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Ivan, from Adriatic to Pacific
Coral Petkovich

Ivan Antulich was born in Croatia in 1935, just as Europe was about to plunge into a catastrophic war. He survived, but at a cost that would scar him for the rest of his life. Like many others, he sought peace and prosperity for himself and his family by migrating, but also like many others he found his adopted home, Australia, as much a place of disappointment as a sanctuary. He returned home to Croatia only to find that the place he remembered had changed in his absence and left him behind.

Highly Commended in the IP Picks Awards for Best Creative Non-fiction, this is an intimate portrait of an individual and a family that recreates the experience of so many people who grapple with a new culture and language, never quite escaping their urge to return to “where they belong.”




Coral Petkovich

Coral began writing her book while her children were small. In the evening after dinner she would ask her husband for details of his life, especially his early childhood. Gradually she composed a comprehensive biography which she later organised into a literary format.

She has had several stories published and another was highly commended in a competition.


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RRP: AUS$30      

ISBN 9781922120229 (PB 224pp)


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Ivan was depressed for days afterwards. All those people, at first glance quite normal but actually cold and dead, worried him more than the others, the featureless bodies mangled out of recognition which he had never approached close enough to see properly. Nightmares showed him again and again the faces he tried so hard to forget, except that in his dreams the faces came alive, with staring eyes and open mouths and arms which clutched at him when he tried to run, and the rats which he had seen bloody and startled became enormous with teeth big and sharp and biting—it was a long time before he could sleep again without waking up screaming.

Violence and death were part of their lives, the generation of children losing their childhood to the war. Even in their games, they could not get away from it. Their favourite game was patterned on the war itself, their own private war. It was an intermittent affair, fought by a gang from one district against another, never ending, always starting again after every victory, every defeat. Their weapons were lethal, even to guns with live ammunition, and always there was a good supply of bricks and sticks, catapults and bows and arrows and stones of all shapes and sizes. They built castles from the ruins of houses demolished by bombs, and defended them against all attackers. Sometimes they held up traffic and blocked the street to pedestrians until police or other officials came to disperse them. These fierce games resulted in injury or even occasionally, death to some of those involved, but the risk was not so great as the possibility of dying in bed in an air raid.

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