A Place Called “Istria” / Un Luogo Chiamato Istria

This is Istria. My father was born in the middle of this heart-shaped peninsula, and he lived in Rovigno, now called Rovinj, on the western coast.

 
 
 

This is Istria. My father was born in the middle of this heart-shaped peninsula, and he lived in Rovigno, now called Rovinj, on the western coast. 

Translating the diary obliges me to learn more about World War II, European history, politics, and linguistics. I’m not a historian, but there are certainly many well-informed and educated historians out there who have written many informative books and articles. I will include links to websites and articles if you’d like to learn more about Istria during this period.

What you should know is that Istria has been part of many countries, republics, and empires over the centuries—right up to today’s modern Croatia. Its population has and continues to represent many diverse and sometimes opposing ethnicities, cultures, religions, and political views.


In thinking back on World War II, it’s easy to streamline the two sides as simply the Allies versus the Axis powers. In actuality, in this region, there were many sub-groups and factions divided by ethnicity (Italians, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, etc.), religion (Roman Catholics, Orthodoxy, Muslim), and/or political beliefs and movements (Fascism, Communism, irredentism, an so on).

These sub-groups had their own agendas, and took advantage of political alliances, skirmishes, revolts, and political deals to move their agendas forward. Even today, the history of WWII in this region brings up strong memories and emotions for many people of many ethnicities, who lived through and remember these events.

The diary begins in 1942, so WWII will provide the background context to the story. Translating a document written in this place and time requires acknowledging certain events no matter how terrible, regardless of who was ultimately responsible for them.

Many events took place in the region that are not widely known: the execution and murders of Italians in the foibe sinkholes; the mass exodus of 350,000 Italians to Italy, the United States, Australia and other countries; the reassignment of border lines that literally cut through the Istrian region—and sometimes people’s kitchens—to create Yugoslavia.

Until the Syrian refugee crisis of today, the Italian exodus was one of the largest—but least known—refugee crises in history.

Historians and academics are still studying World War II and its effects on Istria and the surrounding regions to this day. It was only in 2004 that Italy officially created the Giorno del Ricordo, or The National Memorial Day of the Exiles and the Foibe, held each year on February 10 to remember those who fled, and those who could not.

Please, learn more about Istria and the region. And remember, the diary was written by a child, albeit a very intelligent one. The views expressed in the diary are not meant to be interpreted as blame or victimization. Instead, let’s consider the diary a window to the past, and what life as a child was like, growing up in such a time as World War II.

 1910 Census, Percentage of Italians - By it:Utente:Wiskandar (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

1910 Census, Percentage of Italians - By it:Utente:Wiskandar (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons