It was a treasure my father kept with a lot of care. Always at hand, always safe. A box. A simple little brown sealed box looking very old and cheap. But inside it was the worthiest treasure we have at home. Soil. Soil from our homeland. Dad didn’t talk too much about it. He didn’t talk at all.
I never asked about it. When I was a little child I didn’t understand. When I began to get curious I suspected that behind that box it was a painful story.
I always respected my parents’ silence about the painful past. I think they wanted to protect us from the pain they experienced and its possible consequences on us, like bitterness or even hate. They were good Christians and we prayed every day the Lord’s prayer so we have to “forgive those who trespass against us”. And I know they did. To be able to live in peace.
Later I learned that the soil came from the grave of my uncle Tripo, my dad’s youngest brother, killed when he was only 20 years old, near Zagreb, 1944. Like my dad, he was a pacifist, but trapped in a deadly war he didn’t survive. WWII. My dad was very close to his brother. They use to talk about life and peace in times of violence and death. When Tripo died, dad had to go to recover the corpse among dozens of others killed the same day.
Too soon all that deep conversations between two close brothers were brutally interrupted by the violence. Too soon they parted for ever.
So it was a painful story behind the treasured box.
When dad died, old and exhausted, in 2001, we took the old box, opened it and spread the soil on his grave. At the end my father rested with a little piece of his homeland and close to his long ago lost brother. May them both rest in that peace they loved so much.