Postcards from the past

I bought this old postcard several years ago in a small bazar kind of shop in Trogir, Croatia. It is sent 1938 in the kingdome (royaume) of Croatia. I do usually not collect old postcards, letters, journals or something comparable, but this postcard for some reason always drew my attention to it. Every once in a while i look at it and wonder: what happened afterwards?What was the fate of the in the short text on the backside mentioned individuals?

The text is written in crude german, in an old handwriting style called „Sytalin“, that is very elegant and was used in german speaking countries until the end of the second world war, although even back than it was not very common any more. Nowadays fewer and fewer persons are able to read this special – and in the design of its characters sometimes confusing – style of handwriting. The postcard itself is adressed to some Stevan Ivkov, Stapar and the despatchor is some Josef Heitzmann, carpenter from Miletic.

The text goes like this:

Dear Mr. Ivkov,

when i was at your house on thursday there was a man with you who asked if we would not know who would give his son in exchange to Stapar (or Stopar), so if you know who this man was, tell him that i would be interested in giving my son to him, to Stapar, he should come to me.

Does that not sound like the beginning of a novel? A man, a simple man, regarding his writing and grammar style, writing to a supposedly important character (in the german original the form of address is very obliging throughout the whole text) from his – supposedly small – hometown, or even on the way back, in the evening, at the beersoked table of one cheap by the road Inn, to give his son away, most probably for education or a „job“. I do not know why, but i always associated Dostojewski with this very simple, yet striking set of events, announced on the small back of a traditional „carte postale“, that was, much different from nowadays, used to submit short messages rather than sending greetings from some sunstruck holidays. Imagine now the old father coming home, talking to his son. there is some cruelty in the action of giving your son away „in exchange“, on the other hand there is a promise of new experiences, of freedom, of the life on ones own on the side of the son too. There is a resemblance to the bible (The lost son) as well as coming of age novels like „Der grüne Heinrich“ (The green Henry) by Gottfried Keller. Between the lines there is a distinct smell of the poverty that was and is not uncommon to the balkans. The son – imagine him, eventually leaving his small hometown village, maybe in a small postbus or carriage, possibly on bare feet, the family saluting him to the outskirts, maybe a last weave of his hand to the maiden he fell in love with the summer before in the harvest, one last turn of the head and off he is on the muddy road, setting out to an adventurous future he does not know the slightest bit about yet.

And what is with the man who looks for someone – does he just need a hand in his business? What is with the important character who might have received this postcard nearly a hundred years ago, in a quite different world, one might say? What was his business with these two?

But all we know is this short tex on the back of the postcard, the rest is imagination and stays in the fog of time – i for once would love to know, how this story has turned out. At least we can hope all of them escaped the great war that was already raising his ugly head and soon drew bloody shadows all over Europe.

Über philippkoch

author and curator, specializing in literature and writing on visual arts
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  1. Pingback: THE PROJECT – keepmeposted2016blog

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