I had intended to write The Note Through the Wire 20 years ago. When I first heard the remarkable story of my parents-in-law, I decided that it had to be recorded for the benefit of future generations of the family. Neither Bruce nor Josefine, though, were willing to discuss the war and only occasionally divulged snippets of information. Now I realise that painful memories of past suffering would have prevented them from revealing all they had experienced.
With some coaxing, Josefine, an extremely modest person, relented and reluctantly agreed to describe what she and Bruce went through during the war. We had just shifted to France and I was to interview her when she visited us after a long-planned holiday in her home country of Slovenia. Tragically, she was killed in a car accident three days before she was due to visit and her experiences were never recorded.
A couple of years ago, after a family dinner during which their exploits were discussed, I realised that if I didn’t write it now, this remarkable tale might be forgotten forever. It was clear that younger generations of family were unaware of - or at least only vaguely aware of - their great-grandparents’ wartime love story.
I originally set out to write a factual - and what would have probably been a fairly sterile - account of their lives and the circumstances that brought them together. The more research I did, the more I realised that this untold story had much broader appeal and I resolved to write something more ambitious.
The research proved to be more challenging than I had ever imagined – information on Josefine was particularly hard to source because few formal records existed of partisan feats.
Then my wife and her sister located a box of letters, unopened since World War II, that described, in heart-breaking detail, many of the obstacles their parents had faced and painted a very grim picture of wartime life in Slovenia. This box included not only correspondence between Josefine and Bruce immediately following the war but also letters written during the war from Josefine’s siblings and friends, some of which included coded messages.
With this additional information, I felt confident that I had enough material to piece the tale together. At that stage, my intention was still to write an account for family and friends who had known Bruce and Josefine. However, the editor I contracted to review the original manuscript felt that it deserved a wider audience and encouraged me to approach various publishers. Fortunately, Allen and Unwin saw some merit in the manuscript and offered to publish it. I have nothing but praise for the support they have given me since.
One of the things that surprised and shocked me during my research was the harshness of the Nazi regime in Slovenia. I knew that Slovenia was in the heart of Nazi occupied Europe but I had no idea of the extent of the brutality. I hadn’t realised, either, that Slovenia was a country riven by civil tensions and internal conflict. I also learned much about the ill-fated Allied Greek campaign and POW life about which I was mostly ignorant.
What moved me most, though, was the bravery and resilience of the Slovene partisans who faced death and danger daily in their struggle to liberate their country from the clutches of the Nazi occupiers. I have unreserved admiration for what they accomplished under the most arduous conditions.
Read an excerpt here.