Miroslav Krleza, Croatia
Balkan Impressions, 1924
Today more than ever, we must have an integral view of the Balkans. More than ever, we must believe in the Balkan unity for the salvation of our souls and the souls of those innocent victims that perish every day in the Balkan gorges and mountains.
Flying over Pannonia, 1929
… Everything is so transitory in this world and those savage barbarian Slavs that arrived in Pannonia and about whom Pope Gregory I wrote with fear, “et de Sclavorum gente, quae vobis valdeimminet, affligor vehementer etconturbor,” today are tame and eat from the Pope’s hand. You see, we have Roman churches at every step and the railway of Hungarian MAU (Hungarian State Railway System), which winds its way between the marshland and the forests and which was just built yesterday, is useless today, because we fly and what is the use then of some Hungarian railway?
It was until yesterday that the black Austrian eagles of Prince Oegen were flying over Pannonia when that Asian horde returned to the southern bank of the Sava, and the Magyar kerubins flapped their wings over this forest land, which brims with martens and foxes. Today, however, we are those who fly and the flap of the white eagles’ wings that Voislav used to sing about is heard all around us; and tomorrow we will hear the rumble of the three-engine bombers and black, vertical smokes of fires, and accidents will eddy below us between the Sava and the Drava, until, in the wink of an eye, everything will fly away, earth and stars and all, everything will disappear root and branch, and nobody will know that we have been here, we have flown and enjoyed it so much.
We are looking at that boat in the green, transparent glass of the tranquil water below, that wet, deeply transparent, fluid shadow of the wooden shed in the shimmering crystal water, a silver fish tosses over, and to us high here in this varnished cabin above the clouds, it seems as if the fish are greeting us from the gloom of the depth, as if they feel like flying with us. And that old woman in her muddy village yard who – as she was feeding her chickens was frightened by our plane, which rumbled over her thatched cottage – threw away the grain sieve and raised her two hands towards us, as if begging mercy not to be taken with us. That gesture of hers was like the monumentality of the ancient priests, who used to raise their hands before the altar of a mysterious god riding on his golden lightning to Olympus. Today’s thunderers fly, drink whisky and drop such destructive bombs which shake all those small huts that people raised amid the muddy ground in the past 7,000 years in defiance of the gods. Leonardo da Vinci’s dream come true brings sergeant’s insignia to pilots and that is how one flies today from Leonardo to a sergeant’s stripes.