Jewish-Croatian sci-fi icon Mira Furlan dies at 65

Furlan fled her native Croatia facing antisemitic and misogynistic threats before coming to the US, starring in iconic roles in 'Babylon 5' and 'Lost.'

MIRA FURLAN was a star on the Croatian stage before emigrating to the US. (photo credit: CROATIAN NATIONAL THEATER)
MIRA FURLAN was a star on the Croatian stage before emigrating to the US.
Jewish-Croatian actress Mira Furlan, who personified courage and a refusal to yield to chauvinistic or misogynistic views, died last week in her Los Angeles home from West Nile virus complications. She was 65 years old.
Her death shocked fans around the world who admired her work in two groundbreaking sci-fi television programs, Babylon 5 and Lost. While different, both dealt with diversity, communication, and surviving in a hostile world – all issues the actress had first-hand experience with.
Born in Zagreb, Furlan began her acting career in what was then Yugoslavia, starring on both the stage and silver screen. She became active in the feminist movement in the 1980s, which led to the socialist government eyeing her as a troublemaker. Under socialism, it argued, gender didn’t matter, and feminism was seen as a Western ideology. Furlan, other women and their male allies disagreed. Women were paid even less under socialism, they said, and this was not right.
When a civil war began in the 1990s, Furlan, who was married to a Serbian film director, refused to abandon her work in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, and was fired from the Croatian National Theater, The Indianapolis Star reported.
Her Jewish legacy was slandered in a series of articles in the Croatian press tying together antisemitic views, misogyny and hate. Her apartment was confiscated by the state and she was vilified as “a feminist raping Croatia,” while anonymous and antisemitic “investigation” articles accused her of enjoying the suffering of the Croatian people, Lilith Magazine reported in 2016.  
Before immigrating to the US in 1991, she wrote a public letter in the weekly Dumas in which she said, “I cannot accept war as the only solution, I cannot force myself to hate.” She called the war between Croatians and Serbians, two nationalities that once shared a country, a crime – and those who supported it, accessories to that crime.
Three years after coming to America she landed the role of Ambassador Delenn in the cult science-fiction television series Babylon 5. Created by J. Michael Straczynski, the show dealt with the imagined future in a new way. Babylon 5 wasn’t about space-lasers; it was a zone for commerce, diplomacy and betrayal. Furlan was a regular cast member for all five seasons.  
“That role gave me a chance to get back into the world I knew,” she told Lilith. “It was like finding a new family after my old one disowned me. Babylon 5 gave me my life back at a crucial moment.”
Her next notable role was in 2004 when she was cast as Danielle Rousseau on the hit series Lost, now regarded as one of the best television shows ever made.  
Her death led Straczynski to share via social media how, when they first met, he expressed his admiration for her decision to take part in theater tours in a war-torn country. She told him: “What’s the worst that could have happened? Yes, they could have killed me. So what? Art should have no borders.”
Furlan is survived by her husband Goran Gajic and their son, Marko Lav.