Lovas is a village in the easternmost county of Croatia. That county, called a zupanija in Croatian, takes its name both from the principal city, Vukovar, and from the ancient region of Syrmia on the south side of the Danube. And so the county name: Vukovarsko-srijemska zupanija. It is a place with a complicated history that can be reduced to a single phrase: a contested borderland.
Walk into the middle of Lovas on an autumn afternoon and the only contest in the offing is next Sunday's football match against Tompojevci, another village, just as neat as Lovas, that lies a few miles away to the west. This is a region full of sunflowers, maize and vines. Rich red soils grade gently down to the Danube river. Away to the east is the old fortress at Ilok. The villages around, on both sides of the modern border between Serbia and Croatia, reflect the complicated ethnic and religious mix of the region.