by John Ost

A War Diary

Today, fifteen-year-old Zlata Filopovic (below), Sarajevo's most celebrated diarist, writes for herself. She lives with her parents in Dublin, Ireland now and keeps the kind of journal she has always wanted to keep."When I started writing a diary when I was eleven, I wanted it to be something you would open up twenty years later and laugh about," says Zlata. "Then war came and everything changed. No more parties, no more happy times, no more friends. It became a war diary. I just wanted to write down notes. But it became a place to express myself. Paper can be a great friend."

Published around the world as Zlata's Diary, the book offered a teenager's unvarnished view of urban war. It also allowed her family to leave Sarajevo and move first to Paris, then Dublin. Zlata says she likes Dublin, that people have made her feel welcome, that she's made new friends at school. But the war holds on. A few weeks ago, Zlata's 75-year-old grandfather died, a result, says Zlata, of living without electricity and too little heat for so long. "It's been very hard for all of us, especially my mother," she says. "We could not be there when he died, could not attend the funeral. We could not even put a flower on his grave."

Last June, as the featured guest of an online chat for Kidlink--an Internet network of 60,000 students and teachers from forty-five countries--Zlata spoke of many things, from her experience of spending much of the past few years in the basement to her favorite band (Pearl Jam). She also talked about her grandparents. "Why did your grandparents stay in Sarajevo?" one teenager wanted to know. "Because as they say," replied Zlata, "you cannot replant an old tree."

Another asked: "What was the worst experience you had to cope with in Sarajevo?"

"I don't know," responded Zlata, "because for me, the war was like one day where each second was terrible. Maybe when my mother went out, and she didn't come back home, or when my friend was killed."

Now that Bosnia is back on the evening news, Zlata often sees film footage of the place where she was raised. It is ravaged, battered, and scarred, but she keeps in her mind images of what she calls "old Sarajevo," a city she remembers as "one of the most beautiful places in the world." She says she doesn't know when or if she an

Copyright © 1995 Discovery Communications, Inc Photos:John Ost; P.Robert / Sygma