When the Croatian War of Independence breaks out in her hometown of Vukovar in the summer of 1991 she is nine years old, nestled within the embrace of family with her father, mother, and older brother. She is sent to a seaside vacation to be far from the hostilities. Meanwhile, her father has disappeared while fighting with the Croatian forces. By the time she returns at summer’s end everything has changed. Against the backdrop of genocide (the Vukovar hospital massacre) and the devastation of middle-class society within the Yugoslav Federation, our young narrator, now with her mother and brother refugees among a sea of refugees, spends the next six years experiencing her own self-discovery and transformation amid unfamiliar surroundings as a displaced person. As she grows from a nine-year old into a sparkling and wonderfully complicated fifteen-year-old, it is as a stranger in her own land.
Applauded as the finest work of fiction to appear about the Yugoslav Wars, Ivana Bodrožić’s The Hotel Tito is at its heart a story of a young girl’s coming of age, a reminder that even during times of war—especially during such times—the future rests with those who are the innocent victims and peaceful survivors.
IVANA BODROŽIĆ was born in Vukovar, Croatia, in 1982 where she lived until the Yugoslav wars started in 1991. That year her father disappeared while fighting for Croatian independence and she and the rest of her family moved to Kumrovec, where they stayed at a hotel for displaced persons. In 2005, she published her first poetry collection, The First Step into Darkness. The Hotel Tito, her first novel, was published in 2010, receiving high praise from both critics and audiences and becoming a Croatian bestseller. She has since published a second poetry collection, A Crossing for Wild Animals, and a short story collection, 100% Cotton.
ELLEN ELIAS-BURSAĆ is a translator of fiction and nonfiction from Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. She has taught in the Harvard University Slavic Department and is a contributing editor to the online journal Asymptote. She lives in Boston.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.