The Great Healer

Life inflicts wounds
And lets time take over.

Quietly rolls up its sleeves
Feels with its fingers and asks:
Does it hurt?
Hurts less now?
Then it rinses
And applies assorted herbs
First this one
Then that one.

And then it wraps
it slowly keeps wrapping
its white bandages
over the wounds.

Grigor Vitez

Translation by
Marija Andraka

About Grigor Vitez

"My poems are interwoven with sounds, smells, colors and movements of my childhood.
I also wanted them to impart as much serenity and joy as possible, that irrecoverable joy of childhood that later life slowly breaks and destroys in adults and that we try to preserve for as long as possible."

Grigor VitezGrigor Vitez was born on 15 February 1911 in Kosovac near Okučani. Before World War II he was a teacher in Slavonia, Podravina and Bosnia and after the war he worked for the Ministry of Education. He was also the secretary of the Croatian Writers' Association and for 16 years he worked for the publishing house Mladost where he initiated and edited numerous children's literature series, including the major Vjerverica and Jelen series, as well as the shorter ones: Iz priče u priču, Plava knjiga, Palčićeva knjižica. Although his first published poetry collections were written for adult audiences (San boraca u zoru (1948), Naoružane ruže (1955) and others), he later became renowned for his children's poetry. Picture books Medvjed kao pudar and Dva pijetla (1951) were published first, followed by Tko će s nama u šumicu, Maksimir, Čudna škola, Ogledalce, A zašto ne bi... His play Plava boja snijega has been produced for the stage many times. He published seven collections of children's poetry over a period of ten years: Prepelica (1956), Sto vukova i druge pjesme za djecu (1957), Kad bi drveće hodalo (1959), Jednog jutra u gaju (1961), Iza brda plava (1961), Hvatajte lopova (1964), Gdje priče rastu (1965), and Igra se nastavlja (posthumously, 1967).

Vitez's poetry collections have been translated into 20-odd languages and won a number of prestigious national literary awards. By doing away with unnecessary moralizing which had encumbered contemporary, mostly epic and didactic children's poetry, and introducing a range of expressive literary novelties (in terms of genre and ludic idiom), he influenced generations of children's literature wirters: S. Femenić, V. Parun, T. Bilopavlović, Z. Balog, D. Ivanišević among others. Despite pronounced lyricism of his poetry, Vitez always preserves the referential layer of signification. Spreading across the open coordinate plane of imagined childhood, his poems affirm humanity, joyfulness, and optimism.

Vitez's poetry has inspired many composers (I. L. Kalinski, I. Tijardović, S. Horvat, L. Županović, B. Bjelinski, S. Zlatić, N. Hercigonja, S. Bombardelli), visual artists and illustrators (O. Petlevski, S. Junaković, T. Torjanac, I. Vitez, Z. Bourek and others). He translated from Russian, French, and Slovene.

Grigor Vitez about himself...

"Kosovac is the name of the village in which I was born on 15 February 1911 and where I spent my early childhood. The name reminds me of blackbirds1 and their young, whose nests I occasionally came across in Čungar, a young forest overlooking the village, where I played as a child. My ancestors on my mother's side, the Milosavljević family, probably came to Slavonia from Bosnia, although it is also possible that they arrived during the great migration led by Arsenije Čarnojević. Ancestors on my father's side came from Northern Dalmatia, from the regions of Ravni Kotari or Bukovica, under the family name Alavanja. Some relatives with that family name, who came from Dalmatia at the same time, live today near the town of Daruvar. A member of the Alavanja family who settled in Okučani, a borderland territory, carried the title of knight2 and later this became our family name."

Knjige Grigora Viteza"I wrote with the intention to impart joy, to help you recognize the beauty of life, to make you laugh at the funny side of things (...) I wish that these verses help you fulfill your everyday duties and overcome difficulties more easily, that you successfully reach the goals you set for yourself and face the future with serenity and fearlessness.(...) My writing has been influenced, primarily, by my childhood, nature, and the scenes of my native country that have stayed with me since the early days, and then by my work with children in the classroom, my little girl Olgica, by folk tales, poetry, and riddles as well as the work of major writers of children's literature..."

The Grigor Vitez Award

'Bird' ('Ptica') by Ksenija KantociNamed after Grigor Vitez, this prestigious annual award for most successful literary and artistic achievements in children's literature is awarded to writers and illustrators working in Croatia. It was founded in 1967 by Croatian Our Children Association (Savez društava Naša djeca Hrvatske). Multiple award winners include writers Zvonimir Balog (1970, 1973, 1991) and Sunčana Škrinjarić (1970, 1978, 1983), as well as illustrators Ivica Antolčić (1975, 1980, 1987, 1989, 1992), Mladen Veža (1973, 1980, 1990), Ivan Vitez (1988, 1993, 1995, 1996), and Svjetlan Junaković (1997, 1998, 2002, 2003).

1 blackbird = kos in Croatian
2 knight = vitez in Croatian