by Maya Ombasic

Mostarghia starts in the days surrounding the death of Ombasic’s father. Told that she can only recover his body from the hospital morgue if a religious authority prepares it for its final resting place, we bear witness to the callousness the author is met with when church after church after church refuses to help a grieving woman pay proper respects to her late, atheist, communist father. This introduction effectively sets the stage for a memoir not only about her relationship with this equally loving and frustrating man, but also about her experience as a refugee––fleeing Bosnia after the outbreak of war in the early ’90s and eventually settling in Canada.

A large part of the effectiveness of Mostarghia lies in the ebb and flow between unemotional observations that provide context for the lasting divides in the Balkans and a humanization of the victims of conflict. What Ombasic readily brings across is a lack of belonging, of being met with suspicion and judgment at every turn, of being denied the simple right to exist and live a happy life. And she does so with a tender care that evokes a sadness mixed with levity, anger laced with love––mirroring the oxymora and paradoxes that she presents as tied to a Slavic upbringing.