In May of 1945 World War Two (WWII) ended in Europe. Peace and freedom were shouted from rooftops everywhere, even in communist countries! Yet in communist Yugoslavia freedom and peace were only meant for those who were members of the Communist Party or were their loyal followers, albeit often many in constant fear for their life and/or livelihood or of their loved ones should they behave contrary to the Party expectations. The book “Angel” is written in the English (2022) and Croatian (“Anđeo” 2021) languages by Katarina Pejaković, writer and journalist, living in Canada since late 1969. Together with her immediate family Katarina is a part of a river of Croats who fled from suffocating communist oppression during post-WWII decades into real peace and freedom that the West offered. “Angel”, in such a captivating and fluently intimate way, brings before us the terrible Yugoslav communist tactics that made life for multitudes a living hell, a living, cruel prison within Croatia, within former communist Yugoslavia.

Firstly, I must say that this book represents a particularly valuable source for those who wish to know or remind themselves of the cruelty of ways communist oppression worked and a priceless source of information for second, third, fourth generation of people of Croatian descent born outside Croatia as well as for those living in Croatia, cheated of and denied the knowledge of historical struggles for freedom as well as of life under the communist totalitarian regime. On almost every page of the book they can find the frightening and restricted, suffocating life their parents, grandparents, great grandparent endured before they plunged into the scary unknown, but liberating, life in foreign countries to which they fled from communist oppression. 

Secondly, this book of 200 pages (plus 15 with Foreword and Acknowledgements and similar content) has no Chapters. It is one continuous painful story of life under communist Yugoslavia oppression as lived by a young child. Katarina. It is an autobiographical narration in which multitudes of Croats will find themselves and their memories; place the stories they may have heard into sentient context. To my view this makes the book very special because, reading it, I did not even notice until well towards the end that there were no Chapters, no defining breaks in the story that Chapters in a book usually present a reader with. The content consumed all my attentiveness and curiosity – continuously. This book is akin to one long breath held together by mystery and hope and wonder of an exquisite Angel painted on a Christmas card from Canada who entered the child’s body and soul, offering hope, love, and consolation where these were practically non-existent in the pressure of communist indoctrination and punishments where communist doctrine and standards of behaviour were resisted by those who considered themselves Christian Croats first and foremost; Croatian patriots in a country controlled by a communist regime that cruelly denounced and did not tolerate religious pursuits and beliefs – or human rights for that matter.

The foundation for the book “Angel” although largely about life in Croatia under the Yugoslav communist regime from post-WWII years to late 1960’s, when the author migrated as a child to Canada with her mother to join her father who had fled communism several years before, is found in Katarina Pejaković’s paper and talk given to Canadian school students during the Croatian Homeland War of 1990’s. The short story Paper Angel, the author’s presentation to school students was published in Storyteller Magazine, a Canadian magazine featuring short stories, and was selected as the best short story of 1993. Katarina Pejaković subsequently enriched the story, and this autobiographical book was born and published by Justin Press, Ottawa, Canada in 2022.

The Angel in this book is a glistening white-winged angel with halo painted in gold on the first Christmas card Katarina received as a child from her uncle who fled to Canada some years before. Living in the country where Catholic religion was ridiculed, discouraged, banned, brought about shame and disgrace in the eyes of the communist mind and deed, the angel became the most precious possession for Katarina. Giving her hope for true freedom and expression of Christian faith that there is a mysterious warm world far away where practicing one’s faith and religion were as normal and as welcome as every new day. But of course, a communist-driven schoolteacher confiscated the Christmas card from Katarina with cruel rebuke and threatening ridicule.

Those were the terrible years when practicing Catholic faith was kept away from the oppressive communists as much as possible. When going to Holy Mass was done in secret, when Holy Sacraments were received in secret, when Church was labelled as “enemy of the communist State …” All such secrets were sadly no secrets at all, of course, the communist secret services had ears, eyes, and spies everywhere! The Catholic faithful knew this, felt this, suffered because of it. Immediately after WWII, from 1945 to 1953, the government and the Communist Party of former Yugoslavia pursued the mounting of an all-out attack on the churches despite its claim of religious liberty. Harsh measures were undertaken against religious institutions and individuals, including imprisonment, murder, the nationalisation, and destruction of property, and so forth. The period of Katarina’s childhood in Croatia was shaped by such cruelty and denial of human rights. She skilfully in this book brings before the reader multitudes of moments of communist cruelty towards those who dared to celebrate and rejoice in Christmas and the Catholic faith. Both subtle and open modes of psychological torture and oppression against children during these years of determined communist indoctrination found in this book demonstrate the darkest years any child can endure, let alone an adult, their parent, relative, neighbour, compatriot.

In this book the reader not only finds many testimonial stories from the life of a child in communist Yugoslavia but also narrations of the great suffering of the Croatian people who did not subscribe to a communist Yugoslavia but to a free and independent Croatia. The book reminds the reader of the unthinkable tortures and abuse of patriotic Croats, the multitudes murdered or thrown alive into bottomless pits because of their religious beliefs or their political inclinations away from communism.

It is a work of prose that captures the readers imagination vividly, that ignites profound bitterness and sadness towards the cruelty imposed upon Croatian patriots. And yet, there is this “Angel” who, it seems to me, as in some divine inspiration carries even a frightened and stripped of human dignity child into a life that is safe and filled with love for the land left behind despite its harvests of terrorising oppression and hopelessness.

Katarina Pejaković

Katarina Pejaković has skilfully managed to give and offer the readers abundant glimpses and understanding of what it was like to grow up in Communist Yugoslavia. “Angel” is a masterfully written book that reveals the former Yugoslav communist regime’s tactics used to divide and bring intolerance between children and parents, between spouses, between siblings, immediate and extended families, between the Church and those who followed it or believed in it; across local communities where the communist knife was the sharpest. The loudest it seems was the destruction of actual truth and the crafting of some new truth, communist truth, that defined what one could expect from life in communist Yugoslavia.

Ina Vukic

 “Angel” is available at Justin Press online:


  1. Amen sister

  2. Excellent!
    We need books like this, about the truth about the communists, Tito’s “liberators”!
    Thank you Katarina.

  3. Ivanka Sabolich says:

    I loved this book for two reasons. First, I could relate to the story for,I and many of my friends, have had similar experiences growing up in communist Yugoslavia.
    Second, the story is told in an engaging style in which child’s innocence adds to the authenticity of the story and condemnation of the system that brutalized both adults and children.

  4. 💗

  5. americaoncoffee says:

    Angel books are my favorite.

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