Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo
When Zlata's Diary was first published at the height of the Bosnian conflict, it became an international bestseller and was compared to The Diary of Anne Frank, both for the freshness of its voice and the grimness of the world it describes. It begins as the day-today record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl, preoccupied by piano lessons and birthday parties. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, Zlata Filipovic becomes a witness to food shortages and the deaths of friends and learns to wait out bombardments in a neighbor's cellar. Yet throughout she remains courageous and observant. The result is a book that has the power to move and instruct readers a world away.
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Notice that the preface is written in first person point of view. Watch the video below to learn more about this literary element. Since the entire book is a collection of diary entries, what point of view do you predict will be used throughout? (This annotation contains a video)
Find Sarajevo (sounds like the name "Sara" plus "yay-vo") on the map below. Notice the mountain Jahorina close by. The family often visits the mountain on the weekends, especially in winter for skiing. (This annotation contains an image)
What detail from the paragraph tells the reader how important it is to Zlata to continue telling people about the war?
This is an example of a type of figurative language called personification. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
This is a type of figurative language called a metaphor. Watch the video below to learn more about metaphors and their cousin, the simile. In the highlighted passage, Zlata is comparing her country to what? (This annotation contains a video)
This paragraph gives us clues that themes of the upcoming text will include responses to war: hope, survival, honor, courage, and family. Watch below to learn more about theme. (This annotation contains a video)
Zlata chose to start off her diary with a preface of her current thoughts about the effects of war. How might this prepare the reader for what's to come in the following diary entries?
Note that the "I" narrating this introduction is not Zlata.
The war in Bosnia came about because a larger country, Yugoslavia, broke apart when several of its republics declared independence. The Bosnian war was a three-way fight for territory among the ethnic groups of Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims.
Deutsche Marks are the currency of Germany. However, they are considered to have a very stable value, which was important during the chaotic time of war when supplies of goods were so low. That is why vendors would only accept Deutsche Marks as payment.
What does the highlighted passage tell you about why Zlata and her family didn't just leave when the war started?
"UN" is an abbreviation for the international organization of countries called the United Nations.
Monday, September 2, 1991
What do we learn about the narrator, Zlata, in this entry?
Thursday, September 19, 1991
"Solfeggio" is the Italian word for "solfège," which is a method of teaching pitch and sight-reading to singers. It uses the syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la and ti to represent the pitches in a standard octave. There can also be hand movements to accompany each pitch, as shown below. (This annotation contains an image)
Friday, September 27, 1991
What evidence does the text present to support Zlata's claim that "it's been a hard week"?
Sunday, September 29, 1991
By now you've noticed that this book is not separated into chapters, but into diary entries. Watch the video below to learn more about how authors choose to structure their texts. (This annotation contains a video)
Sunday, October 6, 1991
When MTV first came on the air, it played videos all day long and even did video countdowns.
What might we consider unusual about Zlata's choice of pizza toppings?
Zlata staying in to study all weekend shows that she
Sunday, October 13, 1991
What type of figurative language does Zlata use repeatedly in this paragraph to characterize nature?
Tuesday, October 22, 1991
Notice how the mood of Zlata's entries have become much more anxious than when she began her diary. The mention of reservists or soldiers from the neighboring area of Montenegro is also a hint that war is on the horizon.
Wednesday, October 23, 1991
The highlighted passage means that Zlata's parents
Sunday, November 10, 1991
What do you like to do when you spend the night at a friend's house?
Tuesday, November 12, 1991
Caritas is a Catholic charity.
Thursday, November 14, 1991
The lack of gasoline, food, and water are evidence of what part of plot?
The map below can help you see how the conflict is coming closer to Zlata in Bosnia. The light-colored country with the capital Zagreb is Croatia. (This annotation contains an image)
Wednesday, November 27, 1991
Republic Day marked the date of the founding of the Yugoslavia after WWII. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990's, people eventually stopped celebrating the holiday. You can see the transition of the parts of Yugoslavia by watching the map below. (This annotation contains an image)
Tuesday, December 3, 1991
What trait of Zlata's is revealed in this first paragraph?
Wednesday, December 4, 1991
Madonna and Michael Jackson were big American pop stars in the 1980's and 90's. Below is Jackson's video for "Man in the Mirror." (This annotation contains a video)
Saturday, December 7, 1991
What are the effects of the fighting on the people still living in Dubrovnik?
Thursday, December 19, 1991
Notice how the war has still not begun in Bosnia. It is still a horrible event, but it's going on far away and is not a part of Zlata's daily life.
Thursday, December 26, 1991
The highlighted passage shows Zlata's
Wednesday, January 1, 1992
Referring to her parents as "mommy and daddy" reminds the reader that Zlata
Saturday, January 4, 1992
Yahtzee is a game where players roll five dice in an attempt to get certain combinations of numbers. You can play Yahtzee yourself using your own dice and a score sheet like the one below. (This annotation contains an image)
Sunday, January 5, 1992
This is a good example of a humorous tone that Zlata uses in her diary entries, especially before the war begins in Bosnia. Watch the video below to learn more about tone and a related element, mood. (This annotation contains a video)
Tuesday, January 14, 1992
Why did Zlata get in trouble at home?
Are you surprised by all the references to American pop culture in the diary so far?
Thursday, January 23, 1992
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
Sunday, January 26, 1992
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called hyperbole. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
Tuesday, February 4, 1992
Zlata's notebook contains images of fashion models from the 1990's. Linda Evangelista is pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
Thursday, March 5, 1992
How is the tone of this diary entry different from the tone of the last few?
Tuesday, March 24, 1992
The blue berets belong to United Nations peacekeeping forces, pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
Monday, March 30, 1992
You've probably noticed that even though Zlata's diary has been translated into English, there are still letters that you don't recognize. Follow the link below to see how those letters are pronounced. (This annotation contains a link)
Friday, April 3, 1992
How is Zlata coping with the idea that her city, Sarajevo, might be bombed soon?
Sunday, April 5, 1992
The video below is a recording of the song Zlata is probably hearing on the radio. (This annotation contains a video)
Thursday, April 9, 1992
Mommy and Daddy buying food in huge quantities shows what theme?
Wednesday, April 15, 1992
Do you think Zlata and her family should leave? Why would anyone consider staying in a city where war was starting?
Saturday, April 18, 1992
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
Tuesday, April 21, 1992
What detail in this entry explains why Zlata and her family run through yards to get into their neighbor's cellar?
Tuesday, April 28, 1992
Krsko is about 260 miles to the north west of Sarajevo. The country of Croatia is in between Bosnia and Slovenia.
Saturday, May 2, 1992
What does the highlighted passage tell you about how Zlata is coping with the bombing?
Sunday, May 3, 1992
The Miljacka is the river running through Sarajevo. The image below shows part of the river and a few of the many bridges that connect the parts of the city. (This annotation contains an image)
Thursday, May, 7 1992
What words show Zlata's tone in this diary entry?
Thursday, May 14, 1992
Marshal Tito was the first president of Yugoslavia. He was able to convince all the territories within Yugoslavia to focus on the unity of the country, rather than on their own needs. His death in 1980 is one reason the territories started fighting and broke up the Yugoslav nation, eventually leading to the war in Bosnia. (This annotation contains an image)
Thursday, May 21, 1992
The highlighted passage is evidence of which theme?
Monday, May 25, 1992
Below is an image of Zetra Hall, where the Olympic closing ceremonies were held in 1984. During the siege of Sarajevo, the copper roof melted and was consumed by flame after being hit by fire-starting bombs. UN forces still used Zetra as a shelter and base throughout the war. (This annotation contains an image)
Wednesday, May 27, 1992
How does this scene show the tension and conflict increasing?
Friday, May 29, 1992
What is the impact on the reader of Zlata's straightforward description of these terrible events?
Saturday, May 30, 1992
What theme is making an appearance when Zlata writes "out of the flames, new lives are born"?
Monday, June 1, 1992
Ohrid pearls come from Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. They are unique because they are coated with a mixture made from silvery fish scales. Watch the video below to see how the art of hand crafting these pearls has been passed down from generation to generation. (This annotation contains a video)
Tuesday, June 16, 1992
How many times was Zoka's jewelry shop bombed?
Saturday, June 20, 1992
Even though he lost both his legs, Nermin Tulic went on to act in many movies. His most recent film was "A Stranger" in 2013. In the short clip below, you can see that he's sitting in a wheelchair. (This annotation contains a video)
Wednesday, June 24, 1992
How is Zlata's reaction to the current shooting different from her reaction when the war started?
Monday, June 29, 1992
What similarities and differences do you see between the diary Zlata is keeping and those kept by children during World War II?
This is the first time we really see Zlata's unfiltered reaction to the war going on around her. Click on the link below to read diary excerpts from children who lived during World War II, then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a link)
Friday, July 3, 1992
Sunday, July 5, 1992
How would you feel if you couldn't step outside your house for months at a time, especially in nice summer weather?
Friday, July 17, 1992
What is the highlighted passage saying about the theme of "family"?
Wednesday, July 29, 1992
Where are Mladjo's parents?
Tuesday, August 4, 1992
What tone does the phrase "brutal aggression against the independent, sovereign state" indicate?
Friday, August 7, 1992
The highlighted phrase is evidence of what theme?
Tuesday, August 11, 1992
Do you have a pet you can talk to, and who cheers you up?
Sunday, August 16, 1992
This is another complication in the conflict of the story. Daddy can't do the jobs he used to, so someone else will have to work extra, in this case, Mommy.
Tuesday, August 25, 1992
What evidence do you see of the theme of survival?
Thursday, September 3, 1992
How would your life be different if you had to live without electricity? What would you miss the most?
Tuesday, September 15, 1992
Zlata's tone in this diary entry is
Thursday, September 17, 1992
Notice how accustomed Zlata is getting to the war going on around her. She's only annoyed that the bomb happened in the middle of the party.
Friday, September 18, 1992
What does Zlata mean by writing "this isn't life, it's an imitation of life"?
Sunday, September 20, 1992
Why does Zlata believe that she has to "confess" to dressing up?
Monday, September 21, 1992
Notice that it's important to Zlata to show her courage, to show that she's still a part of the city and its people, and the war can't chase her away. This is evidence of the theme of courage and survival in war time.
Wednesday, September 30, 1992
Why did Zlata's father remove the battery from the car in order to power the radio?
Sunday, October 4, 1992
The picture below is of a Dalmatian puppy. (This annotation contains an image)
Sunday, October 11, 1992
If there's no running water, where did the family get water to take a bath?
Friday, October 16, 1992
The phrase "the notes keep me company" is an example of
Wednesday, October 21, 1992
UNICEF stands for United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. It was established by the United Nations in 1946 to help children in countries that had been destroyed during WWII.
Monday, October 26, 1992
The highlighted phrase signals the importance of which theme?
Thursday, October 29, 1992
A letter of guarantee probably tells the Sarajevo government that the family will be taken in by Holland and be given a job and a place to live.
Sunday, November 15, 1992
What event did not happen over the weekend?
Thursday, November 19, 1992
What does the highlighted phrase mean?
Wednesday, November 25, 1992
What does the highlighted sentence mean?
Sunday, November 29, 1992
The farther they get into winter, the less daylight there is.
Sunday, December 6, 1992
Follow this link to read a December 7, 1992 news report of the destruction of Otes. Notice that the town is only six miles from Sarajevo. (This annotation contains a link)
What similarities and differences do you see between Zlata's account and the newspaper story?
Thursday, December 10, 1992
What evidence shows the theme of survival?
Wednesday, December 23, 1992
The highlighted expression is an idiom, which is a type of figurative language. In an idiom, the meaning of the individual words is different from the meaning of the saying as a whole. In this case having butterflies in your stomach means that you feel nervous.
Monday, December 28, 1992
The highlighted expression is an example of what type of figurative language?
A kilogram is the equivalent of 2.2 pounds. This would mean her father has lost over 50 pounds since the start of the war.
Friday, January 1, 1993
"We slept like babies" is an example of what type of figurative language?
Tuesday, January 5, 1993
Why might Zlata be so thankful to get long underwear?
Monday, January 11, 1993
What are some ways Zlata is keeping herself busy during the winter?
Tuesday, January 26, 1993
What change has Zlata noticed about her diary entries?
Friday, February 5, 1993
Many of Zlata's comments on the war sound like they belong to someone much older than her 11 years. Going through such hardships forces children to grow up quickly.
Friday, February 12, 1993
The room is dangerous now because it's so cold. Why was it dangerous before?
Saturday, February 20, 1993
How do you think these French people heard about Zlata?
Tuesday, February 23, 1993
If you weren't allowed to go to school, or your school shut down, would you still try to learn on your own, as Zlata's family is arranging?
Thursday, February 25, 1993
Friday, March 5, 1993
How was Zlata's family heating their house before the heater was installed?
Monday, March 15, 1993
Zlata's been ill several times since the start of the war 11 months ago. Poor living conditions and nutrition are probably to blame.
Zlata's tone is very morose and hopeless here.
Thursday, March 25, 1993
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
Saturday, March 27, 1993
It sounds like Zlata is proud of her English. Why do you think she doesn't write about the questions the journalists asked her?
Saturday, April 17, 1993
Explain the housing situation in Sarajevo.
We've never seen Zlata's spirits so low, so devoid of hope. Will she be able to recover?
Monday, April 19, 1993
With all the terrible events of war, it's easy to forget that Zlata is a growing child. After a year of war, she'd certainly need bigger clothes.
Tuesday, April 27, 1993
Zlata is fortunate to have people sending her family food supplies, especially chocolate, as pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
Wednesday, April 28, 1993
How does Zlata's neighborhood deal with the stress of having a sniper shooting at them?
Sunday, May 2, 1993
On this, the one year anniversary of Zlata's worst day, what evidence is there that she is hopeful?
Monday, May 3, 1993
The use of the letter "h" was introduced to the Bosnian language after Yugoslavia was broken apart into separate countries. It was intended to differentiate the Bosnian language from Croatian or Serbian, which were very close in vocabulary and pronunciation.
Thursday, May 6, 1993
Notice how Zlata's good humor has returned.
Saturday, May 8, 1993
From where did people in the marketplace get the goods they are selling?
Today a Deutsche Mark is worth about 70 cents.
Tuesday, May 25, 1993
Split is a seaside town in neighboring Croatia. (This annotation contains an image)
Monday, May 31, 1993
After a year of hardship, how is Zlata's reaction to her situation different than it was when the war first started?
Sunday, June 13, 1993
This is an exciting milestone.
Saturday, June 26, 1993
Here you can see more evidence that in war, family isn't just people related to you.
Friday, July 2, 1993
What book is Zlata promoting?
Saturday, July 10, 1993
What figurative language does Martina use to describe Sarajevo?
Saturday, July 17, 1993
Throughout her message, Zlata compares her childhood to
Friday, July 23, 1993
Is Zlata talking about the literal darkness around her candle? What else could she mean?
Tuesday, July 27, 1993
Watch the video below to see the piece one reporter created after interviewing Zlata. Then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
After watching the video of Zlata, her family, and the fighting in Sarajevo, was it what you expected based on Zlata's writing? What was different?
Monday, August 2, 1993
Anne Frank, pictured below, was a Jewish girl who kept a diary during World War II while she was hiding from the Nazis. She was eventually captured and sent to a concentration camp, where she died of typhus just a month before soldiers came to set the camp free. (This annotation contains an image)
Tuesday, August 10, 1993
Why was the cat so important to Zlata?
Sunday, August 15, 1993
Have you noticed that even though there is no food, water, electricity or gas, the mail still manages to get delivered?
Tuesday, August 17, 1993
How does the oil being stolen affect the electricity?
Saturday, August 21, 1993
Watch the opening of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" below to see the famous jewelry store and the elegant Audrey Hepburn. (This annotation contains a video)
Thursday, August 26, 1993
The highlighted phrase is an example of what literary element?
Thursday, September 2, 1993
The video below contains images from Zlata's life and her beloved, demolished Sarajevo. (This annotation contains a video)
Saturday, September 4, 1993
In this context, "mishmash" is probably
Sunday, September 5, 1993
Geneva is the second-largest city in Switzerland. It is a worldwide center of diplomacy, because many international organizations like the United Nations and the Red Cross have big offices there.
Wednesday, September 8, 1993
To what is Zlata referring when she uses the phrase "war archive"?
Wednesday, September 15, 1993
Throughout the war, school was always important to Zlata. In the video below, see a grown up Zlata make remarks to an Italian UNICEF group in 2009 about the meaning of education. (This annotation contains a video)
Monday, September 20, 1993
Why does Zlata refer to the peace negotiations as a "game of War or Peace"?
Saturday, September 25, 1993
300 grams of bread is equal to about half a loaf every three days.
Wednesday, September 29, 1993
Icarus is a character out of Greek mythology whose father, Daedalus, built two sets of wings out of feathers and wax so he and his son could escape Crete. Because Icarus flew too high, the heat of the sun melted the wax and he fell into the sea. (This annotation contains an image)
Monday, October 4, 1993
The highlighted phrase is an example of
Tuesday, October 12, 1993
This is the woman who wrote the introduction to the diary.
Wednesday, October 13, 1993
Why does Zlata's mother cry upon seeing the picture of Oga?
Thursday, October 14, 1993
Zlata mentions that a lot of shooting comes into the city from the surrounding hills. You can see from the panoramic picture below that Sarajevo is in a valley surrounded by hills. It was an excellent setting for Winter Olympic sports. (This annotation contains an image)
Sunday, October 17, 1993
How has Zlata's opinion of the cellar changed since the war started?
Paris is known as "The City of Lights." Below you can see the illuminated Eiffel Tower, one of the most famous symbols of Paris. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted phrase is an example of a(n)
Notice how Zlata's writing becomes filled with joy.
Follow the link below to read an interview Zlata gave a London newspaper 20 years after she and her family left Sarajevo. (This annotation contains a link)
Listen to a choral piece based on selections from Zlata's diary, then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
After listing to the choir, how did the music capture the mood of Zlata's diary?
Credits for Photographs
Keep reading to see photos of Zlata and her family.