Ekaterini is a novel written by Serbian author Marija Knežević in 2008. I read for my Read Around the World Project for Serbia, and it took me to the Balkans and threw me into the middle of a difficult period. While reading Ekaterini’s life, I also read how the events in the Balkans affected women.
Ekaterini is a strong-willed Greek woman who does what she wants. Despite all her family’s objections, she marries an immigrant and settles in Belgrade with her husband. Unfortunately, her marriage does not last long; she loses her husband and stays in this foreign country with her two daughters. She has to face the Second World War and the aftermath of the war alone. Ekaterini witnesses the collapse of Yugoslavia, the last Balkan War, the Kosovo crisis and the bombing of Belgrade. She tackles all this on her own while raising her daughters. A lifetime passes like this. But her mind is always in her homeland, Greece.
Ekaterini is an exquisite character; If there are dozens of more books written about her, I would read them too. Although it is set in the Balkans, I’m sure many immigrants will read it with the same enthusiasm. It also leaves a pleasant feeling in the end because it has a happy ending. Enjoy!
Ekaterini, born in Greece at the beginning of the twentieth century, is a woman who knows her own mind. Against the wishes of her family, she marries an immigrant worker and follows him from the port of Thessaloniki to Belgrade. There, Ekaterini is not only forced to learn the country’s ‘odd’ language and adapt to life in an alien culture, but soon becomes a young widow who must guide her two small daughters safely through the turmoil caused by the Second World War and the socialist post-war period.
Refusing to cheer Stalin or to bend to the new political environment, the story of a remarkably stoic and courageous woman unfolds: a woman whose life spans the collapse of Yugoslavia, the last Balkan war, the Kosovo crisis and the bombing of Belgrade, and yet still dreams of one day returning to her beloved Greece.
Ekaterini is the human story of an epoch. Though set in the Balkans, it is nevertheless a tale of universal human survival, chronicling the ordinary lives of women who live through history’s most turbulent times. While written in homage to the ancient story of Odysseus this remarkable novel sees the roles reversed, so that it is a modern Penelope who must travel and suffer in search of her homeland.
Marija Kneževic, a Serbian poet, fiction writer, essayist, literary translator and professor of literature was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1963.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: