Illustration: A Bloody Fairytale

May 25, 2023
1 min read
Serbia's toxic 'culture of guns and violence'. Illustration: Marina Visic

In the aftermath of two deadly shootings that killed 18 people in Serbia, the Contrapuntal illustrator Marina ViÅ¡ić reflects on the Balkan nation’s reckoning with gun violence that is especially harming children.

On May 3, a 13-year-old boy used his father’s gun to open fire at his school in central Belgrade, killing nine students and a security officer in the country’s first school mass shooting. A day later, a 21-year-old man killed eight people in a rural area south of the capital Belgrade. Tens of thousands of people have protested in the national capital Belgrade over the manner the government dealt with the issue of gun violence.

The title of the illustration is inspired by noted Serbian poetess Desanka Maksimovic’s A Bloody Fairytale – a poem dedicated to nearly 3000 civilians killed in the Kragujevac massacre during the Second World War.


A Bloody Fairytale

It was in a land of peasants
in the mountainous Balkans,
a company of schoolchildren
died a martyr’s death
in one day.

They were all born
in the same year
their school days passed the same
taken together
to the same festivities,
vaccinated against the same diseases,
and all died on the same day.

It was in a land of peasants
in the mountainous Balkans,
a company schoolchildren
died a martyr’s death
in one day.

And fifty-five minutes
before the moment of death
the company of small ones
sat at its desk
and the same difficult assignments
they solved: how far can a
traveler go if he is on foot…
and so on.

Their thoughts were full
of the same numbers
and throughout their notebooks in school bags
lay an infinite number
of senseless A’s and F’s.
A pile of the same dreams
and the same secrets
patriotic and romantic
they clenched in the depths of their pockets.
and it seemed to everyone
that they will run
for a long time beneath the blue arch
until all the assignments in the world
are completed.

It was in a land of peasants
in the mountainous Balkans,
a company of small ones
died a martyr’s death
in one day.

Whole rows of boys
took each other by the hand
and from their last class
went peacefully to slaughter
as if death was nothing.

Whole lines of friends
ascended at the same moment
to their eternal residence.

This is an English translation of the poem from the Serbian language by Sarah O’Keeffe (1999) and is originally published here.

A bloody fairy tale. Illustrator: Marina Višić

Marina Visic

Marina Visic is an urban designer with a passion for creating ecologically sustainable and inclusive environments. In her leisure time, she enjoys reading, listening to music, taking photographs, and drawing. She relocated from Serbia to the Netherlands due to her interest in water management.

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