Sometimes looking for old friends in Google does not give back the result you are expecting nor are you ready for the outcome when the name of your old friend appears on your screen. I wasn’t prepared for this when I looked up an old friend of years gone by and saw the line “In memoriam Hrvoje Plešnik” on a website for Croatian chess players in Zagreb.
Hrvoje was a keen chess player when we met in 1993 when he came to Swampyland as a refugee from the Croat-Bosnian war in his country. I remember he was heart broken and sad, he sometimes cried when he thought nobody saw him in a corner in the class room where we both studied the basics of financial book keeping at that time, tormented by the thought his beloved country was being destroyed.
The only sparks of light in his life, albeit very little sparks, were the moments when we challenged him for a game of chess and it were those moments he was happy for a little while. We sometimes were invited to his apartment in Harderwijk, cheap, simple and with only the necessary furniture, all given to him. He explained in broken Dutch what the Croatian dish was he was serving as a lunch for us.
He was a poor man, we often treated him on a lunch at the railway station restaurant because we couldn’t eat the last food he had in his flat even though he insisted it was his pleasure and honour to let us get acquainted with the Croatian customs. And all the time he was so sad and we felt so sorry for him. “When the war is over I will be going back the day it’s over.” he used to say.
Eventually we each went our own way and we lost contact. Last thing I heard was he did go back and became a famous chess player in his country or what was left of it. And then nothing. Until today I thought it would be a good idea to find him on the internet, find an e-mail address and ask him how he were doing these days. It wasn’t meant to happen. He died of complications related to chronic respiratory disease today three years ago in 2014.
Finally at peace
In memory of Hrvoje Plešnik, 22 February 1955 – † 6 October 2014. You were a friend of mine.