Editors: Andrew Donovan, Stephanie Fennell
Columnists: Barry Lennon, Mira Sobčáková, Aimeé McCarthy, Eve Sherlock, Louisa McGrath, Aislinn McCooey, Heather Harte, Cian McKiernan, Amy Lewis, Sarah Lavelle
Photographer: Brian Soden
Zlata Filipovic (30), the author of the worldwide bestseller, Zlata’s Diary, talks about her life in Ireland and her experience with war. Photograph © Dragana Jurisic
Zlata Filopovic has all the air of a happy and carefree young woman. Her deep green eyes suggest wisdom, a life rich in experience, and some sort of willingness to change the world for the better. But if the past is another county, then in Zlata’s case that country and past is Bosnia. There, she survived two years of war.
The diary that she kept at the time got published in France and with the help of French officials, Zlata and her parents managed to get out of Bosnia, leaving all of their loved ones behind. When the first shot was fired in April 1992; she lost her best friend, her childhood, the right to go to school and any sense of certainty about the future.
Now, having lived in Dublin for 15 years; the Oxford graduate and human rights activist enjoys life and just like any other young adult, loves hanging out with her friends, going to concerts, eating out, traveling. And she admits no guilty pleasures at all. “They are all just pleasures,” she smiles.
The soulfulness of the Irish, their light-hearted approach and the chattiness of the people appeal to her a lot. But she also explains that it feels comforting to come back home and realise that over there, she is not just Zlata Filipovic, the writer and film-maker.
Over there, she is someone’s granddaughter, someone’s niece; she is the child of Alica and Malik Filipovic’s. “It’s just nice to know that there are people wondering how I am or what I am up to, back in Bosnia. And every time I go home it feels so intimate. As if I’ve existed there for longer; not just for 30 years. I like that.” she says.
Zlata visits her home-town Sarajevo as often as her busy schedule allows her to. She describes the unique scent of the air after it rains, and how she never misses an opportunity to sit and play her old piano back in the apartment where she had endured the two long years of conflict.
“I also love the moment I land in Dubrovnik, the capital city of Croatia. Once you come out of the plane, you’re swept away by this particularly sweet and warm air. Sometimes I think of moving to the Croatian coast when I grow old.”
But then she hesitates and quickly adds that ever since the war, she has been cautious and doesn’t plan that much really: “I just take life as it comes-with a positive attitude, but step-by-step. I’m not a ’10-year-plan type’ at all.”
But it’s not just about fun and travel for Zlata. She still campaigns for human rights and is a member of the Amnesty International Committee. Together with her friends from countries including Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda; she established the Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW). The aim of the organisation is to speak up for the rights of all children affected by violence, like child soldiers for example, as well as to raise awareness through educational and artistic forms.
And when Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s young writer’s club Fighting Words recently asked her to take part in their projects; she was truly thrilled and honoured: “I cannot wait to share my writing experience with children.”
Zlata says that she has always wanted to live her life to full. “But there is a part of me that likes to be engaged in serious matters, like the issue of rape in the Congo for example.” She doesn’t try to shy away. She also sometimes reads her diary. One could assume it might be too painful, but Zlata doesn’t mind:
“I’ve always kept a diary and I like to read them all, not just the book.”
Did she ever forgive the war-mongers for what they made her and her family go through? “I never felt like there was something to forgive. To me, hatred and anger are two very useless emotions. I just remember feeling really sad…and helpless.”
The promotional tour for ‘Zlata’s Diary’ across Europe and the US gave her the opportunity to speak out, not just about the death of her best friend but for all the people back in Bosnia. It was a chance to give a first-hand account of the horrors of war. Reflecting on that time, she says,
“It was like a lottery almost. My diary was randomly chosen by UNICEF from among all others; it got published and turned out to be a bestseller. And I suddenly became some sort of a vessel between Bosnian people and the rest of the world. I thought it was my duty to represent them all, talk about their suffering and hopefully help them that way.”
In one of the interviews from the tour of mid 1990s, her mother Alica said she felt guilty every time she switched a light on. “Those times were extremely upsetting for my mother. We were given freedom, but she still had to leave both of her parents behind in ridiculous, almost medieval conditions.”
Just a 14-year-old girl at a time, Zlata managed to endure long flights, continuous interviews, and the strain of being in the constant spotlight. Wearing a peace-symbol necklace during most of her TV appearances, she spoke nearly fluent English and managed to stay calm and answer the toughest questions with grace and wisdom.
Even at such a young age, she had a very thoughtful view of the situation back at home, and compared politicians to kids. “I still feel that way. Wars are often caused by pointless conflicts similar to the ones of children arguing over a ball or hopscotch. Politicians just try to out-do each other, and they don’t realise how much suffering they are causing to ordinary citizens, who have absolutely nothing to do with all that;” she says.
Though the Bosnian War is long over; Zlata still doesn’t cope very well with any sudden loud noises and bangs: “People seem to have this weird obsession with fireworks, but I just can’t stand them. I’d rather stay indoors, watch TV or listen to music to avoid bringing back all the bad memories.”
The current pro-democratic revolutions taking place in Middle East give her cause for hope. “It is good that the Egyptians showed that change can be done by quasi-peaceful means;” she says. “We never managed that in former Yugoslavia. But I’m concerned with the situation in Libya and with the way civilians are being treated by their government and military.”
Given her own experiences, the fate of ordinary people is one that comes first, she always sees things from the human rights perspective. There is also the long-term effects of what she went through as a child. She says that she sometimes asks herself:
“Who am I regardless of the experience I’ve had? Would I and my friends be the same if the war had not happened to us? Would we keep in touch like we do now?” But then she concludes that is an impossible question to answer and that you simply have to learn to live with what you’ve been through. “You can’t always forget but you have to try and move on.”
What she is sure about though, is that people tend to surprise themselves in extreme situations: “For example, I don’t think I could handle a divorce and I admire people that d0. To me it is simply impossible to even try and imagine. Yet, I managed to get through the war. It made me stronger. I got to witness the blackest and the whitest of human kind at the same moment. It was extraordinary in that way.”
”You just don’t know what you are capable of, until it really happens and you have no choice but stand up and face it.”
Dublin’s view on The Queen and President Barack Obama’s visit to Ireland
Following the announcement that both Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama will be making state visits to Ireland this coming May, the Irish people have aired mix reactions to these historic plans.
The Queen will be the first reigning monarch to visit Ireland since it gained independence in 1922. Recently elected Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has labeled the stay “long overdue”, in stark contrast, on the other side of the spectrum, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams commented that it was “premature”. It has been reported that dissident republican groups will protest during the Queen’s stay, which is expected to cost the Irish taxpayer €8m to cover security costs.
During the Taoiseach’s visit to the White House for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, President Obama accepted the offer to visit the hometown of his ancestors, Moneygall in Co. Offaly ahead of other state visits throughout Europe. This has caused a lot more excitement among the Irish press, and in turn, the people, who are hoping it will signify a vote of confidence in Ireland internationally, following the EU bailout last December.
It seems the press has taken to both visits very differently, portraying the Queen’s visit in perhaps a slightly more negative light, while there seems to be no queries about how expensive it will be to host President Obama in the same month.
Ronan Sharkey, 20, Rathfarnham:
“I didn’t actually know the Queen was coming to Ireland, but she’s welcome here, I don’t mind the Queen. But if it’s going to cost the taxpayer up to €8m I wouldn’t be up for her coming over. I’d prefer to spend the money on Obama coming over than the Queen. I’d definitely respect Obama more than the Queen. I don’t think the Obama visit is overhyped like he is the US president and he is a big deal. He is the most powerful man in the world so there ought to be hype for him coming over”
Kathleen Moriarty, 56, Donaghmede:
“I think the Queen’s visit will be good for Ireland. If it’ll create a bit of revenue for Ireland then that’s good! Irish people went over to England when there was nothing here and they fed us and gave us work so it’s time to welcome the English people here in Ireland. My husband’s from England so I’d definitely welcome the Queen. Whatever has happened in the past should stay in the past; we should get over it realistically. It’s time to move on. It’s definitely a positive thing that the queen is coming over here. It’ll do the country well. The Irish built half of America sure. An Irish-man built the White House. Obama will do well for Ireland.”
Laura O’Brien, 23, Dundrum:
“I think people will be angry about the Queen’s visit, not because they’re angry about England or their representation in Ireland, but they are still angry over the recession. The Irish people are still angry over the economy and they will take the blame out on the Queen visiting and the amount of money it will cost to protect her while she is here. Anger at the political system in Ireland will be misdirected towards the Queen. I think the only aspect of the visit that is important to Irish people is certain political agreements that happened in the north in the 90’s and the Queen’s visit would not really consolidate relationships between the two countries. It is a bit over-hyped. I think it would symbolise a lot more to the English people. I’m very excited to hear Obama is coming to Ireland. The Queen is only a monarch, she is not a political figure so I don’t really care about it to be honest”.
Dublin Championship Wrestling and the growth of wrestling in Ireland
By Louisa McGrath
There are a few wrestling companies in Ireland, but having been set up last September, Dublin Championship Wrestling (DCW) is the newest. It has already had many successful shows at a local level and is gaining support. The first show sold out over 250 seats and people had to be turned away at the door.
Wrestling has always been popular in Ireland, with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) having many Irish viewers, as well as selling out shows in huge venues like the O2 arena. Dave Power, a wrestler and one of the owners of DCW, said that:
“There is definitely an audience out there for Irish wrestling. People watch WWE and TNA wrestling and they draw big crowds when their shows come to Ireland. DCW pushes a local line.”
The most recent and acute rise in the popularity of wrestling in Ireland is largely due to the success of the Irish wrestler Sheamus O’Shaughnessy. Sheamus, from Cabra in Dublin became the first Irish-born WWE champion ever last December. The 20 stone, six and a half foot ginger giant has encouraged many Irish people not only to watch the sport, but to take part in it too. Power commented:
“Sheamus O’Shaughnessy’s rise to the top of the biggest wrestling company in the world a year ago motivated a lot of people to get involved in wrestling. There are also people who did wrestling in the past that are coming back to it now. The WWE is looking for European stars. I think there will be another famous wrestler to come from Ireland soon.”
Last August on Sky Sports News when asked about how popular wrestling is in Ireland, Sheamus himself said: “It’s huge. Ever since Sky One brought it in, in the late 1980s, it has been growing phenomenally. It’s growing day by day.”
Power hopes to have DCW’s shows aired on television one day, he said:
“The goal for DCW is to get on television. To have that exposure would be fantastic. Every show has a different aim and we write different stories to keep the audience interested. The ring and the wrestlers are good enough to be on TV as well.”
Another Irish wrestler, Danny ‘The Pain’ Deans, said: “At one stage Irish wrestling was a sub-culture. People would mention other organisations, but not Irish ones. It is starting to get more popular though. I hope for DCW to be as mainstream one day.”
One good thing about the DCW shows being at a local level is the way they use ideas and props that are personal to Ireland and Dublin. Some wrestlers wear Dublin jerseys to gain the crowds support, while wearing a Cork one was a way to get shunned. The show also picks up on the current public opinion of the Catholic Church in Ireland with one of the stories involving an evil priest who hates sinners.
Dublin’s Different Cultural Areas
Dublin is a very diverse city with a mixture of cultures from all over the world. Near the city centre there are a number of streets belonging to certain nationalities.
The Millenium Walkway is unlike any other place in Dublin. This small, grey stone lane way is full of Italian restaurants, cafés and a wine bar. Matteo De Marzio, the manager of Bar Italia, said:
“30% of my customers are Italian and the other 70% are Irish and other nationalities. This area is very nice. It is nice to have somewhere Italian, it is like an embassy. When you come here it is like walking into another country. We all know each other. We have lots in common and we speak Italian with each other. The people who come here really like it too.”
As well as Italian businesses there is also a large impression of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper featured on the wall. It is full of people even at half past three on a Monday. You can see Italian people sitting outside, sipping on coffee, as well as many Irish people.
Another street which belongs to a nationality is Parnell Street. Here is the Chinese quarter of Dublin. There are an uncountable number of Chinese restaurants and food stores here, as well as an Asian spa. The other shops are anonymous to the Irish as the signs are written in only Chinese. When asked for their opinions on the area all those asked said they did not speak English.
Five minutes away from Parnell Street is Moore Street, which is located just off one of Ireland’s biggest shopping streets. This appears to be the most multicultural street in Dublin city as there is a mix of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Afro Carribean, African, German and French stores and ‘restaraunts’.
Joyce Walsh, an Irish fruit seller on the street, said:
“There is a mixture of different cultures here. A lot of our customers are from other countries. We sell Chinese apples and Chinese pears to cater to them, we also sell butternut squash for Africans, and ginger too because they use it a lot more than Irish people.”
The irony of this multicultural street lies in the fact that here is one of the most Irish places in Dublin. The leaders of the 1916 Rising, the most iconic rebellion in Irish history, surrendered in a building on this street. This building, which is unknown to many Irish people, is now closed off and dilapidated but is commemorated by a small plaque on the wall.
By Amy Lewis and Sarah Lavelle
Dublin is known to be an expensive city. Finding cheap things to do can prove difficult. We searched our city’s bustling streets and discovered two hidden gems that are innovative and interesting, yet affordable.
Exchange Dublin in Temple Bar is a non-profit collective arts centre that holds no restrictions. It aims to encourage creative new ideas and to dissolve racial, age and class boundaries in our society. From gigs to lectures, exhibitions to storytelling, the range of activities available at The Exchange is endless.
The centre has proved extremely popular during the recession as all events and workshops are free. It is completely run by volunteers of all ages. Exchange is funded by Dublin City Council, the Arts Council and many generous donations.
“Exchange was set up during the Celtic Tiger as a reaction to consumerism,” says Tom, a dedicated volunteer at Exchange. “It is a non-alcoholic, all-ages space where people can sit and share their thoughts for free.”
The current most popular event here is Milk and Cookie Stories. Since its establishment, this group has become the most popular storytelling group in Dublin. It takes place on the second Tuesday of every month. “It’s so popular. We always manage to fill the building,” Tom tells us. Knowledge Exchange is another interesting concept that has been launched recently. It aims to give people the opportunity to broaden their fields of knowledge by offering free lectures to the public each Sunday.
Anybody can come to Exchange with suggestions. The volunteers are open to all ideas. “Everybody has their own dreams and ideas,” says Tom, “Exchange exists to help them become a reality” .
Crackbird on Crane Street in Temple Bar is a small pop-up restaurant where you are sure to find value for money.
The restaurant has only a twelve-week lease and will be closing its doors on May 22nd. Though employees tell us that the restaurant will definitely not stay open, they tell us it has been busy every night. Prices are affordable with a whole skillet fried buttermilk chicken for two going for €17.95.
However, it is the restaurant’s #tweetseats which are attracting customers from all around the city. For members of Twitter, you can request a booking for between 2 and 8 people for a time and date of your choice on @crackBIRDdublin. If there is availability, the chicken is free to eat.
Employees at Crackbird tell us that the #tweetseats “have attracted loads of attention. A lot of people have found out about us from online.”
It‘s a shame that the restaurant will be so short-lived, but the idea behind this was to create a more exciting atmosphere. “It is more exciting being a pop-up restaurant because people will know they have to come before May 22nd.” This clever business tactic proves to have been a success as the restaurant is now a cheap hotspot in the city.