I learned how to read when I was four (the first born, precocious, perfectionist, most inquisitive-read:annoying-child). My fascination with words took me on a path of writing. I didn’t choose the path; it chose me. Once the snowball started on its trek downhill, nothing could stop it. I didn’t want the exposure – I was a very shy kid. But I was always the one “elected” to write a report on a field trip for the school newspaper. They always chose me to compose and deliver a speech for holidays and visiting dignitaries. I once had to write a eulogy for a lesser city official I did not know. When I read it, with the quivering voice of a twelve year old, everybody present, including me, cried.  I discovered the magic and power of words.

In seventh grade I won a state essay competition and received a beautiful set of books for young adults. When I was a sophomore in high school, my essay won in a contest sponsored by government and army. I went to the capital city of Belgrade to receive my reward after a cocktail hour with the mayor and some high-ranking government and military types (and no, I did not indulge – even in Serbia, fifteen is a bit early!). My prize was a hardcover set books of one of our best writers, Mesa Selimovic. This literary event brought me nothing but a deluge of love letters written by soldiers in the Yugoslav army (which was mandatory for all males – the military, not the love letters – as soon as they turned 18, unless they were enrolled in the University). My essay was featured in the army-issued magazine, along with my photo from the party. Enough said for the morons who organized it.

I ran our high school radio station. The local newspaper featured some of my articles, and I even hosted several quiz-shows (I shudder just remembering my 80s attire).  I tried to stay behind the radar, but THEY alway found me. College days offered me a place to hide – after all I majored in foreign languages (English and  Italian) and Literature. My Aunt, the editor of the Novi Sad radio night program tried to enlist me in live-radio, but after one try I ran, without once turning back.

I kept writing. It was my exit, my therapy, my upper or downer, depending on circumstances. Nobody saw my words but my friends, loved ones, and family. I married an American, skipped the continents, and found a new home in the U.S. I have a box full of letters from Serbia, filled with humor, love, tears, and memories. I sent the same back.  I was separated from my family and friends by a formidable ocean, but the words, flowing back and forth, kept us together, laughing, crying, despairing, and winning.

Living in another country I was haunted by memories, smells, melodies of home. I missed my town, I missed my friends, I missed my family. At some point I decided I would write a book connecting the present and the past. I have a million stories to tell. This blog is the beginning.

Contact me at lana {at} ahungrypen {dot} com.