The 5-Minute Interview: Zlata Filipovic, Writer and translator

'I was faced with violence and hatred but also saw some real humanity'

As a child caught up in the Bosnian war, Zlata Filipovic hit the headlines when she published her diaries in 1993. Now she is 26 and extracts from her wartime diaries are being published online to promote Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January. See www.myspace.com/hmdsamebutdifferent

If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be...

Preparing the talks I will be giving across America to promote a diary of children's war stories that I have collated with a British poet, Melanie Challenger.

A phrase I use far too often...

"I thought that wars happen to other people."

I wish people would take more notice of...

The value of diversity within our society. It's a shame that differences get accentuated, and that we judge each other by the colour of their skin or their wealth rather than appreciate our differences and use them in a positive way.

The most surprising thing that happened to me was...

Living through the war. I was faced with extreme violence and hatred. But I also saw that in extreme circumstances there is such humanity. The sounds of conflict will never leave me, of war and bombs and shells and snipers. [It is surprising] how your life can get reduced into smaller and smaller traces of human existence. At one point I was going to school and loving Madonna and then in a second, walking around in scraps of clothes looking for water.

A common misperception of me is...

That I exist in a book - like I'm a fictional character and am eternally 11.

I am not a politician but...

Politics has been extremely prominent in my life and has shaped my life. This is where wars are made but it's also where peace is made.

I'm good at...

Believing that there is still a lot of good in people... I am spearheading the optimist revolution!

I'm very bad at...

Understanding human cruelty. I can't understand that a guy who likes fishing and Van Morrison in a small town in Bosnia can three months later be committing unmentionable cruelty.

The ideal night out is...

Friends and movies and wine and chats.

In moments of weakness I...

Hope. I accept that something bad is going on but see there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is this:

If you can put yourself in other people's shoes and wish other people the shoes that you like best yourself we have a recipe for better relationships with each other.

Sara Newman

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