Influential Croatian Women- Vesna Parun- the saddest dove of female poetry

Vesna Parun was one of the most prominent Croatian poets in the second half of the 20th century. Her deep emotions, pain, thoughts, and warmth…al these were the key ingredients that made her work so unique and relatable. Her hardships through all segments of life emerged in her case into something amazingly beautiful. Let’s hear this story!


Vesna was born on the island of Zlarin in 1922. You could describe her childhood as hard, but that was what influenced her to become the first woman in Croatia who lived exclusively from her literary work. Vesna’s family lived quite hard and modest.

Mother Antica was a native of Šolta island, and father Ante from Prvić island. Her father, a municipal clerk, supported a family of four of their children but often stayed out of work which resulted in a bad financial situation at home. Besides, because of their father’s business, they often moved around the Adriatic coast. Thus, Vesna spent her childhood in Split, Šibenik, and Biograd.

Her education was similar to most of the woman of that time coming from small islands in the Adriatic. She supported herself since the fragile age of 14 while she was going to high school and gave instructions to younger pupils to earn money. In the fall of 1940, as the first year of World War II was passing, she moved to Zagreb where she enrolled the Zagreb Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences before the beginning of World War II. Soon, her brother went to fight on the partisan side and died in combat. She shortly stopped her studies at the Faculty.

In 1947, she worked on one railroad station, when she suffered from typhus and at the same time experienced a crisis caused by the unfortunate love that lasted since 1938. Love, later everyone will see, especially sad and unrequited love, will become the main leitmotif of Vesna’s poetry. Love and health problems- these were the reasons for the interruption of the study. From 1962 to 1967 she lived in Bulgaria where she got married, divorced and experienced a new series of difficulties. After that, she lived and worked in Zagreb as a freelance writer.

She earned her paycheck most of the literary work, and with the writing of poems, drama, and prose, she worked as a translator. She translated from Slovenian, Bulgarian and French. Soon her writing became so famous that she became one of the most important Croatian authors.At her beginnings, she only wrote poetry, but after finishing her second book of poems, she dedicated herself to dramas and prose. She has published more than sixty books of prose and poetry, and her four of her dramas were staged.
She has lived mainly in Zagreb and worked as a freelance writer for half a century. Vesna Parun left her modest Zagreb home in 2000, due to her poor health, believing that she will be temporarily placed for health reasons in Stubičke Toplice. There, in the late 70s, she met her greatest lifelong teacher, Magdica, who was an old beggar. The two had an intense friendship in Stubičke Toplice where she celebrated her last few birthdays and wrote several books. She chose solitude and “descent” of the present culture by herself, not wanting to worship anyone or anything.
In 2010, Vesna Parun died at the age of 88, never coming back to her Zagreb home again.
During her emotionally painful lifetime, Vesna Parun has received numerous awards for her literary work. The “Black Olive” Award in 1955, the annual award by Vladimir Nazor in 1959, the Grigor Vitez Prize in 1968 for a children’s novel, in 1970 she received the Poetry Diploma in Paris, in 1972 she was awarded the Zmaje Prize for the Most Successful Child Poet and much much more. All that, still, didn’t result in living a life filled with love and affection. How she felt most of the time, can be described in one of her most famous poems “You Whose Hands Are More Innocent Than Mine” which is a heart throbbing tale of letting someone you love go. Instead of thinking of some deep thought that would end this post, we will leave you with the full translation of one of the saddest poems of Croatia’s 20th century.
Whose Hands Are More Innocent Than Mine

You whose hands are more innocent than mine
and who is as wise as nonchalance
and who removes slow shadows of doubts
from his face
like the spring wind removes
shadows of clouds floating over the hill.

If your hug gives courage to the heart
and your thighs stop the pain,
if your name gives peace
to his thoughts, and your throat
a shade to his berth
and the night of your voice, an orchard
still untouched by storms.


Then stay beside him
and be more devoted than anyone else
who loved him before you.

Fear the echo approaching
the innocent love nests.

And be gentle with his dream
bellow the invisible mountain
at the edge of the soughing sea.

Walk around his coast. Be seen
by sorrowful dolphins.

Wander around his woods. Kind lizards
won’t do you any harm.


And the thirsty snakes that I tamed
will be humble before you.

May the birds that I kept warm sing to you
in the nights of sharp frost.

May the boy that I protected from
stalkers on a deserted road
caress you

May the flowers that I watered with my tears
bring fragrance to you.

I didn’t witness the best years
of his manhood. His fertility
I haven’t received in my bosom
ravaged by looks
from cattle drivers at fairs
and from greedy thieves.

I will never take care
of his children. And the stories
that I’ve prepared for them long ago
I might tell, crying,
to little miserable bears
abandoned in a black forest.

You whose hands are more innocent than mine
be gentle with his dream
that remained harmless.

But let me see him
his face when strange years
start to come down on it.

And tell me sometimes a thing or two about him
so that I don’t have to ask strangers
who find me silly, and neighbors
who pity my patience.

You whose hands are more innocent than mine,
stay beside his pillow
and be gentle with his dream!




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