Photo of Serbs on Corfu 1916-1918
taken at the Serbian Museum on Corfu
by Ognjen Odobasic October 2008
The Island of Corfu, a Greek island
in the Ionian Sea
LETTER TO A SERBIAN SOLDIER
From a Greek woman, whose identity remains unknown.
This letter was written during World War One,
after the Serbs departed
from the Island of Corfu where
the Serbian Army had miraculously resurrected itself
to fight on to victory.
"I am sorry that my response to Your beautiful and cheerful letter will be a serious and sorrowful one. But I cannot help it. Ever since Your departure, I have been in this mood. I do not mean only You personally, but all of the Serbs. This is the truth, believe me, and I am not the only one to think and feel that way. All the women who live on this small island say so.
"Ever since the Serbs came to Corfu, I no longer like my race. Our fathers have forced us to renounce any desire of the world, the need for fun and spiritual pleasure, even the need to eat well. It would have been much better for us if you had not come to Corfu, for we are much worse off now. We have come to know you in the worst misery, in your greatest distress, in rags, exhausted, hungry, without your families, without a country, and still you seemed to us so much nicer than our men. Over the past three years, I have grown so accustomed to the mild faces of your soldiers, their benevolent and honest eyes, to these men who allow - deliberately and with resignation - to be cheated only to find a roof over their head and a peace of bread. You are a peculiar race! Just the other day I have talked to a Russian colonel about it. He said that it is a trait common to all Slavs. If this is true, then Slavic wives and daughters are really fortunate.
"Us women can best feel this difference. Imagine our men that fear tomorrow and are terrified by the thought that some day they might not have anything to eat. They fast today so that they might have food tomorrow; tomorrow they fast to leave something for the day after - and so they fast all the time. Denying themselves any pleasure that might cost, they are happy when today they have more money than yesterday. And You and your men! You have heroically gone through such an ordeal, you came hungry, frozen to the bone, but still you are not selfish nor closefisted.
"We lived happily in the past three years you have spent here. We were not looking for affairs, since we did not even know what this meant; we had no one to have it with, because, you know, an affair or a simple love might prove costly. But every day I used to run to the window to see some Serbian officer, just to hear him say hello - whoever he might be - and to smile at me gently. That would fill my day 'till bed time.
"Corfu is now as it was before 1915. I now think that it is even worse. Mute and empty, it no longer sings. Your people always sing, and I had grown accustomed to the songs and the chatter. You can think of me as a great enemy of your people because I have always wanted you to stay as long as possible before returning to your mother country. You came, showed us what life is and then left, leaving us desolate. We will be alone once again, surrounded by frowning faces, submerged by talk about money, and besieged by this terrible sea till our death, because we cannot go away - it costs! What is beauty worth and all the other nice qualities Serbs have discovered in us, when no one here enjoys them. Fortunate are the girls that the Serbs have taken along, saving them from a life on this love island full of sun and cypress trees - but lacking people and love."
Found in Golgotha and Resurrection of Serbia 1916-1918, BIGZ, Belgrade 1971
If you would like to get in touch with me, Aleksandra, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org