Hana Schofield and Atka Reid, authors of Goodbye Sarajevo, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

by |April 27, 2011

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Hana Schofield
and Atka Reid

authors of Goodbye Sarajevo

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Hana: I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia where I lived until the outbreak of the Bosnian war. At the age of 12, I was a refugee in Zagreb, Croatia for two years where I finished my intermediate school. I went to St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, NZ, then studied at the University of Canterbury in the same city. I graduated with First Class Honours in Law and a Bachelor’s Degree in Russian.

Atka: I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I was studying Political Science when the war broke out in 1992, which completely changed the course of my life.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Hana: Dancing was one of my biggest passions from an early age, so when I was 12, I wanted to be a world famous dancer. I used to imagine myself dancing on a large stage around the world.

At 18, hmmm, I contemplated becoming a nun! I was reading a lot of philosophical and spiritual books and it seemed attractive… but only for a few weeks.

At 30… which I only turned recently… My sister and I had already begun thinking about our first book. At 30, I wanted to be a published author… That dream’s coming true.

Atka: When I was twelve I dreamed of following my grandfather’s footsteps of becoming a poet or a writer because it seemed like a natural thing to do. At eighteen I was more inquisitive about the world, and strived to become a journalist after my studies. By the time I was thirty I began thinking about of writing down our family story in a book form, which is what I finally did with my younger sister Hana.

 3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

Hana: At 18, I believed that I was able to control absolutely everything in my life. Now I think that half the fun is in not knowing what will happen…

Atka:  When I was eighteen I believed that pen is mightier than the sword but sadly the war taught me otherwise.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Hana: My dad was an author/publisher and growing up around books made writing seemed like the most natural choice.

The war in Bosnia: the extraordinary circumstances during the war and a refugee life in Croatia had a profound effect on me and my family. We wanted to share that story.

Taking the risk of leaving a lucrative career in a commercial law firm in order to write.

Atka: The first one was back in Year 5 of my primary school when I started learning the English language, which I continued throughout secondary school and University.

The second one was the siege of Sarajevo and the war in Bosnia, during I worked as a radio journalist and an interpreter for foreign journalists, which is how I met my husband Andrew and consequently ended up living in New Zealand.

In 2008 my sister Hana and I visited a small village Primosten in Croatia, where Hana spent a few months as a refugee. It was during that visit that we decided to write Goodbye Sarajevo.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

Hana: There’s nothing quite like holding a book, or having great books on my bookshelf. I love the permanency of them.

Atka: Of course books aren’t obsolete, Gutenberg’s Printing Press was the first printing revolution and I guess we’re now going through the second, the electronic one.

6. Please tell us about your latest book Goodbye Sarajevo

Hana: Goodbye Sarajevo has been a labour of love. My sister, Atka, and I wrote it because we wanted to leave a permanent record of some of the events that took place in Bosnia during the war to our children and, one day, grandchildren. Although the Bosnian war is the backdrop to the story, Goodbye Sarajevo is very much a book about sisters, true love, family, and random acts of kindness from people we’d never met before. Anyone who’s been through any type of hardship can relate to our story. It’s about what we humans do to cope … the book has a very positive message.

Atka: It’s a fast moving, true story, which follows me during the siege of Sarajevo and my then twelve- year old sister who had to cope as a refugee away from our family. Goodbye Sarajevo covers universal themes of sisterhood, family, friendship and love in times of hardship.

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Hana: In times of crisis, to remind people that nothing is permanent; rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture over which we have no control, we need to focus on the little things in our daily lives which we can do something about. Step by step, we find sense in our lives again…

Atka: If Goodbye Sarajevo inspires one person who is going through or has been through tough times to draw some strength from our story – that would be a great reward for our work.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Hana: My sister Atka – for the many strengths she has, but above all – for being one of the most genuine, empathetic and kindest people I know.

Atka: Both of my grandmothers who worked full time, which was unusual for women of their generation. They were driven and energetic women and they didn’t let their gender become an obstacle to what they wanted to achieve.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Hana: I think ambitious goals are important – there’s so much to do on this planet! My goals? To write another book, to learn to play the ukulele, read, travel, help others, do some fitness challenges…

Atka: I’d love to write another book.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Hana: Having a story to tell or something to write about is a good start. The remaining 99% of it is hard work. Keep at it and write even when you have ‘off’ days. Drink good coffee.

Atka: Be prepared to write a lot of rubbish before you come up with something good.

Atka and Hana, thank you for playing.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

Follow John: Twitter Website


  • September 8, 2011 at 12:30 am

    I have recently finished reading this book, I am a New Zealander living in Croatia and I found the story of Hana & Atka and all that they endured really moving. It was also interesting for me to Iearn a little history of a very recent war. I enjoyed how the story moved between the telling by the sisters, it is an amazing story. My Mum posted it to me from NZ and there were tears rolling down my face as the sun peeked up and I finished my all night read. Thanks for your interview with Hana & Atka, an interesting follow up for me.

  • Tricia Sloan

    October 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Amazing read. Really makes me think again about my attitude towards
    refugees. An amazing family, and truly amazing girls. Only hoping
    they escaped the Christchurch earthquake unscathed!
    Would have loved some photos included in the book.
    Hope all the family are doing well, and are happy and healthy.
    Andrews parents were wonderful too.

  • Mary Urquhart-Hay

    April 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Have just finished your wonderful and moving story.It wasn’t until you mentioned Bill and Rose did I realise Andrew was their son.I met them when I first married in 1987 in the Marborough sounds.They took us sailing on their yacht Vendetta.What a special couple they were…generous and young spirited.Your book has inspired me to read more about the history and war you experienced.It seems so little ago.Thank you for opening my mind and making me appreciate how lucky we are to be living in N.Z.

  • Adrienne Baigent

    April 30, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Having been to Sarajevo & surrounds the year preceding the war this book pierced my heart. The power of the words by Hana & Atka is overwhelming, stirring deep emotions as I read. The peace and beauty of NZ is a wonderful destination for this closeknit family to spend their lives.

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