Mira Furlan - Introduction to the letter

Pismo sugradjanima
A letter to my co-citizens



I was born in the city called Zagreb, in the republic of Croatia, in the country called Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. In the eighties, upon meeting my husband Goran who was studying in Belgrade, the capital of the republic of Serbia as well as the federal capital, I tried to live my life between these two cities. For many years I was a member of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb. I performed in theater, film and TV all over Yugoslavia, including Belgrade. Just before the war started in our country, I found myself in a play in Belgrade. While we were rehearsing our version of Corneille's "Theatrical Illusion", creating a production with a clear and strong anti-war message, furious war propaganda on all sides was diligently doing its job, trying to turn people against each other, passionately searching for internal enemies, in order to homogenize masses against the enemy.

But who exactly was the enemy? My fellow actors in the Belgrade theatre? My Serbian neighbors in Zagreb? My own husband who – so they told me – was of Serbian descent? I couldn't grasp it. I was unable and unwilling to accept the new rules: ethnicity as the main and most important element in our lives; the simple, random fact of belonging to a certain ethnic group as the key to all our loyalties, to all our choices, to our whole existence. That "inability" cost me my job and my career. I wrote this open letter before packing my four suitcases (and my whole life) and leaving all that I knew for the absolute unknown. A couple of weeks after publishing this letter, Goran and I landed in New York and began a new life.

Mira Furlan
October 2012

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