First Croatian Picture Book in Roma Language Published

By 28 May 2017

A significant milestone for the Roma minority in Croatia.

As a young man, Nikola Šimić Tonin wrote a story inspired by a Roma girl with whom he was in love. Today, the story has been turned into the first Croatian picture book in the Roma language, reports on May 28, 2017.

“I was surprised as well when I realised that this was the only picture book written in Croatian and Roma languages. There are other picture books, but they are written solely as aids for better learning, improving personal hygiene, and with similar goals. There is no other picture book which presents a fairy tale. What makes me particularly happy is that the picture book has been very nicely received by the Roma children,” says Nikola Šimić Tonin.

The picture book “The King's Golden Cage” has been printed in 500 copies, its retail price is 93 kunas, and each Roma living in Zagreb should soon receive a free copy. There is also an initiative that the picture book should be included as reading material for elementary schools which are attended by members of the Roma community.

The picture book can also be borrowed from some libraries in Croatia, for example, from the library in Zadar, where the author lives.

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“I wrote the story about the king's golden cage some 20 years ago, and my wife told me that story simply demanded to be turned into a picture book. I found the inspiration while I was living in a diverse community in central Bosnia, among the Jews, the Roma, Bosniaks, Ukrainians, Serbs and Slovenes. Before Zadar, where I have finally settled, I lived in 36 different towns, 11 of them abroad, so I often met the Roma people,” says Nicholas.

Of course, even today he still remembers his first love, a Roma girl whom he loved in the fourth grade of primary school. “She radiated a special kind of beauty. She would usually stand quietly on the side, with her big eyes full of sadness because of rejection and desire that the Roma should be equal to other people. At the time, I was a young athlete eager to prove myself, and I often stood up for her. So I wrote the story, just for myself,” recalls Šimić Tonin, an award-winning writer and children's poet, some of whose songs have been set to music.

He is currently preparing two new bilingual picture books, this time in Croatian and Italian languages. They will be based on stories about the Blessed Jacob of Zadar and the St. Francis.