Split WWII Refugee Tales: A Diary for Puse (Part XV)

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Part XV of A Dairy for Puse continues on April 27, 2016, the latest installment of a mother’s diary to her daughter from 1919 – 1953, capturing a moment of Dalmatia and Dalmatian exile in history.

Start at the beginning with Part I here


March 12, 1936


However, this year, Puse has a new admirer, an Italian boy. This is how we discovered it. One evening, she borrowed the Italian grammar book from Vojko and started to write exercises and asked me to correct them. What for? Tired of school and learning, she writes exercises a 9 pm? I don´t understand at all – the more because Italian is not a school subject. Finally we discovered the reason. Puse tells us herself. She says – a really fine young man, and he loves to study too.- Again, one who likes to study!

“And how do you talk to him, if you don´t speak Italian? I ask.
“I don´t, we do not know each other yet.”
“You don´t know each other, but are already learning Italian. How come, that you two did not meet and you know all about him being a fine young man?”
“Well, it is because I like him, so I don´t want to meet him.”
Mum is very astonished. “Why not?”
“Because”, says Puse, “I want to be conquered.”
Mum was shocked. In these few words, Puse said more than enough. So Puse is proud, thank God, my Puse – I thought – no need for mum to worry about you. Your instinct will lead you better than all those moral preachings of your mum and your aunts and all of your teachers, who believe that anything can be achieved by a constant pecking.

Just have a watchful eye, never impose anything by force, but explain everything, that is, I think, the best way of raising a child, and what is the most important, to give a good example and when asked, never lie to a child.

With some children this is easier to do, than with others. ivo and Braco understood better, when I scolded them, but even if scolding, it has to be appropriate to the delict and the word that touches the heart hits home more than anything.

Puse came to me one day to tell me, that she met the Italian. It was because, the VII grade is throwing a party, where all students will dance a quadrille, which they need to learn, so he with other young men, came to be the gentlemen. And all the sudden, the Italian-language-learning stopped, because he speaks a good Croatian, he passed an elementary school in Split and, actually, he is from Split.

At the party, Puse had to dance a solo ballet part of the Chopin Waltz and a Slavic dance. She prepared for a month and a half with her still favourite Ms. Katić. The programme consisted of a choir singing, a few patriotic outbursts, even pitying of the poor Istria was not missing. And then, like a playful butterfly, Puse flew in, in her vibrant dress, performed her two great dances, received a mighty applause and flowers and had to repeat the Slavic dance. The Italian, who initially had to travel to Bologna for his studies that day, extended his stay, so he can dance the quadrille and was one of the enviable partners. Puse flew to me for a moment and whispered to me: “Mum, do you like him, isn´t he handsome?” Indeed, a dark, tall, handsome young man, not at all looking like an Italian. How could he, when his ancestors from his mother´s side are our people and he looks just like her.


Franco Dalmas


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