The walk through the walled, medieval section of the city of Zagreb, Croatia was a pleasant contrast from the bustling modern part of the capital city. The people of Croatia aren’t exactly unfriendly, but perhaps a little gruff is the best description. They are helpful and good but it feels like they get about the task of getting life done with a certain amount of detachment. It would be important to remember that the country had gone through a major ethnic genocide during World War II and ethnic wars as recently as the 1990’s. I am sure that changes one in some way.
Tucked into an out of the way street in this old part of town was a very small museum called “The Museum of Broken Relationships”. It was comprised of mini exhibits, all having the same theme. In each , someone had placed a single item that embodied a past broken relationship, along with a short description of their thoughts and feelings about it. Some were very sad. Some were joyously nostalgic and filled with appreciation for the experience, assuming that you were willing to look for it. All were small windows into the true nature of ourselves, with the art of salesmanship put to rest, accepted as insignificant.
The simplest exhibit was a rubber chew toy with the inscription “His dog left more tracks than he did.” Most were much longer and more descriptive.
Recently I have thought about my own version of this theme. Mine is not about romantic relationships however:
The feeling of love and belonging was powerful, but rarely talked about. I fit in as an integral part of it, as if I had been there from the beginning, well over a century before. My time there covered nearly a third of its span. I made stained glass windows for churches, as my father had before me, as his father before him, and as his father before him. I think that I was a very important part of it during my time. Other times were more important, but you only have the part of history that you are in and shape. It was a selfish lover. No matter how much time I gave, it was never satisfied and was happy to take more. It whispered in your ear "if you make me great, then you will be great". Our identities were intertwined. It did love back, however. I had a mission, a good living and a little respect, but it was not too worried about any other loves. It was eager to crowd them out if you listened to the whispering. I stood my ground, taunting it at times as if I didn't love it, though I very much did. When I came down with ALS and made my exit, it made it clear that it did not need me. The logical part of me already knew this but I wasn't prepared for the feeling that it now seems to view me as something dangerous to itself.
Regarding the museum in Zagreb, does a difficult cultural background make fertile ground for wanting to dabble in the exploration of loss? I would not know. I hypothesize that exploring feelings about broken relationships is different from dehumanizing a group.