Saturday, 12 April 2014

A tribute to Belgrade Volim te mnogo

My first job in Italy was teaching English as a foreign language in a private school. Unfortunately this closed down after a year due to bureaucratic problems and then I worked for a year with Americans until my son was born. My husband was always away for work and my Italian did not progress well. I was speaking English all the time and only my parents-in-law gave me any hope of learning Italian. Job wise I was also ill-equipped , I could only teach English in private schools with my British Teachers Training qualification and most of the lessons were in the evening. This meant that when my son was born it made more sense to stay at home with him. So when my husband started working in the Balkans and was even more away from home he suggested we moved to Belgrade so maybe we could see more of each other.
So off we went, it was quite an adventure. We put the car on the train and went to live in Belgrade.when we arrived there was already a card at our new address from my mum and dad, it felt like home right from the start.
Naturally a shy person, my son was like a passport to friendship for me. he was fun and friendly.
Everywhere we went people wanted to talk us, they welcomed us with open arms. We went to the lovely Sportski centres, the zoo, the parks, we saw the stunning plum blossom at Smederevo, used to make Slivovica, we sat on the banks of the Danube thinking of all the places it passed through on its way to the sea. My son and I learnt to say lots of nice, happy things in Serbo-croat. I love you,apple, apricot, strawberry, hairdresser, coffee, tea, flowers, fruit juice, hello, goodbye. My American friend had given me a huge pile of Cosmopolitan to take with me. When I had ploughed my way through them I joined the library at the British council and my reading matter took on an upward turn as I avidly read, Dickens, Thackeray, Somerset Maughan, John Fowles, and even struggled through Tristram Shandy.My son had friends called Bojan, Dejan, Ana and Pera. I had friends called Radmilla, Snezana, Sonja and Monika.The films on the television were not dubbed so every evening I watched films in English with Serbo-croat subtitles.
My friends would come to the door bearing gifts, a banana, sesame cakes, stuffed vine leaves. we would bring washing-powder and coffee from Italy.
There were shortages of lots of what were for them,necessities like olive oil and coffee, but I was OK because there was always butter and tea.
The people of Belgrade threw their doors open for me and my son, we grew to love their strong coffee served with squares of Turkish delight and Slivovica.
After a year though it was time for us to go back to Italy. Our son needed to learn the language of his father, set down some roots, his Nonni were missing out on precious moments and they missed us.
We left behind my sewing-machine, my type.writer, highchair and buggy, but most of all we left behind part of our hearts.Oh yes and my Cosmopolitans.
As we waved cheerful goodbyes, vowing to keep in touch, none of us knew that the storm clouds of war were brewing above our heads.
This was all about thirty years ago and now Belgrade is again a vibrant, hopeful, young city.
I will always be grateful to the kindness and friendship that the people of Belgrade showed to me, a rather lost and lonely young English woman and her son.
the view from Kalemegdan Fortress showing the confluence of the Rivers Sava and Danube was a favourite outing

Agift of Serbian wine brings back lovely memories of mesan meso,civabcic, palicinki, which are griulled meat, sausages and pancakes with nuts and honey, drinking yoghurt from a pyramid-shaped carton and wurstel in the street.,


  1. Thanks for sharing these memories, it must have been pretty different back then living in another country with no internet, whatsapp,Skype, etc reading this post made me feel as if we were there with you!

  2. Lovely ! Puzzled at why we had to learn to say "hell" in serbocroat though!