The Eyes of Sutjeska by Vasko Popa
Vasko Popa was a Serbian poet of Romanian descent. Born in modern day Romania, Popa spent his life between Serbia and Romania studying in both Belgrade and Bucharest. His poetic life was often concerned with Socialist Realism, an artistic form which focuses primarily on celebrating socialist life or uplifting the role of ordinary folk in contrast to romantic ideas of aloof heroes and divinely given gifts.
During the Second World War, Vasko Popa was a partisan in Yugoslavia and during the defence of his nation was imprisoned in the Bečkerek concentration camp, in modern day Serbia. Thankfully he survived and was able to produce poems all the way through until his death in 1991.
The poem ‘The Eyes of Sutjeska’ simply depicts the heroism of the partisan and antifascist fighters who stood their ground against the Nazi onslaught during operation ‘Case Black’ which was the biggest Axis push against Yugoslavia. The battle of Sutjeska was the turning point in the Yugoslav National Liberation Army’s fight against the Axis powers, however the cost was vast and many soldiers who were in the neighbouring military hospital were murdered by Nazis.
The poem is mixed with anger, frustration, and amazement at the events which the partisans, despite being outnumbered, broke through the Nazi forces. The heroism of the figures had to be honoured and a poet’s
Through flesh and blood the earth is given birth
Clod after clod stone after stone
Certainty after certainty
Through cosmic storms the sky is given birth
Serenity after serenity star after star
Vista after Vista
Our strength grows into mountains into
Hunger into fruit-trees tenderness into flowers
Freedom into infinity
More and more we merge with all
Nothing can despoil us