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Yellow Snow: The Print of the Dragon’s Paw

Yellow Snow: The Print of the Dragon’s Paw

Автором Antonije Nino Zalica

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Yellow Snow: The Print of the Dragon’s Paw

Автором Antonije Nino Zalica

176 pages
3 hours
Aug 31, 2018


* 'The print of the dragon;s paw', as popularly was called the trail of the grenade strikes, is the original title of the literary testimony of Sarajevo native author about the tragedy of his city... The sophisticated narrative technique reveals an experienced literary man who knows how to masterfully compose and reconcile the various levels of narrative, flashbacks, changes in perspective, and various levels of (sub) consciousness. The fanning out of the narrative time, the variation of the language and the voices make this prose extremely polyphonic. - Der Standard
* Beautifully Žalica shows us the vulnerability of the human species... At the same time, Yellow snow is a tribute to the vitality of man... - Trouw* Yellow snow is an ode to the creativity and the spiritual resilience of the people of Sarajevo ... stories that excel in their anecdotal.- Standaard der letteren
* It is a beautiful, tight story that paints a life full of Eastern European turmoil in a few pages and shows what Zalica is capable of.- NRC Handelsblad

Aug 31, 2018

Об авторе

Antonije Nino Zalica (fiction writer, filmmaker). Born in Sarajevo 1959, spread his living in between Amsterdam, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Studied comparative literature and philosophy at Sarajevo University. Writes poetry, prose, plays. His novel Yellow Snow/The Print of a Dragon’s Paw appeared in a number of different editions and translations in various European languages. His second novel Bandierra Rossa is published by Bosanska riječ - Das Bosnische Wort, Tuzla / Wuppertal. In 1994 his short film Angels in Sarajevo, as part of SAGA's productions, was awarded the European Film Academy's Felix Documentary Award.

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Yellow Snow - Antonije Nino Zalica


The Print of the Dragon’s Paw


Antonije Nino Žalica


special thanks to Mrs. Aida Krneta

without her support this edition would not be possible

Published by Antonije Nino Žalica at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 Antonije Nino Žalica











Some characters’ names have been altered and some invented. Drink and cigarette brand names are authentic. The names of the cities, places, streets, rivers, and mountains are unfortunately true.



The south wind strikes directly into my chest, rips through my hair, and penetrates through my eyes deeply into my soul resonating with a fatigue that I only then recognize. That wind, that yugo, strikes deeply into my very being, aroused by a desperate anxiety, numbed memories buried somewhere in the deepest silence of my brain, which destroy every tranquil thought, and shatter my nerves to the point that makes my hands clutch even more tightly to the ski sticks across my knees. My lonely seat on the ski lift carries me high above the tree line of spruces and firs. I am drifting slowly though the space and it seems as if I am going to reach the top of the sky itself, now turning grey in the yellowish light of the sun still hidden deep behind the thinning clouds. It looks like my ski lift is taking me into the very source of the wind.

The wretched wind is blowing straight from the Mediterranean athe summit of a freezing mountain which is covered in yellow snow.

The wretched wind is blowing straight from the Mediterranean at the summit of a freezing mountain which is covered in yellow snow.What is it that my tired, sleep-deprived eyes want to communicate to my brain and spirit? Overloaded in the last night's Badel brandy, Rubin cognac, the stupefying plum brandy, the mulled wine, the cold Sarajevo beer, the peppermint liqueur - what do my eyes actually see?

The whole mountain above the tree line, all ski slopes, even down into the trees - everything is painted in yellow, not exactly egg-yolk yellow, but truly and obviously - yellow. It's only in the hollows and near the summit, that the wind has made a few islands of fresh, pure white snow, while on the peaks the warm gusts lay bare the damp, deathly-grey earth. Why should my Jahorina, the mountain on which I had been skiing practically since I first learned to walk, suddenly resemble the scenery of a cheap science-fiction movie, or an imagined landscape of some distant uninhabited planet, the worst-case scenario of alcohol induced gastro-nightmare?

Should I believe the news I am hearing on the radio? That a single cloud had the power to carry fine yellow sand all the way from Sahara desert, and lift it to the Heavens with an assistance of some irresponsible wind? Or, that this is simply one of those things that happens once in a life time, an omen of a disaster to come? Or, should I just accept the fact that the end of the world and time is about to happen?

My lift chair gently reaches the top of the mountain, making its last turn around the ski lift post, and I start gliding through the yellow snow. The summit is completely deserted. There is no sign of my friend - a toothless and always smiling local farmer who’s been working there for years, shoveling snow onto the bare spots where the lift deposited its passengers, or helping novice skiers (female skiers in particular) disembark the lift chair and stand on their skis. Back in the day I used to stand up there with him on the summit; sometimes I would bring my friends from Dubrovnik or Belgrade with me, and he would lend us his binoculars so we could see the view around us. He would then explain: See that sharp white summit? That's Durmitor in Montenegro; and that ridge over there is Zelengora; and those lower mountains you see in the distance, that's already Serbia… The one over there is Vlasić, you can already see the seaside from there; and right down there in deep, see, next to the ‘Youth’ chalet, that's my village of Prača..

I haven’t seen him at all that winter. It was only later in the summer that I ran into him, while we were both waiting in the que for water at Bistrik, under the bursts of anti-aircraft-machine-gun-fire flying right above our heads and hitting somewhere near ‘Vijećnica’, the already burnt-out National Library of Sarajevo. We were both hauling a collection of plastic containers to fetch the water. He smiled when he saw me; I could tell that he was really happy. I guess that I reminded him of Jahorina and skiing, just as he reminded me of the same. He briefly told me that he'd been driven out of his native Prača village, and that half of his family had been killed; he was now a refugee.

My skis start to glide down through the yellow snow. It’s true: the yellow snow is one of the most beautiful things a skier can ever experience (likely only once in a lifetime) - it is neither too fast nor too slow, the run doesn’t need to be packed with snow. It gives a total freedom of movement and maneuver with almost no effort, and in its own mysterious and surreal way it feels like my weightless body is floating carried by the power of my thoughts and spirit alone. I don’t need to slow down or brake; it feels exactly like in my dreams about skiing during the most blissful depths of sleep. It doesn’t mean anything now (just like in my unconscious floating) that I was speeding down the slopes of Jahorina entirely alone? Since the March barricades, no one had come from Sarajevo, except for a few of us who, with a sort of suicidal stubbornness, still came skiing every weekend. But this morning my friends decided to stay below in the chalet, drained by hangover and depression which (and not merely because of the yellow snow) had overcome us all; the locals meanwhile had much more important business to do. The only person I saw today was a local young man from Pale who was in charge of the ski lift. He didn’t bother to check my season ski pass, and he even left the cans of beer and coke casually unattended near the ski lift entrance, which he would typically overcharge from thousands of brightly dressed, out-of-breath tourists in the past. I saw him walking about, waving a bottle of Zvecevo brandy which he dangled by its neck between his fingers; then he shut himself in his hut; later he sneaked off somewhere, leaving the lift running by itself. In the afternoon, as it was already getting dark, I noticed him with a pistol in his hand near the shed where the great caterpillar- tracked snow ploughs were kept, ostensibly practicing shooting his target. The shots echoed though the empty mountain, cracking as they multiplied.

We were the only ones on the bus, just the four of us. On our way back we were not stopped and searched at Lapišnica as we had been on our way up. The groups of armed men carrying Kalashnikovs and semi-automatics, some in the uniforms of the Yugoslav Army or the Police reserve, some in no uniform of any sort, faded behind us into the shadows and into the mountain darkness. And in front of us the City opened up, with all its myriad of lights shining, divinely beautiful when seen from above. Later that day, as we got onto the street car with our skis on the shoulders and people stared at us like we were crazy, we laughed amongst ourselves, convinced that, despite everything, we would be going skiing again next weekend. Anyway, the newspapers just reported that a famous prophet from India predicted that there would be no war.


Later on I realized that prophets never make mistakes, but rather that people interpret them as they see fit. It’s true that the Indian prophet said that there would be no war (a statement which our newspapers immediately reproduced as headline news), but I should add that he also advised that everyone in Yugoslavia should convert to Buddhism and start praying.

There are certain dreams we all have that come from who knows when and where. Some are from childhood, others from only a few nights ago; and like with all dreams we tend to forget them right away (as well as the time when we had them). But later, when their dark geography begins to turn into reality, they come back to mind and blend in with some sort of normalcy and the order of things that makes sense. A few such dreams came back to me, matching the exact places where the bloody and violent events took place in the City I dreamed about.

Ilidža, then the countryside by Big Avenue (Velika Aleja), that leads to the picturesque Vrelo Bosne (the Spring of Bosnia River), and Mountain Igman. The darkness that exists only in dreams, pitch black darkness through which I can see everything. I'm walking though the field and come across some newly built houses, it looks like a new village and I am wondering how come I’ve never seen this before? The settlement is deserted, no people, no vegetation; a kind of darkness that chokes itself. Then I stumble onto a wedding, the bride wears a black wedding dress. I climb the mount Trebević and on the way up I come across a plateau, instead of the forest. Once again I see an unfamiliar dwelling. No people in sight, the blackish earth all around.

Many stairs everywhere; the corner of the city between Koševo and Breka (at the time I was dreaming this, the Breka, part of the city with all its terraces, cascades, and staircases had not been built yet), and down there (towards the maternity hospital, the Zoo and the cemetery) some strangers, street hooligans, speaking East-Serb dialect - and everyone fears them.

A steep street in the Bjelave district, a strange fear inside me, I run uphill, then down again.

I ride my moped towards Sedrenik or Lapišnica; at the top the view opens up, the hills are covered in yellow sand, all the way to the eastern horizon a deserted landscape without any people or vegetation.

I see a pack of dogs, some of fancy breed but dirty and thin, running along in the street. It seems to me that one of them is carrying something in its teeth that looks like a piece of a human foot. I hear the whistle of another shell. I throw myself down on the wet ground. I run through soggy, hindering snow, my legs ever more weary. I have no strength; I haven’t eaten anything in two days. Another incoming whistle; I plunge my face down in the dirty, half-melted snow. Again I try to run but my feet seemed to be glued to the ground. I am breathing heavily. I reach my apartment building, the entrance door is locked. I wait for a friend who has the key. I urge him to hurry. I crouch in front of the door, my breath rasps in my lungs. He searches his pockets for the key. He struggles to fit it in the lock.

Clarification: this actually happened at Breka in March 1993, during one of the many shellings of the Koševo hospital, and it was no dream.


Every day during that summer of 1992 I would go to the Academy of the Performing Arts to bake bread at dusk before it gets too dark. It was very dangerous to go outside and become an open target (it was not particularly safe indoors either but, in comparison, this was somehow always forgotten). There were a thousand and one reasons why we had to go out and pretty much all of us spent a couple of hours a day outside in the streets. This was no easy task. Everyone created their own, personal rules for protection from the events that were entirely unpredictable, irrational, and random, referred to officially as Non-Selective Shelling of the City, which was actually more or less constant. When there was a sort of a cease fire and the guns fell silent, the possibility that the shelling would start up again was hanging in each and every second above our heads. The mortar shells in particular, falling directly from the sky out of nowhere and hitting anywhere and at any time. Anytime, anywhere - this was the only real rule of all the killing and destruction. The snipers would shoot all day long from all the surrounding hills, anti-aircraft machine guns would pepper any part of the City they saw fit, again with no rationality or regularity, there was always the occasional bullet or tank shell, sometimes a rain of projectiles from multiple rocket launcher.

As the time went by and the pattern repeated itself, people were getting used to the unpredictable situations, finding a sort of order in the chaos, constructing their own, private, eccentric defense mechanisms. Later, as the war progressed and that first summer passed, as initial confusion gave way to a general familiarity with the situation, you could sometimes see a person on the street who, regardless of what was happening around him, would stroll at ease, as though promenading, calmly and collectedly - even across those bridges or crossroads which were deemed the most open, the most dangerous places, in that illusory gradation of risk. The Sarajevo people have reconciled themselves to dying, was the interpretation by some, meaning that certain citizens had voluntarily accepted the possibility of death and that it made no difference to them whether they were killed or continued to walk the earth. But I don't think that this was quite accurate; reconciliation to something doesn't necessarily mean its acceptance; it’s rather a matter of understanding. You can only be reconciled to something or someone you know very well, like a friend or a former lover.

People would simply find rules for themselves in this situation which could not be expressed in words or described in any way, yet these rules were universally understood. I remember an old man who used to go out every morning and walk at the slowest, feeblest pace, to the market or the park. On one occasion shots began ringing out

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