A WELSHPOOL writer is hoping that his newly published book will help people see Slavic countries in a positive light.

John Bills, 31, who lives in Prague, is spending a few weeks back home in Welshpool, promoting his book: An illustrated history of Slavic Misery.

John, has spent much of the last decade living and working right across the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Now he is a freelance writer for websites after spending a time working in hostels.

This follows a holiday in Slovenia after finishing university.

John said: “I ask myself a lot, why the Balkans?”

“Initially I went to Slovenia aged 21. I really, really liked it there.

“I came back and read up and went back travelling in the former Yugoslavia.

“I consistently met people I was excited to meet. I was looking for something different, and a job came up in Bosnia.

“I would have been seven or eight years old when the war flared up in the Balkans and remember watching it on the news, pictures of Sarajevo being bombed and telling my mum. Please don't let me go there.

“When I arrived there I sent a (joking) text telling her she'd done a terrible job!”

“I got a job in Mostar at a hostel and ended up working there for a couple of years. It sort of snowballed from there.”

Former Maesydre Primary School pupil John explained the idea behind his book: “It's kind of an attempt to educate people in this country about Eastern Europeans. Over the last decade there’s been an influx of people from Eastern Europe.

“The negative stereotyping annoyed me and I argued that many important people in history hailed from Eastern Europe, such as Marie Curie who was from Poland.”

John was increasingly upset at ill informed comments he heard claiming that people from Bosnia, Bulgaria or the Czech Republic were stupid.

He said such comments were ridiculous.

John said: “It gave me the idea for the book and to present in a celebratory light the most incredible Slavs plus a few infamous ones.

“History is the best subject. All the scientific breakthroughs are part of history.

“Each country in my book is represented by 10 or 11 individuals, including one or two major ones who many people will have heard of, like Nikola Tesla, Copernicus, Marie Curie and Hristo Stoichkkov.

“There are figures from Bosnia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.”

John said: “I was a bit worried that you might have some countries claiming the famous people as their own. For instance Nikola Tesla is Serbian, but was born in Croatia. The Croats are now just waking up to that fact and are starting to claim him as their own.”

In future John would like to write a similar book concentrating on just the Russians and goalkeepers.

John added: “Goalkeepers are so eccentric there are so many characters, I’d love to talk to Rene Higuita about his amazing scorpion kick.”

For more details visit John’s An IIlustrated history of Slavic Misery Facebook page.