Nastasimir Franović

Dubrovnik 12.04. 1960.
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The wizard under my chalk

The wizard under my chalk

My first memory of my family was maybe when I was four years old.
I don’t know, maybe I was just told so.
That was the day when we lost our parents.
They were lying down on the floor of our house under the white sheets
I was jumping over their bodies like I was playing a kind of children's game
The house was full of people, neighbors, and cousins.
My brother came into the house with a bucket of fresh milk. He took me by the hand and found me a little chair. I saw tears in his eyes and it was funny to me to see him like that
A month after we lost our parents our destiny began to be resolved.
Since the brother was already strong and almost fifteen years old our relatives took him
Cunning peasants.
Real connoisseurs needed someone to do the hard work on their property.
And they also set their eyes on our father's property
The peasant is greedy for the ground
Nobody needed us, three sisters
Imagine that nobody needs you and everyone bypasses you.
Finally, the municipality decided that it would be best if the three of us were sent to a Home for Neglected Children
They could say honestly: Children, we take you to an orphanage.
It would be easier for me to accept that, even though I didn’t know the meaning of the word orphanage.
First, I was happy because I believed I was traveling somewhere with my sisters
We traveled on an old army lorry down the bumpy roads.
The driver stopped by the road inn. He said we wait for another car.
We were seven in that lorry.
A small car arrived.
Lorry driver came and said: Come on little girl you have another car.
We were separated, and a long time after I realized that we had been sent to three different orphanages.
Finally, we arrived.
An ugly old grey building near the river became my new home
Where no one notices you, no one needs you.
Occasionally they would yell calling for lunch or dinner.
In the morning older kids would steal my jug with milk or would take my bread and marmalade.
I didn’t have anything of my own but the head of a doll that could blink her eyes
even if she was just a chopped head. I cared for her and kept her under the pillow and when the lights were switched off, I played mum and daughter.
In spring butterflies loved to land on my shoulder.
Little turtles helplessly turned on their backs and waited for me to turn them.
I liked the morning dew and the wet soil, my sketchbook.
Wet soil was an open-air gallery where all my dolls and animals lived like a happy family
Confused ants and grasshoppers were my faithful gallery visitors.
I went to school and I started drawing in my notebooks.
I learned to write and read and books became my secret world, a rescue rope, my secret window with a view to the horizon.
Time passed by but nobody noticed me.
Finally, in the fourth grade, somebody noticed me.
It was a rainy grey day. The classroom was in semi-darkness.
Big green board shined clean.
My teacher called me to come to the board.
Who drew this doll for you little? She said holding a piece of paper I drew on
I drew another even nicer doll on the board.
The teacher looked at my little hands astonished to see how the wizard came under my choke. She hardly believed it and said: Go little to your place.
For the first time, I heard about my sisters the summer when they left the Home for Neglected Children
I celebrated my fourteenth birthday in that grey ugly home by the river.
That was the day my sisters visited me and took me to their new home.
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