Zrinka Znidarcic has a new picture-book for her two-year-old son, Patrik. And she can hardly contain her excitement.
“His reaction was complete delight,” she says. “He just took it and immediately said: this is familiar.”
The book in question is called My Rainbow Family. At first glance it looks like many other publications aimed at pre-school children – heavy on full-page, colourful illustrations and light on text.
But it quickly becomes apparent that something different is going on here. For starters, it can be read from the back or the front – as there are two different stories which meet in the middle.
And then there are the characters. A little girl with two fathers. And a young boy with two mothers.
It is the first time that a children’s book in Croatia has depicted families with same-sex parents. And for people like Zrinka, who has been in a civil partnership since 2014, it is a welcome reflection of life in her family.
Senada Selo-Sabic of Zagreb’s Institute for Development and International Relations says there has been a resurgence in conservative forces since Croatia joined the European Union, five years ago.
“Croatia made a mistake during the EU accession process – we silenced and marginalised everyone who didn’t agree with this course of action. The political parties created this image of Croatia being very liberal, progressive and egalitarian. But in reality, it was only one side of the story.”
The opposition to a book featuring same-sex parents is just one of the symptoms. There has also been an increase in extreme nationalism and even incidents of Holocaust denial.
A plaque with a fascist slogan was installed near the site of the Jasenovac World War Two concentration camp; it took the authorities almost a year to remove it.
Blazenka Divjak ignored an open letter from Vigilare and said that parents had the right to decide whether or not their children should be able to read My Rainbow Family.
Compare that to Britain in the 1980s. Kenneth Baker, the education secretary under Margaret Thatcher, objected to the publication of the first English-language children’s book to feature same-sex parents. He called Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin “blatant homosexual propaganda” – perhaps an inspiration to Vigilare, more than 30 years later.
Attitudes have changed in Britain. And Zrinka Znidarcic is convinced increasing openness will pay dividends in Croatia, with My Rainbow Family playing a role in reducing the negative comments about same-sex parents.
“I have never had a bad experience when people find out I have a wife and family,” she says.
“The best way to change minds is to be civilised, give them a chance to meet us and interact like normal human beings.”
Izvor (fotografija i tekst): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42724610