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My Transformative Journey: Shaping the Dreamer through Drama Performances — Croatia and France

Chronicles of my Youth Travels (Part 1)

By Gabriela Trofin-TatárPublished 3 months ago 5 min read
My Transformative Journey: Shaping the Dreamer through Drama Performances — Croatia and France
Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

― Henry Miller

Welcome to the Chronicles of My Youth Travels, where I’ll tell you a bit more about where I have been and how it has shaped me along the way.

Travel has been the fire that has shaped my current self, accumulating layers of complexity in my thinking, thoughts, and actions as a result of my journey’s successes and failures.

In my earlier days, I was a timid girl, always good and softly spoken, lost in dreams of the moon as I wrote poems and kept journals. My solace lay in the pages of adventure books that transported me to distant lands.

Recognizing my need for a confidence boost and a nudge toward exploring the world, my parents encouraged me to join the high school drama group. The concept of this extracurricular activity was to stage performances in French. I was actively studying the language at the time and needed more immersive, native-speaking experiences.

Osijek, Croatia

Croatia was my first trip abroad, at 16 years old. It was a trip with the drama group to play Don Quixote on the stage as part of a youth drama festival in Osijek.

Eager to soak in every detail of that experience, I was a sponge for new cultures and diverse ideas, ready to absorb all that came my way.

By Aleksandr Popov on Unsplash

I remember attending my very first international party. That’s where a particular song, Bon Jovi’s ‘Crush,’ left a permanent impression on me. I distinctly recall dancing to it with Raoul, a dark-haired boy from Bilbao wearing a light blue t-shirt. He moved gracefully on the dance floor, the lights soft and airy. We exchanged addresses that night and continued corresponding in English and Spanish for approximately three years.

Some of the girls in my group couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy, unable to imagine how I struck up a friendship with such a handsome Spanish boy. While I did have a crush on him for a while, our letters were more about sharing everyday experiences and the imagery of our teenage lives during that period. They were not quite love letters, but they held a special charm of their own.

As I strolled along the revitalized boulevards and squares, I thought of the city’s tumultuous past.

Image by blusch from Pixabay

Just nine years prior, Osijek had been a city under siege, subjected to relentless artillery bombardment by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). The shelling, which peaked in late November and December 1991, had exacted a heavy toll on the city and its people, causing approximately 800 casualties and prompting a mass exodus of its residents. The scars of those turbulent days were etched not only in the city’s physical landscape but also in the hearts of its survivors. Croatian young people at the festival remembered and talked about the memories of the war, still fresh in their minds.

The recent historical past of Osijek fascinated me, especially hearing kids my age discuss it because they had lived through those times. I was arriving from the tranquility of peaceful lands, where my only concerns revolved around grades and choosing my next book to read.

I don’t remember having any photos from Osijek. I’ll need to sift through my collection of printed photos at my parents’ house to check if there are any hidden gems from that time.

Normandy, France

My second international escapade, the following year, led me to the enchanting land of France. I was still in the company of my drama group and participating in yet another vibrant youth festival. This time, our troupe took to the stage, performing the same Don Quixote, but in French. I also marked my debut as a guitarist on the theatrical scene, where I had the privilege of accompanying another talented artist.

During my time in France, I found myself in the company of a Moroccan boyfriend who introduced me to the mesmerizing world of the djembe, those captivating African drums that echoed with rhythmic beats.

France left an indelible mark on my soul, especially with its eerie and captivating gothic churches that seemed to tell tales of centuries past. The coastal town of Dieppe etched a melancholic memory in my heart. I remember the beach made of crushed seashells and its ancient secrets.

Place du Vieux-Marché, Rouen — Photo by the author taken in 2001

It was in Rouen that I truly fell in love, not just with the city’s rich history but with the vast treasure troves of knowledge housed in its immense libraries. As a book lover, my heart skipped a beat when I stumbled upon Fnac, a paradise for all things literary and artistic.

The Joan of Arc memorial in Rouen is the location where she was burned at the stake. This made a great impression on my 16-year-old self. Standing in front of the monument seemed like stepping back in time, immersing oneself in the exact location where Joan encountered her struggles and sorrows.

When I first heard the narrative of Saint Joan of Arc in history class, the thought of standing where she met her awful end never occurred to me. It was a gloomy and odd realization that poor Joan, accused of everything from heresy to merely wearing men’s garb, had faced her fate on this simple plot of land. She died at 19 years old, so she was just a few years older than me at that time.

As I sit now at my desk, two decades later, I look back with compassion at my teenage self. I will never forget these two life-changing experiences I had with the drama group when I was sixteen. In contrast to the innocence of my own upbringing, Osijek, Croatia, opened my eyes to the wounds of recent history. While the Joan of Arc memorial in Rouen taught me about the enduring force of human resiliency, Normandy, France, refreshed my spirit with fresh experiences and feelings.

These two journeys were important chapters in my life that broadened my perspectives and cultivated empathy. They sparked my interest in the rest of the world and its past. From the shy kid who previously found comfort in books and fantasies, I became the brave, empathetic, and curious person I am today. These adventures were not merely geographical; they were also voyages of self-discovery that enabled me to appreciate the wonder of the planet and the strength of the human spirit.

What journeys in your youth shaped the person you have become?

I’m curious to hear your story. Let me know in the comments. Or if this inspires you to write your own, make sure you tag me.

By Josh Hild on Unsplash

***I originally published this article on Medium.***

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About the Creator

Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

Full Stack Developer in the making and mother of 3 littles. Curious, bookaholic and travel addict. I also write on Medium and Substack: https://medium.com/@chicachiflada & https://chicachiflada.substack.com/

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    Gabriela Trofin-TatárWritten by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

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