Filipovic, Zlata (c. 1981—)

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Filipović, Zlata (c. 1981—)

Bosnian diarist. Name variations: Zlata Filipovic. Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, around 1981; only daughter of Malik (a lawyer) and Alica Filipović (a biochemist).

Dubbed the Anne Frank of the Bosnian War, Sarajevo schoolgirl Zlata Filipović was ten years old and looking forward to a new school year when she began a diary. The only child of a middle-class couple, she was a precocious student who took tennis and piano lessons and had a passion for pizza, American movies, and Michael Jackson. "I wanted to have a happy memory from a happy childhood," she said. "I wanted 20 years after to open that funny book and read the things that happened." By April of 1992, however, Sarajevo was under siege by Bosnian Serbs, and Filipović's diary, much like Anne Frank's (which she had read), turned into a heartwrenching chronicle of the horrors of war and a young girl's loss of innocence.

"Oh God! Things are heating up in Sarajevo," she wrote on March 5, 1992, as the conflict was in its early stages. "On Sunday, A small group of armed civilians (as they say on TV) killed a Serbian wedding guest and wounded the priest. On March 2 (Monday) the whole city was full of barricades." Within two months, conditions had deteriorated considerably. "Today was truly, absolutely the worst day ever in Sarajevo," began her entry of May 2, 1992, which was now addressed to an imaginary friend called "Mimmy." By this time, the constant gunfire had forced the family into the dark, smelly, rat-infested cellar. "We listened to the pounding shells, the shooting, the thundering noise overhead," she continued. "We even heard planes. At one moment, I realized that this awful cellar was the only place that could save our lives. Suddenly, it started to look almost warm and nice. We heard glass shattering in our street. Horrible. I put my fingers in my ears to block out the terrible sounds."

For two years, Filipović continued her poignant account of the war and the hardships of living without gas, electricity, or water, and subsisting on United Nations food packages. She mourned the death of her 11-year-old friend Nina, who was hit by shrapnel that lodged in her brain ("I cry and wonder why? She didn't do anything.") and denounced the politicians ("Ordinary people don't want this division because it won't make anyone happy, not the Serbs, not the Croats, not the Muslims. But who asks ordinary people? Politics only asks its own people.") As the war ground on, she described the toll it had taken on her parents. "Daddy … really has lost a lot of weight. I think even his glasses are too big for him. Mommy has lost weight too. She's shrunk somehow. The war has given her wrinkles." There were moments of despair ("There's a growing possibility of my killing myself.… I'm so sick of it all") and signs of youthful hope ("You had to have a light of life there, in that dark, in that hell and death").

In the summer of 1993, Filipović's diary was chosen from 100 others for publication by a peace group in Sarajevo and then found its way to French publishing house Fixot & Editions Robert Lafont, which released the diary and also arranged to get Zlata and her parents out of Bosnia. The French edition became an instant bestseller, as did 25 foreign editions, including Viking's American translation by Christina Pribichevich-Zorić , Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. By Christmas 1993, when the Filipovićs were flown out of the war zone and landed in Paris, Zlata was already a literary sensation.

At age 13, Filipović was swept up in a celebrity whirl that left no time for the continuation of her diary. There were television appearances and a book tour, which included a visit to the United States. "When people read my book, when they see me on television, they may help the children of Sarajevo because we must not forget the children," she said in an interview, hoping to call attention to the 70,000 or so that were left in Sarajevo. To help those still in harm's way, Zlata and her publishers donated a portion of the profits from the diary to various relief projects, including distributing 5,000 ski jackets in the war-ravaged country. On a personal level, Filipović left a lasting impression on everyone she met. "She's very lovable, very modest and not remotely spoiled," said Susanna Lee , the director of foreign rights at Lafont/Fixot. "And her moral education is extraordinary."


Chin, Paula, and Cathy Nolan. "Days of Despair," in People. March 21, 1994, pp. 66–68.

Filipović, Zlata. Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo. Translated by Christina Pribichevich-Zorić. NY: Viking, 1994.

Krilic, Samir. "Schoolgirl's diary becomes a moving chronicle of war's terror, loss in Sarajevo," in The Day (New London, CT). July 20, 1993.

Publishers Weekly. February 21, 1994, p. 245.

Riding, Alan. "Teen-age Bosnian diarist is literary sensation," in The Day (New London, CT), January 6, 1994.