The Letter

My parents still live in the same town that I grew up in, and were visiting my wife and I where we live in the Calgary area. Mom found some old pictures of me in summer camp as a kid and brought them, and she also found an old unopened letter, addressed to me from someone in Croatia. She didn’t know anything about it, and just handed it to me this weekend.

In 1993, I was peacekeeping in Croatia during the Balkan war. I was having trouble in Croatia, and had pretty much decided to break up with my fiancé back in Calgary. In the town where we were stationed, I had met a young woman who helped our platoon cook and clean the large building we lived in. We talked a lot, and she fell in love with me. We even got “together” a few times. This happened with a few of the guys and local ladies. It wasn’t a norm, and it wasn’t illegal, just not a big thing that was discussed. This wasn’t something I was excited and happy about, it was certainly wrong of me with having a fiancé back home, but it happened.

This lady had a couple kids too, and both were sick, one with epilepsy. She couldn’t get medicine or proper help for him. I really wanted to help financially and write to her when I got back. I think she thought I was going to bring her to Canada and we would live happily ever after. I was too messed up for that, but I certainly wanted to stay in touch, maybe help her with a bit of money for medicine for her son. He was going to die without help of some kind. Wasn’t sure I could send much, but I’d promised to write her back.

I gave her my parents’ address as I didn’t know where I’d be after I moved out of my place with my fiancé. In the fall of 1993, the letter arrived at Mom’s, and she set it aside, but misplaced it and then forgot about it. So I didn’t get anything from the girl in Croatia, and I had no idea how to contact her. It was before Internet and with no phones in her town, and a war going on, we lost contact.

I got her letter this weekend, in August 2017. Mom brought it and said “Oh, and I found this. Not sure what this letter is about, I think it’s for you…” A bolt went through me. I was shaking. That letter was addressed to me 24 years ago. I opened it and read in her broken English how much she thought of me, loved me, could think of nothing but me. Now, I had told my wife all about her and about my ex-fiancé. I showed her the letter and the picture that the Croatian lady had sent of herself.  

It was a picture of a young woman with 90’s hair. And in her letter, she said she was totally in love and wished to get together, and hoped to hear back. What a thing to receive… letter from a war zone of 24 years ago.

We checked Facebook to see if she’s still alive or around on line. No luck. We tried LinkedIn, Google, and searched for a long while online, and no trace of her. Something in me … I just have a feeling she died. I’m sure the boy did. Not sure about the daughter. I found a girl with the same last name living in that same town where I was stationed who is around 28 years old. That little girl in 1993 was around 5 or 6 years old, and that was 24 years ago. That small town has a population of maybe 2000 to 1800 people right now, still very small, so it may be her daughter. 

My wife and I were both so saddened by the letter and the poor girl who wrote it all those years ago. It was a different part of my life, but just such a sad story. So perhaps I’ll connect with that young woman in that Croatian town and see if it’s her daughter. That may bring a unique ending to this story.

I wanted to share this. I can’t really explain how it felt having my mom so nonchalantly hand me that old letter, postmarked from 24 years ago, with no idea what it had meant, or what might have happened if she hadn’t misplaced it. It was still unopened.

Anyway, it’s something I wanted to share. Life on military deployment is unique. Maybe I’ll find this person yet, who knows? It’s a part of my military life that fades into past memories.

Thank you for taking the time to make our lives overseas in military service feel worthwhile. It’s profoundly meaningful. 

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