Last year I interviewed the five of Nikola’s children at their homes, in Banja Luka, and at a location near Ljubljana. It is a complicated sequence, not yet adequately processed. The following selection relates to the ‘crime’ mentioned on May 27 in the quote of Simone de Beauvoir.
In the conversation with my mom, or his eldest daughter, Nikola’s life path appears to be marked by a legend of his father, who, before his birth, disappeared in the First World War. Nikola’s final decision to leave to work as a ‘Gasterarbeider’ in Berlin did not seem alien either. He ran away from his family home at the age of twelve. Soon after, he got employed as an apprentice by an Austrian carpenter. The carpenter played the role of substitute father, and he learned Nikola the German language.
In the conversation with his eldest son, in Banja Luka, I was told that after participating in the struggle against German occupation, Nikola resigned from his officer position. In the new socialist Yugoslavia, he tried to reopen a carpentry shop. For the veteran partisan to chose entrepreneurship was the ideologically wrong move. The two prison detentions, next to constant relocations of Nikola’s family, followed the series of business downturns. Finally, he departed to Berlin in 1968.
Little is known about the person from whom Nikola inherited his name. This man arrived as a child, around 1900, to the new territories of the Austro-Hungarian empire: Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was part of the emigration from Galicia, the most eastern colony of that same empire. Since diasporic subjects are keen on preserving cultural identity, he married a girl of the same background. It is believed that he worked as a carpenter. Then, he was recruited by the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to war in Galicia.
In the interview with his eldest daughter, or my mom, I realized that Nikola’s mom wasn’t exactly waiting for her husband to return from the war. She got involved with a local guy who escaped the army. Since she was pregnant, Nikola needed first to be born before she could remarry with her lover. It was only after Nikola himself disappeared in Berlin that his daughters tried to reconstruct the details of his mom’s love affair. They suspected that Nikola’s father might not be the man whose name he inherited.
In my interview with his youngest son, in Slovenia, the idea that Nikola’s name and surname did not match with his biological father was doubted. In the meantime, I had new evidence. My girlfriend, who worked at a DNA sequencing company, has arranged the DNA test for me. Since both of my father’s parents were also coming from Galicia, the analysis showed most of my genes matching this particular region of nowadays Ukraine. The rest was unspecifically designated as the Greek-Balkan thread.