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War Pig Island: The Gift of Fear

Updated: Mar 10, 2022


I charted coordinates and set out for Great War Island to see what I could learn from this terra incognita on my map of discovery.

The run seemed straight forward enough. I’d made my way from Gavrila Princip, 13, across Branko’s bridge into Novi Beograd over and up to Zemun’s Gardoš Tower once before, and passed by the metal arbor framing the 360 meters of Serbian Armed Forces’ military pontoon bridge across to the island at the confluence of the Sava and Danube.

This rainy day, I waited alongside a Serbian man, his bicycle and an elderly woman toting a sack of fresh produce from the local market to cross the army-green floating bridge.

A military vehicle and soldiers futzed at the start of the bridge, took turns slapping one another’s asses, jesting and playfully climbing in and out of the truck bed.

Ten minutes eclipsed. We waited, as sentinels in the rain, watching for our time to cross.

Finally, sternly pitched shouts announced an intent on movement. The covered truck set off.

I marched behind the uniformed guards alongside my silent companions.

The sky was grey, and the beach—Lido—on Great War Island was quiet. Small, shoddy shacks dotted a muddy road along the perimeter of the isle, tucked away and poorly camouflaged by Mother Nature.

Then I saw it. The sign. THEE SIGN inducing my abject terror!

Google Translate confirmed my worst fears.



I conjured horrific images of the Boar clan and its demon god (AKA radioactive hybrid terror pig) from Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Guy Ritchie’s character’s monologue in Snatch:

This delicate and finely calibrated pairing which had trenched itself deep within my psyche compounded the schematic in my mind in which all neural circuits concluded I would be charged, gored and trampled upon, seasoned with mud and eaten alive.

How I wished to be safely tucked away inside one of those military truck cabins I’d seen earlier. For all the Serbian I knew, the military presence here existed solely to defend against the boar beast insurgents.

No longer would this be known as Great War Island. For me, it had a new history. I christened the place War Pig Island, and although I never actually saw a wild pig/radioactive hybrid terror pig, I heard plenty enough ruckus and rustling, and that was enough for me.

“Beyond here, there be monsters….”

With furtive and artful placement of carefully calculated and ginger steps to minimize any sound emission and thus muffle the broadcasting of my presence to the savage bloodthirsty beasts, I failed. The mud from the rain was thick and rich and deep. A megaphone snitch.

Death was imminent. I was sure.

My muffled and mortified narration with subtitles is included for your vicarious pleasure.

When I was a younger girl, I was invincible. As I mature, I grow into new fears. I learn to trust my feelings and respect them. Instead of silly passing trifles to get through or reign under control, they are guides.

My subconscious picks up patterns my conscious mind seeks to control and conform to a twisted version of reality I’d much rather subscribe to. I find myself bending to reality and unlocking the achievement of acceptance.

I am learning to appreciate the gift of fear as a survival mechanism.

I am also learning to listen to the wisdom of my husband who is subject matter expert on risk aversion. Not always. I am a stubborn bull-headed mule, but I’m a little farther along in the lesson plan than I was yesterday.

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