Life and Death in the Balkans

A Family Saga in a Century of Conflict

Bato Tomasevic

‘Amid the many books published about former Yugoslavia over the past fifteen years, this one stands out.’ — Dejan Djokic, author, Elusive Compromise: A History of Inter-War Yugoslavia 

Bibliographic Details
Life and Death in the Balkans Hardback
June 2008£20.00

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This compellingly written autobiography covers the past century and more in the life of Bato Tomasevic’s Montenegrin family in the harsh and ever-turbulent mountains of southern Yugoslavia. The narrative begins some fifty years before the Balkan wars (1912–1913) and recounts the harrowing experiences of the Tomasevic clan in the twentieth century’s two World Wars. The author conveys vividly the hardships of life in under Italian and German occupation: the daily executions, the heroism of underground workers and the effects of occupation on ordinary people. Bato Tomasevic was a boy soldier with the Partisans and experienced the horrors of warfare against the Chetniks, cheating death in an ambush in Eastern Bosnia.Just as vivid are his accounts of, inter alia, post-war Yugoslavia, his narrow escape in the Munich air disaster, life in Belgrade in the hopeful sixties and seventies, the break-up of the Federation after Tito’s death, and the efforts of extreme nationalists to create a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia through armed might and ethnic cleansing. The family saga ends with Tomasevic’s experience of the NATO bombing of Serbia in March 1999 and the downfall and imprisonment of President Milosevic. Tomasevic’s story is at once fascinating, heroic, tragic, sometimes even funny, but unquestionably moving, such as his description of he and his mother finding his dead brother’s skull or of witnessing a suicide by a young German prisoner of war of roughly the same age as him. It is a story as remembered by a young boy, whose family, like his country, was drawn into a violent and brutal conflict that it could not escape.


Bato Tomasevic, born in 1929 in Kosovo, was the seventh child of a Montenegrin family which till 1945 lived in Kosovo and Montenegro. He has written a dozen books, mostly on art, and collaborated with Oto Bihalji-Merin in writing and editing the unique Encyclopedia of World Naive Art.


‘Amid the many books published about former Yugoslavia over the past fifteen years, this one stands out—a moving memoir that reads like an enthralling historical novel. Tomasevic’s book opens a unique window into a lost world of the Balkans in the twentieth century.’ — Dejan Djokic, author, Elusive Compromise: A History of Inter-War Yugoslavia