Tonči’s story about Ana

Ana, I’ve never been so shaken by someone’s death before, not even the death of my own family members.
Ana, you give me strength to live life to the fullest. Every day will be in honour of you and your courage.
Ana, I’ve become more human by knowing you.
Ana, you’ve reminded us that we’re alive, that we should appreciate what we have, and not take things for granted.
Ana, the warmth that radiates from your photo will stay with me forever.
Ana, your life had meaning and it will affect the lives of generations to come.
Ana, although I’m an atheist, you are proof that there is a God. God lives in people like you.
Ana, every time I have hazelnut ice cream, I’ll think of you.

Not one of these statements is mine. Ana, these are not the words of the people who had known you for two, five, ten or twenty years. These are the words of people who had never met you. Until three weeks ago, none of these people knew that you had been ill or even what you looked like. They didn’t know you even existed; that you were eternally grateful to your doctors and had every admiration for them; or that you loved hazelnut ice cream. Until twenty days ago, none of them knew how much you loved your parents, your sister and your relatives. They didn’t know how much you enjoyed spending time with your husband and girlfriends or how eager you were to become a journalist. None of them knew how apprehensive you were when you first joined Vjesnik five years ago. They didn’t know how much energy you put into each new task, whether reporting from the streets of your hometown, Zagreb, which you loved so much, or from Šibenik, the town you loved because the man you loved was there. The man you embraced when you said ‘I do’ to him. Who knew how you risked your life when you took that photo of the smashed up truck with Gospić plates on Velebit in March 2005? The gale-force winds nearly blew you away down the gorge, but that didn’t stop you from calling me, still out of breath, and sending the photo for the newspaper’s last page. Ever so proudly.

And Cuba? Few people know that when you visited Cuba, the place of your dreams, you gave away half of your money to the poor people in the streets. It was your own style of tourism.

After all the beautiful words that you received from so many people, known and unknown, what are we left with? As your colleagues from work, who knew you for four and a half years, what can we say? Not much. We have nothing sensational or exclusive to say. You were our colleague. You were human. We loved working with you. We were happy when you left for Šibenik to follow your heart, even though it made us sad to see you go. It was painful for us when you returned and we realized you were ill. It was an honour and a privilege to have been even small passages in the book of your life, in which the most impressive pages were written in your own hand.

Your illness didn’t change your way of thinking about life. For you, honesty was still the best policy. You may have lost the physical battle, but you most definitely won the war. Having written that letter, you have become the spokesperson for the sick. In times like these when everyone is sceptical about journalists, your words captivated everyone who read them. You opened yourself up to people out there, nothing to hide, no secrets to keep. You captured their hearts in the same way you had captured the hearts of your friends, with your sunny nature, your smile, your love, and your honesty. When you put it this way, it sounds so simple.

And you showed us that it is, indeed, as simple as that.