My Family and Other Enemies
Life and travels in Croatia's Hinterlandby Mary Novakovich
My Family and Other Enemies: Life and Travels in Croatia’s Hinterland travelogue – travel journalist Mary Novakovich explores her family’s history in Lika in her native Croatia, recalling childhood visits and frequent trips over the years. Part travelogue, part memoir, it is also an exploration of identity for people with more than one ethnicity.
About this book
My Family and Other Enemies is part travelogue, part memoir that dives into the hinterland of Croatia. Mary Novakovich explores her ongoing relationship with the region of Lika in central Croatia, where her parents were born.. ‘Lika is little known to most travellers – apart from Plitvice Lakes National Park and the birthplace of Nikola Tesla’ she says. ‘It’s a region of wild beauty that has been battered by centuries of conflict. Used as a buffer zone between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires for hundreds of years, Lika became a land of war and warriors. And when Yugoslavia started to disintegrate in 1991, it was here where some of the first shots were fired.’
Shipped off to Lika as a child during the supposedly golden years of Tito to stay with relatives she barely knew, Novakovich has been revisiting Croatia ever since, researching the story of her family’s often harrowing life: in 1941 her aunt was the only survivor of Serbs massacred by Croatian fascists; and her mother saved her grandmother from being buried alive when she was thought to be dead from typhus.
Amidst adversity there is resilience and laughter, too, with plenty of light to balance the shade. Eccentric and entertaining characters abound, showing typically sardonic Balkan humour. And, this being the Balkans, much of daily life revolves around food, which features prominently. Throughout, aspects of Croatian history that relate to Lika are woven into the narrative to give the story some much-needed context. And in recounting her own family’s tumultuous history, Novakovich opens up a world that is little known outside the Balkans, telling the stories of people whose experiences weren’t widely reported at the time, when the devastation in Croatia was superseded by the Bosnian conflict and media attention moved elsewhere.
About the Author
Mary Novakovich is an award-winning freelance journalist and travel writer based in Hertfordshire. Since 1999, she has been focusing on travel writing and contributes regularly to UK publications including the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Times, Evening Standard, The Lady and many others. She also broadcasts radio reports for the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent. During this time, she has written extensively about the countries of the former Yugoslavia, in particular Croatia and Serbia. Both her Serbian parents were born in the Croatian region of Lika, which she has visited numerous times since her first visit in 1976. Although she has written several guidebooks to Croatia for Insight Guides and Berlitz over the years, My Family and Other Enemies is her first travelogue. Here she combines her travels in the region of Lika with a memoir exploring her family’s complicated and often tragic history in Croatia.
‘Tender, moving and beautifully written. Mary Novakovich makes the recent history of a turbulent region come alive in a book that is a joy to read. Highly recommended.’
Peter Frankopan, author of The New Silk Roads
‘Vivid, charming and bursting with life, My Family and Other Enemies is a tender and affectionate portrait of an area unknown to most of us, an area I’m now desperate to explore. I loved it.’
Christina Patterson, author of Outside the Sky Is Blue
‘A moving, bittersweet memoir of loss and belonging – and of one woman’s search for identity.’
Marcus Tanner, editor of Balkan Insight and author of Croatia: A Nation Forged in War
‘Mary Novakovich’s exploration of her family’s experiences in a Serbian enclave within Croatia inevitably confronts some of the darkest chapters of recent European history, yet it brims with an infectious love of the landscape, the people, their culture and cuisine – and of life itself.’
CJ Schüler, author of Along the Amber Route: St Petersburg to Venice
‘When I walked through the Lika region of Croatia, following the Bora wind, I met a shepherd who boasted of the strength of Lika people (and Lika dogs). Reading Novakovich’s enjoyable book, I now understand what he meant. My Family and Other Enemies is a fascinating exploration of a region that proudly sets itself apart, a journey through culture, history, landscape – and of course through family.’
Nick Hunt, author of Outlandish: Walking Europe’s Unlikely Landscapes
‘Mary Novakovich leads us through the past – from an 11-year-old city kid thrown into primitive village life on a first trip to Croatia, though the years of trauma as Yugoslavia disintegrated – to a more hopeful future for a corner of Europe so blessed with beauty and humanity.’
Simon Calder, The Independent
Additional InformationTable of Contents
Part 1 Summer 1976
Part 2 May 2004
Part 3 June 2009
Part 4 September 2011
Part 5 July 2015
Part 6 June 2019