Is there life before death? I happened to remember this Romanian riddle from the museum of communist black humour a little while ago, and for the first time it made me think seriously.

‘No,’ said my mother decisively. ‘All there is is survival.’

In Croatia the word survival has completely replaced the word life. If we can just somehow survive, sighs my neighbour. The main thing is that we’re alive, we’ll survive somehow, says a friend. In times like these the most important thing is to survive, Mme Micheline concludes positively. Mme Micheline survived the Second World War, the first independent state of Croatia, communist Yugoslavia, the second independent state of Croatia, another war; she knows what she’s talking about.

Baghdad Diary