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A Dalmatian boy chose to live like Robinson Crusoe

Posted in Anthropology, Historical articles, History, Oddities on Monday, 29 October 2012

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This edited article about Bozo Kucic originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 774 published on 13th November 1975.

Island of Busi, picture, image, illustration

Busi, a rocky island off the Dalmatian coast similar to that on which Bozo Kucic was left by his poor father. This photograph was taken around the time Bozo began his new life.

Bozo Kucic climbed out of the small boat, which rocked gently on the lapping waves, and looked at the sandy and rocky island on which he had landed.

While the fisherman who had brought them sat in his boat, watching incredulously, Bozo turned to his father.

He opened his mouth, but before he could utter a word, his father had grasped him firmly. Bozo broke away from his father’s embrace.

“I don’t want to leave you here,” said his father. “But . . . ” He shrugged helplessly.

Bozo looked at the few things he had brought with him in the boat . . . an entrenching tool, a billy can, a tin plate, a knife, a little food.

Turning away from his father and the boat and staring fixedly at the island with its stubbly undergrowth, he exclaimed, “Go. Leave me.”

With a resigned shrug of his shoulders, the father walked slowly to the boat, climbed into it and sat, dejected and heavy-hearted as the boat sailed away.

Bozo watched it until it had disappeared, and then he walked up the shore with his few possessions and was lost from sight among the trees and bushes.

And that is the last that was seen of Bozo Kucic for 84 years. The story of his arrival at the island is almost as strange as the tale of his incredible survival for decade after decade.

It was a tragedy that made a castaway of Bozo. That tragedy was the death of his mother. His father, an impoverished Dalmatian peasant, was left with seven children to bring up.

How could he afford to keep them when he could barely make enough money to feed himself?

There was nothing for it. The children would have to fend for themselves. Whether they became beggars, farmers or craftsmen was to be left entirely in their own hands.

Each of the children made his choice as to his future. But Bozo’s was the most unusual. He decided that he would live along on a deserted island.

Reluctantly, his father agreed, and Bozo was taken in the boat of a fisherman friend to an island off the Incoranata archipelago near the Dalmatian coast at Fiume. The year was 1888, and Bozo was 16.

From time to time, the fisherman friend called at the island bringing gifts from Bozo’s father. These were only occasional presents of threadbare clothing, food, a knife, a tin cup, a cooking pot, a towel.

Even these vital visits soon ceased, and Bozo lived from one year’s end to another without ever seeing or speaking to another human being.

As far as the rest of the world was concerned, Bozo no longer existed.

Two world wars were fought; men went to the Moon; space probes were sent to the stars, radio, television, motor cars, aeroplanes and host of other things began changing the face of the world.

But Bozo knew of none of these things, though he must have marvelled if he caught an occasional glimpse of an aeroplane screaming across the sky.

While the outside world went its way, Bozo’s world stood still . . . until 1972, when Bozo was a centenarian and 84 years had elapsed since he had first become a modern Robinson Crusoe.

A group of fishermen coasting along came across Bozo’s island and espied an unkempt, ragged man with matted hair and a face like that of a frightened animal peering at them from behind a pile of boulders on the shore.

A closer look proved the boulders to have been built in the form of a stone hut with a thatched roof.

The men shouted at the stranger who was, of course, Bozo, aged by his long stay on the island, and changed from a confused boy into a twentieth century version of a Stone Age man.

Arming himself with stones, Bozo kept the men at bay, becoming very threatening and agitated if they got too near.

Somehow, the men managed to have a conversation with Bozo, although much of what he said was scarcely intelligible, being in a Bosnian-Herzegovinian dialect of childish simplicity.

Speaking in stilted phrases and using his arms expressively, Bozo told the men that he had lived by eating roots, wild rabbits and fish. His clothes were of rabbit skins slung around his neck and tied with strips of a rattan palm straw.

He was as tough and wiry a specimen as any they had seen, and clearly he wanted to be left alone.

As a parting gift, the men put a bottle of beer and some canned food on the shore, and sailed back to the twentieth century, leaving Bozo to return to his barren kingdom far from the modern world.

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