Diaspora Voices is an occasional series of conversations with ex-Yugoslavs living abroad. In this installment of Diaspora Voices, a Vlach-American from Eastern Serbia and a Yugoslav-Australian from Slavonia share stories of their journeys to themselves and their tribes.
With Daniela Vančić and Denis Svob. Featuring music by Šizike and Mechanism of Action.
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PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your guide Peter Korchnak.
It’s been a while since I spoke with ex-Yugoslav diasporans, 37 episodes to be accurate. Eighty-eight percent of Remembering Yugoslavia’s listeners are outside the former Yugoslavia – many of you hail from there or your parents or grandparents do. And so, as spring is springing here in Zagreb, I thought it would be the right time to bring the Diaspora Voices segment back onto the show.
I spoke with a Yugoslav-Australian from Slavonia and a Vlach-American from Eastern Serbia. They both reached out to me on social media to generously share their story.
Before we get to those, I want to highlight a different kind of generosity. Thank you, Bo, Davor, Hannah, Stefan, and Wolfie for your contributions. Like all generous supporters, you now have not only my undying gratitude but also access to an extended version of this episode, as well as all other extended and bonus episodes, all with early access and without ads or, rather, asks. Thank you.
Remembering Yugoslavia relies on the individual support of generous listeners like these who put their money where their ears are. Join them!
If the stories you hear on this podcast resonate with you in some way, if they enrich your life, or you learn something from them, be like Bo, Davor, Hannah, Stefan, Wolfie, and many others and make a contribution now to support the show.
Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate (or follow the link in your podcast listening app). Whether you choose Patreon or PayPal or a paid subscription to the podcast, every little bit helps.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: My name is Daniela Vančić or Daniela Vancic, if I’m introducing myself to somebody who is American. I currently live in Cologne, Germany. I’ve been here for about five years now. But I grew up in the Detroit area in Michigan. And I was born in eastern Serbia about as far east as you can go in a city called Negotin.
PETER KORCHNAK: At the last available census, Vlachs constituted about 7 percent of Negotin’s population.
You reached out to me on Instagram, first, you said, “I’m very much a Yugonostalgic, born in 1991.” Tell me about what inspired you or what made you say that? And of course, how can you be yugonostalgic, if you’ve never experienced, or don’t remember rather, in your case, actual Yugoslavia.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: I’ve always felt this yugonostalgia just because I feel really drawn towards times of when it was more more peace, just more success in the region. And just this general, this feeling of like the brotherhood, right, that we always talk about in Yugoslavia. And I feel that a lot in my generation with other friends that are my age. And that seems to be the case, maybe because right now, things aren’t the greatest, it’s probably not the most also economically affluent region. I think we just yearn for a time that was just better, we had a better also standing in the world, diplomatically, and so on. And this is why I feel more yugonostalgic.
And I think, I see it also in the the eyes of the people who did experience it firsthand. So my mom, for example, who did grow up in Tito’s Yugoslavia, my grandfather from my mom’s side who’s still living back in Serbia, and their eyes just light up when they talk about this time. And if you talk about the current state of the region, it’s not so positive.
PETER KORCHNAK: Vančić’s grandparents had emigrated to the United States in the 1970s. Her father was born there and he ended up marrying a girl from his parents’ village. Vančić’s parents moved to the US when she was two years old, and she grew up in the Detroit area.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: My parents were really involved with the church. So the church played a big role also in building our community there. And we had a lot of Yugoslavian friends, so to say so we don’t have in Detroit, a huge Serbian community, not like in Chicago, for example. In Detroit, however, we have a huge Macedonian community. So I grew up also with a lot of Macedonian we would say aunts and uncles, right, they’re not blood related, but to me, their aunts and uncles. Also, there’s quite a big Romanian community as well. And we’re a minority almost Romanian speaking, minority from from Serbia to we speak the language called Vlach, it’s similar to Romanian. So we started to build also a community that’s also growing from people from our village, there’s a couple of families that’s in the area.
PETER KORCHNAK: If memory serves you’re probably the first guest on the podcast with that ancestry, with that heritage. So for those that don’t know, and most of us probably won’t, tell us about who the Vlachs are? How many are there in US are still back in the region, et cetera?
DANIELA VANČIĆ: I think it’s so difficult to say how many how many of us there are Vlach minority language speaking people. Because they’re Vlach people in also in Macedonia, I’ve learned also in Greece, I’ve learned, so we’re a little bit scattered around the Balkans. And I’m trying to do a lot more research on this and try to figure this out myself, especially in the last year or two, I’ve been a lot more interested in this. There’s very little research on this, but we might be one of the first people in the Balkans, too, Vlachs.
So Vlach is its own language. It’s almost like a mix between Serbian and Romanian, but it’s much much closer to Romanian, maybe about I would say 75% or so. But there’s some words in there that are definitely Serbian. And then some words are completely just the Vlach language, so just in its own language that not a Serbian or Romanian would understand.
And what’s also interesting is it’s only a spoken language, as far as I know, it’s not a language you can write. So this Vlach community is really really based in the language. It’s not a language I can write, I couldn’t tell you how to write this language. It’s really just a spoken language. You know it through while speaking with family members mainly and then also through music. But if I’m speaking to friends from back in the region, if I’m writing with them, I will write with them in Serbian but if I’m if I immediately pick up the phone or send them a voice message, then I will speak to them in Vlach.
Everybody knows also Serbian. Anytime you’d go out in town or get anything done or tried to, or do anything official or with documentation, you’ll be speaking Serbian. So Vlach is really like a household language is what I would consider it.
A friend now is in the process of translating a book from Serbian to Vlach. I don’t know if there’s ever been a book written in Vlach before, this might be the first one. I think it’s really important to preserve the language of course.
There’s a few other things that set us a little bit apart, I think, from the rest of the Serbian population and that might be the way we celebrate things, weddings, large large weddings, I mean bigger than your typical Balkan or Serbian wedding. Also in the way we do funerals, actually. So it’s a lot of things based in these traditions and just the different customs that we have is I think, what really sets the Vlach people apart.
PETER KORCHNAK: Vančić is indeed the first person of Vlach ancestry to speak on this podcast. In Episode 17, “I Design YU Design,” I read answers to some questions from Zoran Cardula, a graphic designer based in Skopje, who is from the Vlach or Aromanian minority in North Macedonia.
Aromanian is a synonym for Vlach, a group of Romance-language speakers who live south of the Danube in a region spanning southern Albania, northern Greece, North Macedonia, and southwestern Bulgaria. Aromanian, which as you heard Vančić say, is similar to Romanian, is the language most Vlachs speak.
Estimates of the number of Vlachs vary widely, one of the reasons being official or unofficial assimilation campaigns or pressures in the various countries where Vlachs live.
It’s also unclear where Vlachs come from, other than that they settled in the region before the Slavic, Turkic, and Ugric populations; possibly they’re descendants of Roman colonists or of even earlier populations, Dacians, who switched languages at some point.
In the course of her research Vančić has met Vlach people from Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Albania, and of course her native Serbia.
One of the other things you told me when you first reached out was that you wrote a master’s thesis on Yugoslav identity, on Yugoslavism, and its relationship to the persistence and then the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the former socialist Yugoslavia. And now, you were obviously researching that part of your identity, that part of your heritage as part of your history. Now you’re looking into the Vlach part of it. It sounds like a lot of your adult life you’ve spent exploring your identity. So what has done that been like, what has that journey been like?
DANIELA VANČIĆ: I think it’s going to be a lifelong journey for me to explore all these different identities. I think you can very much have multiple identities. And I don’t mean that in like a split personality sense, even though different parts of my identity definitely dominate in different kinds of situations more. Because I just have this, I think, very unique upbringing. I have first of all this like very basic Vlach community identity, right, that’s very based in the language as well. And then it’s from the area of of Serbia, right, so this is like my national, I guess, identity you can have. But I feel very strongly American also, because English was my mother tongue. So I mean, this is also a very dominant side of my identity. And then the Yugoslavian all plays in, too, because I’m very nostalgic for this region, that just disintegrated when I was born and when I was growing up, and that’s something that’s always been super interesting for me.
And now I have the last five, six years, I’m living in Germany and I’m almost fluent in the language too so I feel also, very somehow, maybe not German, but very European. And I’m very connected also to the local culture here in Cologne, Germany is where I live.
So for me this like identity topic is something that’s always developing in my mind, and some parts are coming out stronger than others. And in different situations, also the way political developments happen, some become stronger than others.
Right now I’m also a little bit in difficulty navigating my national identity of Serbia at times because I don’t agree so much with the current politics there and just having also this internal struggle with that. So this is where also, for example, the Yugoslavian identity is going to come much stronger. So if I meet somebody from Croatia, from Bosnia, I’m immediately happy to meet them and tell them in in the Serbian and Yugoslav language like, “Oh, we can also speak our language,” because it’s something that we can connect on.
And I’m sometimes a little bit hesitant immediately if you meet somebody who’s Serbian like okay, where do they align themselves like orient themselves also, politically, because, I mean, I’m also very politically active. So these conversations are going to come up. And so depending on kind of what is happening in the world, where I am at the moment, what is going on different identities are going to be stronger for me than others. And I might even struggle with some identities over others.
PETER KORCHNAK: In graduate school, I had a classmate who was from Jordan and we discussed to great lengths her layerings of identities, being Jordanian, an Arab, [a] Muslim, you know, other things and so that’s always fascinating navigating that in your daily life and kind of switching between these identities. I would imagine that must be difficult. I mean, I experienced some of it. Here in the U.S., I’m from Slovakia and my mother is Hungarian and my father is [of] Ruthenian heritage, but Slovak. Obviously I’m from Slovakia, former Czechoslovakia, country that doesn’t exist now I’m here in the US, etc, etc. It always kind of strikes me as a kind of a, I don’t know, a constant dance. And I kind of in a feedback loop of exploration that what does that actually mean? If I say I’m this, or I’m from there, you know.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: But I very much embrace it. I mean, I really have to say, I think I struggle with these identities for different reasons, right? I mean, just what’s happening in the world and with different political developments. That’s where my struggle comes from. But I’ve never had like an internal struggle of like, I don’t belong somewhere because I’m something else. I mean, I can feel a 100 percent of every single identity, it doesn’t have to be that they all have to add up to 100 percent. I feel at the same time a hundred percent Serbian as I do a hundred percent, American, too. So it’s, for me, these identities don’t struggle against each other there. It’s just something I embrace. And I think it puts me maybe in a more unique position to understand the world and understand different perspectives. And it’s something I wish more people had to be honest. But I know that I’m actually in a lucky position. I just try to embrace that where I can, and I don’t use it as something that affects me negatively in any way.
PETER KORCHNAK: What made you move to Germany?
DANIELA VANČIĆ: This is the part where I struggled with my American identity. I decided to move after the 2016 election, I struggled quite a bit after that. For me, it was quite a shock that, I mean, the country was headed in this direction. I felt for the first time a little bit not so welcome in the US even though I look American, I’m very assimilated, my family as well. I speak my American accent. So that was for me a little bit this final straw. I was itching a bit to come back to Europe, if I have this opportunity and I have the chance where I’ve already spent a lot of my years, childhood and adult years, student years, in Europe, then yeah, I’m gonna try to find career opportunities in Europe. And so that’s how I landed in Cologne, Germany.
There’s a word for this. We’re called to Trumpugees, Trump refugees.
PETER KORCHNAK: Vančić works for Democracy International, an NGO that works to promote direct democracy and citizen participation in decision making processes across the European Union. She spoke with me on her own behalf.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: I guess my identity plays a role in this, even my upbringing and even the Yugoslavian identity is— I mean, the European project itself, right, it’s like a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual project and amazing like, coming together of all these countries that knowing that together, we’re going to be much stronger than if we’re apart. And that’s a little bit I see like the Yugoslavian dream, right, which unfortunately, didn’t work. And I hope Europe learns from that.
PETER KORCHNAK: And vice versa. Vančić hopes Serbia can learn from Europe, particularly from Germany.
DANIELA VANČIĆ: For me, it’s so interesting how Germans approach history and how they approach their difficult history. And this is interesting as a Serbian to observe this, because Germans approach it a lot more head on, and there’s really like a feeling of, of shame, or like some kind of, like much more sense of the learning from the past. And there’s this really like [a] never-again kind of movement.
And in the Balkans, I mean, I just, I don’t think we’ve really learned, I think we’re still figuring out who is telling the truth or there’s really some sort of like distorted understanding of the facts, like everyone has their own version of the truth. So maybe, because it’s also much more recent history.
Yeah, I worry a lot about the direction of how ex-Yugoslavia is going, and how the narratives are there. We could learn a lot from how Germans have dealt with their difficult history.
[SOUNDBITE – “Don’t Stop” by Šizike]
PETER KORCHNAK: That was the Belgrade electronic formation Šizike. I’ve played the song from 1984 with the kind permission of Discom, which reissued Šizike’s album in 2016. Buy it at Discom’s website and follow the label on social media. I’ve included the links at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
“Don’t Stop” is an apt instruction for that constant search for who we are, the families, the places, the nations and religions that shaped us, the search for who we can be and want to be and for a life that’s all about sorting through all of it, be it with research or writing or a podcast. The song itself carries echoes of Bananarama and Kraftwerk and Tom Tom Club and who knows what else, and in the end, like all of us, it’s its own thing.
Just like this podcast. Lots of influences, lots of sources of inspiration, lots of voices coming together in this little space to tell stories and share ideas about keeping the memory of one disappeared country alive.
So don’t stop listening—and don’t stop if you feel inspired to support it with a contribution to keep the show going. The stories don’t tell themselves, it takes all of us, all of you. So, in your podcast listening app, click the handy SUPPORT THE SHOW link included in the episode description or visit RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate to make the magic happen.
Now on with your show.
PETER KORCHNAK: Denis Svob was a long-time Remembering Yugoslavia listener when he contacted me on Facebook.
DENIS SVOB: I found some of the stories on your podcast very interesting and kind of relevant to my y feelings towards, you know, that country that I still hold very dear to my heart. I’ve never been able to, I suppose, let go of the fact that the country no longer exists.
I’m not this sort of obsessed yugonostalgic, I just have these really strong feelings for not just that country because I was born there and I lived there for about 10-15 years, I just love everything about it, you know I’m a fan of socialism as well, and particularly the type of socialism that country was trying to build and the ideals it tried to embrace and deliver. But unfortunately, it wasn’t really quite successful at that.
PETER KORCHNAK: You call yourself a yugophile and you’ve described you know that just now, but you also call yourself a Yugoslav. What do you mean by that?
DENIS SVOB: I was born in Novi Sad, [the] quote unquote capital of Vojvodina, and that region itself, they used to call it mini Yugoslavia because it’s made up of many, many different nationalities.
PETER KORCHNAK: In 1976 when Svob was born, Vojvodina was an autonomous region within the Socialist Republic of Serbia. As back then, Vojvodina’s population today comprises a large number of minorities in addition to the two thirds of Serbs. Hungarians live mostly in the northern part of Vojvodina and constitute about 13 percent of its population; Slovaks, Croats, and Roma comprise between two and three percent each; Montenegrins and Romanians between one and two percent each; and there are a lot of much smaller minorities, Albanians, Bunjevci, Czechs, Gorani, Germans, Jews, Macedonians, Russians, Rusyns (or Ruthenians), Slovenes, Ukrainians as well as the 0.63 percent of Vojvodina’s population who claim to be Yugoslavs.
DENIS SVOB: My father is an ethnic Hungarian. But for the most part, he is what I would call a Yugoslav Hungarian. And he never ever taught me the language, and he never really took the time or thought he was relevant, because he always thought of himself as Yugoslavian. And my mum is Serbian.
I wasn’t even aware of any other nationalities till I was about 12 years old. I didn’t even know that my dad was Hungarian and my mum was Serbian, I just thought we were Yugoslavian.
My parents were both teachers, primary school teachers, who had actually been living in Croatia at the time, in the northern part of Croatia called Baranja, on the border with Hungary. So that’s where I spent my childhood basically, my first 12 years of my life. And this village as a service was tiny, not even a thousand people. It had one pub, you know, had a primary school and a church. This town was made up of primarily Croatian people and very Catholic.
My parents were not religious. Now both of my parents were in the Communist Party and they were teaching us the socialist ideals and the benefits of socialism and egalitarian society and equal opportunity and fairness and everything that comes with that.
PETER KORCHNAK: In the extended version of this episode, available to Patreon and other supporters, you can also hear the story of how Svob’s family ended up in the north of Serbia and Croatia. A big part of that story is the joke his grandfather told that landed him at Goli Otok. Visit RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate to get access and a bitter laugh today.
DENIS SVOB: To be quite honest, when I was a child, thinking about Yugoslavia, that was the only time I’ve ever felt patriotic in my entire life. When Yugoslavia was playing in, say, World Cups, we were all cheering for Yugoslavia. You know, like, I loved seeing the flag, you know, and everyone sort of cheering for Yugoslavia.
So, it became a massive surprise to me when in the late 80s, suddenly, this this sort of stuck being the case. Suddenly, almost overnight, my friends who were also children, just children, they were like, “Oh, you’re, Serbian, aren’t you?” And I was like, “What do you mean I’m Serbian?” “Yeah, your mom is Serbian, isn’t she?” I had no idea. I didn’t even know what, you know what that meant. I just remember running home and asking my mum about it. I said, my friends said that, you know, we’re, we’re not Yugoslavian, we’re Serbian. And then that was the first time when my mom sort of had to explain to me what that actually meant.
You suddenly had to either be Serbian or you had to be, you know, Croatian or Hungarian, or whatever else. So I remember being at school, eighth grade or something like that, 1989 or 1990, in a classroom of like, 30 kids, you had 10 or 15 kids sitting on left hand side and they were all Croatian and then on the right hand side they were all Serbian. And then in the middle, you had a bunch of kids who were like, super confused, like myself. We were these, like, awkward Yugoslavs, sitting in the middle, and mostly mixed marriage kids.
PETER KORCHNAK: Another thing you mentioned, you were a young Yugoslav poet hopeful. There’s a story there.
DENIS SVOB. In the fourth grade, in primary school, part of what we had to do was to learn and memorize some of these children’s poems. They were mostly about the revolutionary fights, you know, about partisans, they were about communist heroes, and all that sort of stuff. I really liked those poems, and I thought, hmm, maybe I can have a go, you know, let me try and write something like this.
In the fifth grade, we’d already have like biology, chemistry, physics, and all this sort of stuff. I was not interested in that at all. I would be sitting there and writing these poems, and my, I remember, my biology teacher, she came once, and she was like, What are you doing? I was like, I’m just writing a poem. She got upset, but she looked at my poem, and she was like, “Hang on, this actually looks pretty good.” And so she, she passed that on to the Croatian language teacher, and she read the poem, and she was like, “Hang on, you’ve got something here, let me see if I can get you included in this young poets, socialist poets of Croatia,” or whatever.
And so I wrote a bunch of poems, like children’s songs as well, that I would recite at different events. So for example, 29th of November, which was a probably the biggest holiday in the former country, the Republic Day or Dan Republike, you know, we’d get on stage, sing songs, little stage plays, and also recite poetry and I did that.
PETER KORCHNAK: Does any of that work survive? Do you have any of that? Can you recite something for us?
DENIS SVOB: Unfortunately, none of it survived. We had to go and none of our stuff survived, unfortunately. And that was all, I suppose, disappeared in the flames of war.
I do remember something about—but I don’t remember the actual text at all—but it was something about ladybug losing its dots or something, something ridiculous.
PETER KORCHNAK: That speaks to some themes that you’ve been exploring since loss and of something that’s innate to the to you. That’s interesting.
As he turned into a teenager, Svob changed the tenor and themes of his poetry and the naughty and obscene new material did not fly with the poets society powers that be.
As the situation in Croatia escalated in the early 1990s, his parents sent him to stay with his grandparents in Novi Sad and attend school there.
DENIS SVOB: One night I caught a bit of news that talked about that [the] particular town where I lived being attacked by Croatian paramilitaries. And lots of people being killed and stuff like that, and I basically didn’t didn’t know whether my parents were killed as well. So this is the point in my life where I was like, Oh, my God, I don’t know if my parents are still alive. You know, I tried to call them, there was no phone connection. And a couple days later, I got a phone call from my mom. Obviously, I was relieved that she was indeed still alive, and my father as well. They told us what happened. Essentially, these guys attacked the village to basically get rid of any of the non-Croatian population in that town, even though there weren’t that many non-Croatians living there.
My parents were hiding in the attic. By the time these paramilitaries got to our house, whatever was left of the Yugoslav army at the time was on its way to the village and the paramilitaries had found out and they decided to retreat. My parents said that they heard voices [that] their house was going to be next. But it just so happened that they retreated at that time and so they survived, which is really, really pure luck.
PETER KORCHNAK: Soon the family was reunited in Novi Sad. A few years prior some cousins of Svob had moved to Australia and now invited his family to join them there.
[SOUNDBITE – “Gone” by Mechanism of Action]
PETER KORCHNAK: The Svobs moved to Canberra in 1993 on refugee visas.
DENIS SVOB: Moving to a foreign country is never easy for anyone. And I’ll be honest, it was difficult, but it was kind of exciting as well. Because I’ve thought, maybe this is something that will be better. I was a little bit shocked as well, because Australia, certainly is nothing what I thought it was going to be. In Yugoslavia at the time in the 80s, especially, you know, we were bombarded with American movies, you know, the American culture was really something that we embraced. And coming to Australia, I was kind of expecting that that’s what I would get. But Australia is quite a bit different to America.
Now, obviously, what do you do when you get to a place that is completely foreign? You try and find people that are sort of like you, right? So obviously, my cousins were already living in Australia and they had friends. One of my cousins is sort of my age. So, he was like, let me introduce you to the Serbian community and I was kind of excited about that, but then immediately disappointed.
The Serbian community in Australia was basically nothing like the Serbian people living in in Serbia. These guys were, first of all, could hardly speak the language. Now, I found that very amusing, because a lot of the Serbian people, especially at the time, were very nationalistic, they were almost more Serb than Serb, they felt that they were the real Serbian people, and they were very, very almost obsessed with the Serbian culture. But I thought, hang on a minute, you can’t even speak Serbian. And very quickly I realized that I wasn’t going to be a part of this Serbian community in Australia.
I couldn’t really relate to them, because most of these kids were actually kids from like, the families of Serbian people who moved to Australia in the 50s, you know, maybe straight after the Second World War, or 50s, maybe 60s, and a lot of them were still sort of stuck, almost frozen in time.
And a lot of them were actually— they had to sort of leave Yugoslavia because they disagreed with the new socialist regime, they had sort of strong feelings about the socialist Yugoslavia. To these kids Yugoslavia is just an artificial thing that these communist bastards created to keep Serbian people from becoming a great nation. They’re really hated everything associated with Yugoslavia. So I couldn’t associate with these people because I thought, you had no idea what you’re talking about, I lived in that country, I know what our country is all about. So I decided that I would not hang out with them.
And so it was difficult for me because suddenly, I found myself not belonging anywhere because I was new to Australia and to the Australian culture, I did not belong. And Australians as nice as they are, they’re actually they’re not very welcoming of migrants.
And so I didn’t quite belong with the Australian people. I did not quite belong with the Serbian community; there was no longer any type of Yugoslav community; I certainly did not feel anything towards the Hungarian community. And at the same time, watching the news, and just watching the country dissolve, you know, and…
I just remember, the first five years of my life in Australia were extremely difficult because of the lack of belonging to anything or anyone you know, and as a human being, you just want to belong, at the end of the day, and especially as a young person.
And I decided I would try and just forget about Yugoslavia, I would just try and forget about it all, you know, and just try and fit in to the Australian society as much as I can. I decided that the best way for me to do that is to learn the language as quickly as I can and as best as I can.
And another way I thought I was going to do that was through football, through soccer, to playing to playing football or soccer, as they call it here. And so I joined a soccer club. and this is where I started making friends through playing soccer.
PETER KORCHNAK: In the late 1990s, Svob watched Serbia under Milošević make a mess of another nation, in Kosovo—
DENIS SVOB: And that’s when I was forced to take interest again, in the affairs of that country.
Things were different, though, I discovered. Late 90s was when the Serbian people, especially young Serbian people, started to get wise to that ultranationalism and all those terrible things that had been happening in Serbia and Yugoslavia. And they started to resist. Young people really got organized. And they said, Enough is enough, we, we cannot tolerate this anymore. We’ve been fed lies all these years by Milošević and the regime there and I could sort of relate to, again.
PETER KORCHNAK: Then the internet happened.
DENIS SVOB: At the time, what was happening was the Internet Relay Chat, or the IRC, the first type of internet sort of communication that was sort of like chat rooms and stuff like that. And so what I did was, I went online and searched for any Serbian chat rooms, and I found one channel which was called Serbia, so I joined that and they’re all these young people talking about the war in Kosovo and everything else. But then I started to see Croatian people, the Bosnians, they would sort of join in the conversation as well. And it was mostly like, you know, in support of the, of the survey of the young people of Serbia. I was really pleasantly surprised by that. After everything that happened in the early 90s and mid 90s, we come to the late 90s and suddenly, this is happening now.
And then people from Belgrade and people from Zagreb and Sarajevo and different parts of former Yugoslavia would all go and meet up and have these great meetings and go out and party together.
It was something that I could finally kind of relate to. So I spent a number of years almost living my life on the internet, being in touch with these with these people, you know, talking to them and, and meeting them, some of them actually even came to visit me in Australia and stuff like that and I went over there as well one year. I thought, you know, this is, as I said, a piece of Yugoslavia had has returned.
[SOUNDBITE – “Gentrify” by Mechanism of Action]
PETER KORCHNAK: Svob works as a software test manager. He collects records of Yugoslav-era rock bands and Alan Ford comic books. He also makes music, which you’ve heard throughout today’s show, with the band he named Mechanism of Action. Check them out on Spotify and buy it their music. The links are at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
The track “Gentrify” is the closest he’s gotten to a song dedicated to his disappeared country.
PETER KORCHNAK: Are you an ex-Yugoslav diasporan with a story to tell? Get in touch via the website, Remembering Yugoslavia.com/Contact, and let’s take it from there.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]
PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:
JAKOB FINCI: Sarajevo, Bosnia, are almost absolutely free of anti semitism, which is a little bit strange, especially speaking about the period of beginning of 2018 first century, when the right of Semitism is visible, not only in traditional places where anti semitism always exists, but even the United States and some countries that have been free. Here, we don’t have anti semitism.
PETER KORCHNAK: Since the 16th century the Jewish community in Sarajevo has been small but strong. What was life like for Jews in socialist Yugoslavia and over the past three decades? And what’s the Haggadah got to do with it?
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[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jugoslavijo / Od Vardara pa do Triglava” by Horn Orchestra]
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information, embeds, links to purchase all the music you’ve heard, and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
While you’re there and before you go, take a moment to back the show. Navigate to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and join the growing community of podcast supporters. And enjoy the extended version of this and other episodes while you’re at it.
Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić.
Additional music courtesy of Šizike and Discom, Denis Svob and Mechanism of Action, and PMG Kolektiv. Buy their music! All the links are at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
I am Peter Korchňak.