“Beautiful Souls” – Defying the Group

Eyal Press presents another great example of going against the grain by using Aco, a Serbian man. He was apart of a nation that “struck churches, waters, factories… monasteries” (Press 47). They showed no mercy. Turmoil reeked amongst the Croatian and Serbian civilizations, and the Croatian people were like putty in the hands of the Serbs. It was not ideal for Serbian people to help out those of the Croatian nation.

Aco, better known as Aleksander Jevtic, takes the title of “Defying the Group”. Readers are first introduced to Aco, during the round up of Croatian men. His duty was to separate the Croats from the Serbs, since he was trusted, by a fellow officer, to know the difference. Ideally, the Serbs were those who were to be selected. As he sifted through the men in the room, he began pulling both men of Croatian and Serbian descent, potentially leading them to a safe haven. No Croat bothered to say that they weren’t Serbs, due to Aco’s piercing eyes that wrote off: “Don’t say a word.. I’m here to save you”. Now why would he risk his life? Why would a “Serb help a Croat?” (52).

While talking to Eyal, Aco told him about his upbringing. Growing up, he was taught to be idyllic, “when it came to relations between people of different backgrounds” (54). He reminisces on the words of his dear parents, “My mother told me these people who did that were not Croats…Only animals can kill people, not Croats, Serbs, or Muslims. Only animals can do that, animals have no nation, an animal is an animal…They taught me to love people. They taught me to respect others and myself. My father used to tell me every day that others would respect me only if I respected myself’” (59). Continuously saving these Croatian people, through the intensity of the war, was something Aco felt he was indebted to. Later on, the readers learn that the very people that were being dehumanized and abused during the Yugoslavian War, were the people that sheltered Jevtic, hence his wife. He was not worried about others. Harboring an immense amount of self worth and understanding, he was able to defy the ways of others who were so easily manipulated.

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