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Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo

Zlata’s Diary begins as the daily record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl who spends her days taking her lessons be it piano classes, tennis lessons, choir practice, or English lessons at her Auntie Mika’s. Soon life, known to her for school and birthday parties, became engulfed by war. She became a witness to food shortages, deaths of her friends, deaths of her pets, and family friends. She dreaded taking shelter in the cold and dark cellar. For an eleven-year-old, she suffered a lot. Hunger. Pain. Violence. However, she remained optimistic and hopeful through it all.

Her entire childhood is taken away from her and she starts seeing herself as a “Wartime Child.” Even though Zlata was a child but she was smart enough to understand that the politicians and forces responsible for war are nothing but ‘kids.’ She simply failed to understand how politics worked and why ‘kids’ would choose war over peace. Her views on war are very simple yet powerful/thought-provoking “…the pencil of war which spells only misery and death” and she understands how senseless war is.

She expresses anger and despair on several occasions, writing “I really don’t know whether to go on living and suffering, to go on hoping, or to take a rope and just . . . be done with it.”

This diary gives us the chance to see the war through the eyes of a child. One of the themes that stood out to me from this book is how wars change people. There were times when Zlata was worried about her grades, performances, and birthday parties. As the war started her worries shifted and life became all about surviving. However, the child in her continued to wish to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s with cakes even if it was a WARTIME BIRTHDAY.

It made me ponder upon the events of the world and how children in Waziristan, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq must survive? The psychological scars of traumatic experiences stay with them forever and the fear of going through something like that again follows them forever like a shadow.

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