks are a real place, which today (fun fact!) is no longer a military compound but Ljubljana’s main alternative culture hub. General Aksentović is fictional, as is his love of Šljivovica, though I very loosely based his character on one of the real top JNA commanders in Slovenia at the time (If you’re that interested in which one, they share the same initials).

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Inside the Pula arena

Battle Thirteen “Živi naj vsi narodi…”: Admiral Mamula and President Kučan are historical. Kučan’s speech at the Slovene independence ceremony has been faithfully depicted, though not in its entirety. It occurred in present-day Republic Square. The other the parts of the ceremony were fictionalized.

Battle Fourteen, The Partisan and the Domobranka:  The story of Prešeren and Julija is historical and the line Hristijan says to Antonija after almost falling in the river is a reference to one of Prešeren’s poems about Julija. While the characters of Antonija and Janez are, of course, made up, the conflict between the domobranci and the partisans during World War Two was very real. The domobranci were persecuted by the victorious partisans right after the war, and having family on the ‘losing’ side of the conflict is still considered something of a stigma  in Slovenia today. The extent to which it causes problems for Antonija more than forty years later in the 1990’s may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect.

Battle Fifteen, The Ten-Day War: In real life, Slovenia’s president and defense minister can’t agree on who gave the order to fire on the JNA. The helicopter that Mojca’s sees get shot down is historical as are the peace talks that she mentions Jovana is attending in Zagreb.

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The view from Shoemakers Bridge where Mojca ends up during the Ten-Day War.

Battle Sixteen, The Holmec Incident: The fighting at Holmec really did happen and the border crossing really did get torched.

Battle Seventeen, Triglav:  All the trivia that Jovana gives about Mt. Triglav and Aljaž Tower is true; it is said that you are not a ‘true’ Slovenian if you have not climbed Triglav once in your life. Anything related to ending the Ten-Day War from its summit, or the JNA trying to renege on the ceasefire by cutting the phone lines to Ljubljana is, of course, totally made up by me. The Brijuni Agreement formally ending the war, however, is real.

Battle Eighteen, RAM: The RAM plan, as depicted in Tito’s Lost Children, is semi-real. It is known that something called RAM existed, but the content has never been revealed. While the specific contents of it in the book are speculative, it is however, known that the Serb leadership did premeditate much of the ethnic-cleansing, especially in Bosnia. The base Jovana is training on is fictional, though the Slovene Territorial Defense Force did have a training facility near Ljubljana. President Tudjman, who Janez mentions, is historical and we will meet a fictional personage of him in War Two: Croatia.

Tito’s Lost Children War One: Slovenia is available here.

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