THE BOMBED FOREST
This morning Papuk was awoken at the crack of dawn, but not from birds chirping or squirrels clicking - a reconnaissance plane was searching over Papuk this morning, an ominous vulture in that dreary first light.
And round about the peak and its rugged sides ruby flares spread like blood into the branches of the firs, scarlet in the crimson dawn, as if snarling wings had cast over Papuk a bleeding squadron of fire.
The forest collapsed. Appalled and shaking, it roared and death flowed from the air like fiery rain. Lightning felled trees centuries old. Lucifer danced through Papuk and all its hell. Demons shrieked and shrieked all day, demanding the Partisans from the heart of the inferno.
But the heart they sought - in the mighty bosom of the mountain with its immense heartbeat - from it lashed hundreds of flaming arrows. From it shot thousands of thunderbolts, and the vultures slanted and slid. They overturned and fell in flames into the fiery forest.
The wounded forest screamed appallingly: the cries of frightened deer and howling wolves by the thousand, in pain and with panicked voices. In the lake of fire flowers seemed to bloom, an inferno hissed from the surging flames, yelping and reeling.
All day Papuk was shaken, thundering and booming, all day Lucifer danced beside Papuk.
But now it is quietened and, as the day wanes, the glowing fires, in a hundred colours proud and exquisite, quiver in the forest, my mother.
And at sunset, Partisan songs sweep through it like an inexhaustible fountain. Along the slopes the column of soldiers moves out into the lowlands. They will go into action at night – the cycle of history is still turning. Above Papuk the fires die in the evening.
On rainy evenings we used to walk through the muddy factory town beside the Danube, Jelice, my blue-eyed girl - both tired from work.
But now you’re a fighter in the brigade of the Slavonians, my factory girl, the apple of my heart, whom I met on the slope of the mountain after many years. You used to be a child of the suburbs, the daughter of a fisherman.
Our meeting would be brief: a warm handshake.
- in the camp.
- unploughed weeds.
But the column of soldiers is moving on now. Again the brief grip of the hand, the regard in her blue eyes, lit up with joy. The warm trembling voice and sweet smile, like a fragrant, blossoming rose.
Jelice, my blue-eyed apple girl, my partisan rose with the wild hair, my fragrant quince in the blushing dawn, in pearls of dew.
My small hero.
Long ago you already entered the mountain peaks and I am still, for a time, down on the plains.
Through the forest glades and dewy shrubs I have a vision that the sun sent me your fragrant and dancing hair in greetings of golden ribbons.
A PARTISAN LETTER
Fireflies! In the bruised dawn the warm gold invigorates them. We are resting in the high mountains beside the forest. In the top of the beech tree, whose pearl overflows, a rooster is crowing at dawn and a blackbird plays on its silken flute.
The entire night we were in a hellish shootout and now we are in a meadow full of flowers. We are celebrating gladly by the woods and up the hill is heard the song of our comrades.
Hey, what are you singing about? About yearning, that like a barque sails through the soul. Oh, when I have a voice and when I sing the blood of my heart would pour into our song.
But you know how much I think about you, while my exertions mock me in the whistling shots and spattering shells, and death that follows them swiftly. My dear darling, this moment I am embracing you. This moment I care for you like a loving parent.
Oh, how I would love in any way to come to you, to lay your gentle head on my chest and shower you with kisses. After so many days and nights, my desire, my early dawn, my most beautiful flower among flowers!
Here in the sky the morning star is fading with all its grains of dazzling gold. Its name is dear to you, and so you are to me.
And the bird from our nest, our small son, our little treasure?
I heard that for fourteen nights and days you endured devastation while the mountains of Slavonia burned, with our toddler in a sling in your arms. The poor little thing, our white dove. Slavonia was a blazing sea. The villages were on fire, the bushes choked. Ancient forests – our mountain jewel and the shield of our land – all were swallowed in a fiery hell.
Oh, how you are, my sufferers? It was severe for you. Did the little one cry a lot? Where are you now? – for black sorrow gnaws at me. Over and over again I hope that I will meet you somewhere in some village, some refuge or on some Slavonian road. Your eyes are looking for me. My heart expects you.
Daddy! – some little orphan piped up yesterday as, all happy, he twitched my moustache. The grandmother scolded him bitterly but, to me, while I was caressing the golden strands on the child’s head, brimming tears trembled in my eyes – and I saw in my thoughts your two dear faces.
by Josip Cazi 1941
At the first sight of our free homeland I sunk my head into the juniper bushes.
The morning smoked and froze. It expanded over the bay and the partisans held their rifles cocked in their arms behind a rocky outcrop.
Oh, free woods! Oh, free mountains! My native land!
I am kissing you, naked cliffs, full of zeal and joy like the son returning home to his old mother.
Hey! To the forest where the timid deer runs,
Where he smells the firs and the green pines.
To the hills where all wounds are healed,
Buds like flowers, in sunny freedom.
Hey! When would you come to me, my comrades, and rejoice, and with bowed head kiss the free cliffs over our bay.