From coal miner to author
West Yorkshire native re-discovers his roots in the former Yugoslavia.
Born into the coal-mining industry, Andy Evans spent his childhood dreaming of another place, one not blackened by industry, but green and pure, the land his grandfather, Maksim Culumovic, had once called home.
Maksim was a ‘Displaced Person’. Originally from the former Yugoslavia, he had left his country of birth during the bitter fighting of World War II, where, in 1941, he had survived a brutal attack on his village that had left his neighbours, friends and the majority of his family ruthlessly slaughtered. The once peaceful community he had fought so hard to protect was destroyed in one single despicable act.
Following the horror of that day, he had left what remained of his family, including his older brother, Ostoja, his friends and everything he had ever known and after time spent in resettlement camps in Germany and Italy, Featherstone became his new home.
Like most of West Yorkshire, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Halifax had become home to ‘alien’ communities, encouraged over by a western power that had suffered heavy casualties in the war and needed a new workforce to run the heavy industry at home.
For the next 40 years, Maksim worked hard and built himself a new life, far away from the one he had started with. The shadow of his past hung over him, but he remained silent on the subject.
When he died in 1988 aged 79, it was his grandson, Andy, who set out to find the past, so well hidden to both family and friends that it would take a twenty-year search to uncover the truth.
Displaced is a joint work between Andy, and his Bosnian cousin Vesna Kovac, granddaughter of Ostoja, bought together finally to show both sides of this emotional story. The hardships of the coalmine and a heartbroken grandchild are bought into sharp contrast with a young woman’s trials in a post-Yugoslav civil war that would once again scar the landscape of what is now Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.
Their stories combine to create an enthralling text and finally answer the question that Andy, now 45, has spent the last twenty years trying to discover.
Who was Maksim?
Excerpt from the book
I was now in awe of my surroundings. Bosnia lay before me in all of its beauty. Surrounded by forest clad mountain slopes, my heart pounded as I realised I was finally here, the place that had taken me twenty years to find.
It was impossible for me now to comprehend. I was seeing for the very first time what granddad had seen sixty years before his cruel displacement from the country he had loved so much.
"Stop!" The sudden command jolted me immediately from my thoughts.
Mile grabbed my shoulder in a vice like grip.
"Do not step forward my friend," the Eastern European accent heavy within his voice.
My pulse raced to a crescendo. Bosnia, after all remained the most densely populated area in the world, not with people, but landmines, forgotten remnants of the civil war.
"Landmine?" I asked, sweat immediately covering my brow.
"Ne comrade," he pointed before me, "dog shit….."
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