The Essence of Ivan

Book Award Sub-Category
Award Category
Golden Writer
Book Cover Image
Logline or Premise
Nobel Ivan Landeric was born in Prelecosia, Croatia, in 1877. This book combines the facts from family stories and fiction and research to embellish the story. The book embraces the character of Ivan in an attempt to reflect on the time in history and the family he raised in the New World.
First 10 Pages


The Sava, translated as "that which waters the ground," is one of the longest tributaries to a major river in the world. It runs along the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It merges with the Kupa River just south of the town of Sisak, Croatia, in a small town, Prelocicia, just a short few miles from the center of Sisak. Along with this familiar and flat river plain can be found the fields of corn, wheat, and barley; the small two-acre plots of tillable gardens that provide the turnips, beets, cabbage, tomatoes, and beans for those that till it; and the herds of dairy cattle grouped in jointly occupied farms to provide milk, beef, and even transportation when needed. In Sisak, where the Kupa and the Sava merge, the water is deep enough, and the Sava is navigable enough to allow shipping from this center of Croatia to the Danube and onto other parts of the world. This river will not carry every ship made for commerce or war, but it will support at least two-thirds of these. Croatia's proximity to Italy provided excellent access to the arable lands of this western Roman border when they ventured to occupy the known world and finally retreated from the Ottomans. The latter made new homes with ancient Roman bricks and foundations and even constructed circular walls and towers to guard this waterway's access to the inland. The Ottomans stayed until the end of the sixteenth century. Still, they were eventually displaced by the Hungarians, Austrians, and others who, like the Romans, saw this land of Croats as obtainable to promote their respective nationalisms and control the people who had settled here from the Celtic and Slavic tribes of the past.

The total occupation of the Croatian farmlands was never to be achieved; however, as there runs deep within the hearts and souls of every Croat the need to be free and independent, so with a little twitch of the Catholic Slavs to retain their liturgy, a little tweet of the Croatian lords to maintain ownership of the lands despite the presence of outside established armies, and finally, an outright revolution to remove a very unfriendly and authoritarian Austrian political and economic system that attempted to stim the existence of a Croatia with an identity, the time passed, and the history unfolded.

In 1876, only a few years before the outbreak of World War I and the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian-Croatian nationalist, the scene was set for change and evolution. The farmland spread quietly over the level lands that took the water from the Sava to nourish the people who lived there. They had jointly-owned farms and lived in one, or two-story wooden frame houses that served as both stable and shelter for humans and animals, confirming an awareness that there was just not enough land for those who wanted to live and reproduce. There was no way for them to change much other than to keep paying rent, tending their fields and animals, and paying homage to a lagging idea of independence.

The corn in the fields grew well, except for the few years when there was a drought. The sheep left in the same pasture for too long sometimes foreshadow a poor harvest, a long winter, or the appearance of a troop of Croatian or Austrian cavalry with their stunning cravats. Startling regimentation might remind those observing that many men, women, and children had been lost to the inhuman and merciless wars and conflicts imposed by the preoccupied visitors to the Kupa and the Sava and the ageless bricks, walls, and towers built from their labor and their blood. There was also the sickness, influenza in the early centuries, then diphtheria and the grippe, and occasionally a victim of septicemia when there was no medicine. This state of affairs would eliminate all population ages without consideration for status, wealth, or affection. Still, the cows would need tending, the sheep would need a shepherd, and families would grow, die, and modify as the times demanded. It was here, on the Sava, where Ivan Nobel Lendaric found himself in the year of our Lord 1876, and he would learn its secrets and eventually take them with him to a new land. His journey is a long one, but no longer than the average life. He will absorb the water from the Sava as many had before him, and he will merge with the future. He will also reflect on the family values and the family stories that led to his birth and the establishment of his character.

You will not find Ivan to be a budding intellectual, a child prodigy, or a man of physical strength or worldly wisdom. You will see his gifts; they are many, but they will not necessarily define a hero or a conqueror. Ivan's story is a story of love and understanding that evolves within him despite the deep-seated generational obstacles to which he was born and must use to find himself in a world that was not as friendly as it could have been under other circumstances. You will see his essence as much as his character.

Some would believe that this story never unfolded among the unification of two rivers, the conjunctional boundaries of both rivers and borders, and the total disregard for age, societal norms, or the ultimate hecatomb when one realizes that there is no God. That life is and always will be a mystery. They will be wrong in that assumption because within the stages of this boy's life that began in 1876, there is a vein of love, anger, compassion, spirituality, betrayal, and even joy that will work to share all of these emotions and all of these human traits that are set on a rostrum of understanding, family, and love.

Ivan Nobel Lendaric was a natural person. Though no one can truthfully tell the all and end all about another person, the fiction that evolves throughout the telling is another aspect of the true wonder of family. Within the concept of family, everything is honest and believable, except when it is not. It does not matter what is outside; it doesn't matter.


Part 1

Somewhere between Belgrade and Zagreb, just east of the Sava River, the little town of Vide shares three primary sources of fresh water through its springs that gather the water for the surrounding mountains and spill it into the fast-moving creeks and streams of the area. These streams are a source of energy and excitement for those who live in the valley of Vide. A walk or hike along with them usually adds vigor and motivation to those who rise early with the sun, tend to the large fields of corn and wheat, and occupy a sedentary agricultural life next to the brown bear, foxes, deer, and an occasional lynx. The lynx is a solitary animal and depends on its wits and cunning to survive in the mountainous regions of the area. The brown bear is large and robust. Although the two never meet to attempt to decide which is the most deserving, there is sometimes a debate among the human population as to which one maintains a superior status. It seems that during the evolution of man, the brown bear's reputation rose in popularity and myth to allow it to claim the seat of recognition as the recognized mammal of choice. Although the lynx never surrendered its position, as would a king or a queen, there is not much deliberation or concern. However, one usually can tell if a man or woman has somehow descended from one of these animals or not through natural means, symbolic means, or through the similarities that man gathers from his surroundings to imitate the order of the universe. Man and nature is one and always have been. On some nights, the two combine to highlight their commonness by allowing the species to generate a likeness that cannot be mistaken in behavior or motivation. On the one hand, the bear manifests itself in size, strength, and the overpowering honesty of space. At the same time, the lynx displays its brilliant eyes and adaptable feet to move quickly, change accordingly, and kill decisively without regard for political or popular opinion.

Josip Lendaric was born to be a bear of a man. He was at least ten pounds when he emerged from his mother's womb, and in doing so, he immediately gained a reputation among his parents, relatives, and siblings as one who was born to do great things. His size was his advantage, and he grew quickly, ate a lot, and assumed his role without hesitation. Josip was one of two children, and the second in line after him came out into the world as a tiny cat-like being that had redder than average skin, a pinched head that looked like he had been punched through a mold for gelatin, and eyes that were so piercing blue that those were the first things that anyone noticed from the day he was born. They didn't dare take in his slight frame, the protruding nose as he grew, and the ultimate sacrifice that his mother had made because under this singeing exterior was the cunning of the lynx and the absence of a human's soul. The youngest, Franjo, was the most feared and despised, mainly because the beginning of his life marked the end of his mother's but also because he was born with hardly human care. Whether it was the innate factor of his lynx-like demeanor or the sadness heaped upon him by his sibling, he developed an animalistic-like presence, even as a young child. On the surface, he could be charming and soft, but underneath, where the natural forces lodged, he was cruel and heartless. There was no apparent reason other than the role he intended to play in the world, which he understood at an early age. He was a dangerous person to everyone he met. Josip and Franjo were separated for 15 years of living, but as Josip grew in stature as a man of caring, Franjo quickly rose as just the opposite. For some reason, known only to GOD, it was Franjo's motivation to destroy everything Josip had created, but it was a secret to everyone. Franjo kept his innermost desire, his reason for being alive, hidden within the depths of his being, so deep that even he did not fully understand the level of cunning and control it held over him. Like a spark from a campfire that might ignite the dry kindling in the brush, it lay waiting to rise and consume to possess that which was once good and turn it black.

As the older of the two and the one in the family destined to be the successor to the line and the hope of the future, Josip accepted a bride at eighteen. He and his wife Ivana found a small plot of land next to one of the three bubbling creeks on Videm and started a house and a family. Within a year, there was a new young daughter, Sofia, and they called her Sophie. Sophie and Franjo were only three years apart, and because the two lived close to each other, as uncle and niece, they carried a unique relationship entwined in the family tree. They were often seen as the combination of brother and sister, probably more often than niece and uncle, but they were also different.

Josip, in his mind, designated his younger brother to be Sophie's protector. His general approach to others could only be attributed to why he did this. Like the bear, he would embrace everyone regardless of what he might see or hear during the everyday passing of living. This was his strength but also his greatest weakness. Accepting others, especially those who have no regard for the humanity in others, is truly a gift but can become a curse. It depends on how one sees the world.

"You are her uncle and only three years older, but you have worldly wisdom, unlike any family member. Unfortunately for you, you have not inherited your family's size or strength, but in some ways, you are stronger because you can think and plan." Josip said this to Franjo one day as they walked along a dirt path that circled through the pasture to end up on the side of a stream. Josip was twenty-five, and Franjo was ten.

Josip went on, always absorbed with the minute and noticeably establishing rules that only he understood, “you see this pole, it is for catching fish," He lowered the pole so Franjo could see it balanced in his hand. "It is a long piece of Ash that has been discovered at the right time in its life and made to fit the line and bend with the weight of the fish. There is nothing special about this wood, this piece of Ash, except that some human being found it and made it special. You are also special, Franjo, but you seem to lack kindness. I have seen you with the dogs and the other animals, and you try to take out your anger because of your lack of strength so that you can prove yourself to them. You need to understand your role in the world and have faith in yourself."

Just as Josip finished his lecture, they arrived at the bank's side, where a large pine tree had grown to a suitable height despite its closeness to the flowing stream and its exposure to the open wind that flew down the valley during storms' abysmal weather. Because of the constant current, several longer bows had grown more prominent on one side of the tree. On the opposite side, where the bows were shorter, and some branches were bare, the tree seemed to complement its predicament by extending large hideous roots through the bank and into the creek.

Today was a calm day, and Josip stepped close to the edge of the bank and pointed at the tree roots as they hung in the deep pool.

"There is where you will find a fish," he said, beckoning Franjo to step closer and look over the edge. "You have to have faith that GOD has prepared this spot for you to find one at this time.'

"I don't believe in GOD," Franjo blurted hesitantly,” I believe in fish and water. I believe in the catch and the hunt when I am after a squirrel or a rabbit...” Then after a pause, as he stared into the pool, "I am my own God."

Josip stood for a moment and looked into the pinched blue eyes of the young boy who looked up at him. "Who is this boy?" he said to himself. "Is he one of us?" Then he laughed, hoping this was a kind of joke or youthful boast, and he tapped Franjo on the head with his open hand.

“I think you overthink," Josip said with a laugh moving from a slight chuckle to an internal optimism that Josip carried with him always.

"Do you want to see me catch a brown?" he followed, tapping Franjo one last time and then turning to the creek. "Of course you do; just watch."

Josip stood next to the tree and leveled his Ash pole over the giant root that could be reached from his position on the bank. He flipped the line at the end that held a hook and a lead sinker that had been made from the head of a bullet, and they both watched as the current drew the line into the depths of the pool. Josip held the pole so that the line extended into the water beside the root, but he never let it get close enough to the source to become entangled in the other branches and sprouts jutting out from the main root. He held the pole loosely in his hand and guided the string in the other, feeling the tension and pull of the water. Suddenly the line tightened, and the pole's tip bent towards the water's surface and the root's edge. Josip pulled back expertly and felt the fish on the end of the line within seconds. Josip stepped to his right and on Franjo's foot, almost tripping.

"Stand back," Josip, warned. “You will make me lose this big one."

Franjo took a step back to get out of the way and watched as Josip maneuvered the pole with the fish on the line. Franjo was angry that he was told to stay back. He wanted to fish. He tried to catch the big one and, more than anything, to hold the pole, take it away from Josip, and land the fish all by himself. That was the way Franjo was; he had to be in charge, and he had to be in the front.

Once Josip could see that the fish and the line were clear of the root, he raised the pole in the air, and in front of them both, a beautiful, big, and flopping brown trout came out of the water, flicking more water with its tail as Josip stepped back again and brought the contorting slippery mass over the bank. When it touched the ground, he placed his foot on it to stop the movements.

Once his foot was firmly on the fish, he looked at Franjo and proclaimed, “This is how you catch a fish, and this is no ordinary fish. "

Josip grabbed the fish in his free hand and moved further away from the bank. He carried the fish close to the grass to prevent the creature from flipping back into the water. Franjo focused on the fish's large eyes and the shiny exterior that told him it was still alive. Then, abruptly. Franjo raised his boot and stomped hard on the head of the fish, causing the eyes to pop out onto the ground and bringing instant death to the catch, just missing Josip's hand.

"What is the matter with you/" cried Josip, "you have almost ruined the fish. We want this for dinner tonight. It is also lucky that you missed my hand."

"Huh," huffed Franjo, “this is not a very big fish. I can do better," He turned and walked away from Josip, and as he left, he shouted back, “I should have stomped your hand as well."

Josip watched him leave, walk back down the path, over the large rock that led to the creek, and out of sight.

He was happy with his catch but did not fully understand his brother.

"He is still young,” he thought, 'he still has much to learn."

That night the family enjoyed the fresh trout that Josip had brought from the creek. There was not one large fish but six that Josip had pulled from the pool that held the root of the pine tree and the school of trout.

"God has provided for us today," Josip said before they ate, "he will always provide."

"I can do better," Franjo thought, "I can do what God cannot.” As he took a piece of fried fish from the plate, he placed it on his plate and squashed it with his fork before he scooped it up to shove it into his mouth. He bit down and crunched the mash between his teeth, pushing the food between his teeth and around in his mouth. "I hate Josip's fish," he said to himself. "He does not deserve to have it."

In the next second, Franjo slammed down his fork and knife and declared to the people sitting around the table. “I could have caught a better fish than this if only Josip would have let me.” I am better than Josip, "he spat his food back onto his plate in disgust and anger.

Sophie looked at him with concern, " Franjo, she said,” it doesn't matter who caught the fish, we are all eating it, and it tastes good. You are so silly sometimes." Sophie did not react to the current anger but only within her understanding of her position concerning her uncle. She tried to hold him in high regard as her father expected her to. There was nothing more for her to see.

However, Josip would not tolerate any craziness he had just experienced, "Leave this table at once," he commanded, “persons in our house do not act this way. Leave, Now!"

Franjo pushed his plate towards the middle of the table and stood up, still obsessed with the anger, and then he spat what food he had left on the floor next to him and threw his chair to the floor by tipping it backward. He knew he was not strong enough to cause any damage to Josip, the one to whom the anger was directed, so he just left the room, stomping his feet and slapping the side of the door as he went.

Josip looked around the room; his eyes rested on his wife and daughter. He had never seen Franjo, or anyone, act so strangely and angry over the idea of catching a fish. Josip did not know what to do next. This type of occurrence, this uncontrolled wrath with no apparent provocation, was a new factor that entered the room as a ghost might, out of the shadows but commanding all to see. This newly acquired nature, this deranged behavior that made everyone uncomfortable and concerned, gave Josip pause to reflect on this new kind of persona in his household. However, the thought was gone in a moment, and his compassionate nature flooded him with thoughts of family and parents.

"I guess he wanted to catch a fish today,” Josip said finally, "I should have let him. Maybe next time." Josip had no idea of the anger's depth or the incident's true meaning.