One in three Bosnians live outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most Bosnians outside their country, about 87 percent, are dispersed around Europe. Though only about 10 percent live in the United States, the country is home to the biggest Bosnian city abroad.

With Akif Cogo, Patrick McCarthy, and Gino Srdjan Jevdjević. Featuring music by Kultur Shock.

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Episode Transcript

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[JINGLE]

PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your guide Peter Korchnak.

One in three Bosnians live outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2020, Bosnia and Herzegovina was second in the world on the list of countries with the biggest share of the native-born population living in the diaspora, at 34 percent (Guyana is the first, Albania the third).

I’ve talked on the show about people leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina in droves, most extensively in Episode 40, “The Great Bosnian Emigration.” I’ve spent much less time exploring where they go—where they take Bosnia with them.

Most Bosnians outside their country, about 87 percent, live in Europe and are quite dispersed around the continent. Only about 10 percent live in the United States but the country is home to the largest Bosnian city abroad.

PATRICK McCARTHY: We joke and say today that St. Louis is the North American capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

PETER KORCHNAK: I joke St. Louis is Little Sarajevo. And to the U.S.—St.Louis and Seattle—is where we’ll travel today.

But before we set out, I want to welcome new supporters of Remembering Yugoslavia. Thank you, Mario, Petra, and Stephen for your contributions. You keep the show on the air, at home and abroad.

Wherever you are, if you’re like Mario, Petra, Stephen, and countless other supporters who find the podcast helpful in some way and whose generosity has kept it going over the years, please consider contributing as well. You’ll start off the year on the right track and you’ll ensure that I’m able to keep sharing stories and histories here on your favorite independent podcast. Simply go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate and pick from one of the options there. Every little bit helps.

[SOUNDBITE]

PATRICK McCARTHY: We have the distinction of having one of the largest, if not the largest, communities, of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who came primarily the because of the war and genocide.

PETER KORCHNAK: Patrick McCarthy is a professor at St. Louis University. He has been working with the Bosnian community since 1993 providing resettlement assistance to refugees. He is an honorary member of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The first war refugees to arrive, in 1993, were five families from the Prijedor area, survivors of concentration camps there. They joined a number of people from the former Yugoslavia who were already in St. Louis.

As more and more refugees arrived the community grew.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: We tried to tell that story in various ways through an earlier book publication about an extended family from Srebrenica, who had resettled in St. Louis. We did a related exhibit at our Missouri History Museum. We did a project about Prijedor and the genocide that occurred there at our local Holocaust Museum and Learning Center. And what we realized was, the history of the community was at some risk of being lost unless we captured it in some form.

PETER KORCHNAK: That form became the book Bosnian St. Louis: Between Two Worlds, out in 2022 from the Missouri Historical Society. Individual and family stories of Bosnians in St. Louis intersperse larger stories of the community and its economic and political impact.

AKIF COGO: We were sort of unofficial historians of Bosnian community.

PETER KORCHNAK: The book’s co-author Akif Cogo [kogo] is from Bosnia and Herzegovina and moved to St. Louis as a refugee in 2001 at the age of 17. He is the historian and archivist for the nonprofit, St. Louis Bosnians.

The claim of St. Louis as the Bosnian-Herzegovinian capital in North America is not an exaggeration.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: The best guess as to the size of the Bosnian community, and I say guess because these numbers are based on estimates, but we estimate around 60,000 people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and that includes children whose parents were resettled as refugees who are now born into that community.

The population really grew in phases or stages. Early in the 1950s and 60s, there were small numbers of Bosnians who came from then Yugoslavia, who were political refugees, who were anti-communists. There were later people who came looking for economic opportunity. And there was a small South Slavic community that was already in St. Louis made up mainly of Croats and Serbs, who had been here for 100 years.

But of course, the war and people who came as refugees formed the largest portion of the now very large community. A certain number came during the war directly resettled as refugees—several thousand came that way. The largest in terms of numbers of refugees who came actually came after the war, and they came primarily from Germany and other countries in Europe. When the war ended the German government said, Well, now that the war is over, it’s time to go home. They gave a temporary status to Bosnians. But of course, going home, in many cases meant being repatriated to their hometown that was under the occupation of those who had expelled them in the first place, the sights of large scale atrocities and war crimes. In some cases, people’s homes were destroyed. So it wasn’t really a meaningful option.

So in terms of numbers, that small group of really families who knew each other before the recent war, several thousand, who came during the war, and then really a mushrooming of the community after the war, in the mid to late 90s, up to the early 2000s, when some of the eligibility changed.

PETER KORCHNAK: The vast majority are Bošnjaks, that is Bosnian Muslims. And they’ve come from all over.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: Invariably, if you name a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a high likelihood that someone will be here from that place. And so it’s big cities like Sarajevo, Banjaluka, Mostar, Tuzla, but it’s also very small towns and villages, mainly in eastern Bosnia.

And the same with levels of education and profession: so everything up to physicians, engineers, lawyers, to people who had, you know, a background with more of a working class profile, all fit various economic and employment needs here in St. Louis, and were very well received when they came.

AKIF COGO: There is a small pattern in terms of the Bosnian community here in terms of the demographics and where we’re coming from. And that is, pattern is primarily related to the level of either atrocity or at very least the level of fighting that took place in Bosnia. So those places that were greatly impacted by fighting, we can see that more people are coming from those places.We have very large number of people that are coming from Eastern Bosnia, from towns and surrounding areas of Srebrenica, Žepa, Zvornik, Višegrad, but also from the western part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina, primarily Prijedor and surrounding areas, but also far western parts where there was some infighting between the Bosnian fractions during the war. They form sort of a nucleus of the community here, their numbers are in thousands, and everyone else from the rest of the Bosnia, we have in lesser numbers present here in the St. Louis.

PETER KORCHNAK: Relatively few Bosnians in St. Louis come from Sarajevo. Still, in 2014, a replica of the sebilj fountain located in the Baščaršija neighborhood of Sarajevo was unveiled in the Bevo Mill neighborhood, a “gift from the Bosnian community to the city of St. Louis.”

AKIF COGO: The fountain, the Sebilj fountain, it was more so symbolic, as it’s often the one of the most recognizable symbols of Bosnia and our culture. So the fountain is present really in a number of different countries. Just today I read that there’s a replica of it that was built in China as well.

PETER KORCHNAK: That said, the first Bošnjak to arrive to St. Louis, in the late 1960s, was from Sarajevo.

AKIF COGO: Muharem Bašić is a very interesting figure for many, many reasons. His story actually starts way back and late 40s and early 50s, as a young man in the former Yugoslavia. His father was the member of the Domobrani, which was the unit in the Independent State of Croatia. They were aligned with Germany and German troops. And as a result of that his dad, at the end of the war, spent some time in jail in Yugoslavia. Young Bašić that particular time, developed a distaste for the government, especially communist government, so he was known to be [an] anticommunist government organizer in Yugoslavia, and at some point of time, he decided to escape Yugoslavia and go to the Western Europe. He did it in an unusual way, and that was one of the interesting parts about him: he kind of got himself attached for the undercarriage of the train that was traveling from Yugoslavia to Austria, and that’s how he crossed the border.

His troubles didn’t stop there. He was going from place to place and in one tavern one night, after the arrival, he shared his story with the one of the locals who promised to take him to Germany. And in the morning, when Bašić was supposed to meet him, the actual Austrian police met him and they put him in jail. He managed to stay there after, I wanna say it probably took him about two years or so. But he managed to stay in Austria. Eventually, he was granted asylum and ability to move to different countries. So he moved to Germany, where he continued what what he was doing really in Yugoslavia, he was organizing primarily Croatian diaspora on the premises of the Croatian nationalism. That was he that was very much so identifiable factor for him. And he ended up on the radar of the Yugoslavian secret police and that resulted in him moving to United States, first to Cleveland, Ohio, eventually to St. Louis.

PETER KORCHNAK: Sixty thousand people may not seem like a lot in a big American city, but the Bosnian community has been quite sizable, both in terms of numbers and its impact.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: The impact of the Bosnian community has been huge.

I would say right at the beginning, as refugees started to arrive, they were mostly unnoticed.

What happened over time as a number of Bosnians began to be resettled into a particular neighborhood in St. Louis called the Bevo Mill neighborhood, which had been a German neighborhood in the past but had gone into a process of decline. As Bosnians were resettled into that neighborhood, the landlords started to notice that the tenants were actually fixing up the apartments. They were in better shape than when they had moved in.

And there was a communal life out on the streets because, as you may know, Bosnians and others from South Slavic cultures, it’s a collectivist culture, people are together a lot. They began sitting out on their front porches, barbecuing in their backyards, businesses started to open in that neighborhood, little grocery stores, travel agencies, cafes, restaurants… And that got the attention of the city government. So the there was a process of revitalization that happened in that neighborhood, and the then Mayor of St. Louis, Francis Slay, and others recognized the positive impact of the Bosnian community, but also potentially saw them as a voting block.

So just to give a snapshot of the numbers in St. Louis: at that time, the population of the city of St. Louis was just over 300,000. With the arrival of several thousand, growing up to 50, 60 thousand that represented one in six people living in St. Louis.

Now, I should footnote to say that many Bosnians, like earlier refugee and immigrant groups began to move out of the city center, and into the suburban areas, mainly in South County of St. Louis. But I would say the political establishment at the local level, including Mayor Slay, recognized the value and contribution of the Bosnian community that extended to our congressional representatives.

AKIF COGO: The bulk of all the arrivals happened, be it either through primary immigration from Europe to the United States, or secondary from different cities across the United States, the bulk of it happened from within 10 years, so from 1993 to 2003. So when you have an influx of so many people in such a short period of time, that becomes eventually noticeable.

That diversity, and a large number of people that came to St. Louis, also brought in like, very much so needed, the skill sets. And the things started changing in the areas of the St. Louis that were dilapidated at that particular point of time. So the neighborhoods such as Bevo Mill, those neighborhoods, they were on decline at the time of the Bosnian arrivals. So when they started renting apartments there, when they started buying the houses, fixing them up selling them for more money, when the boarded up houses started having windows again, start having people, shoes in front of the doors, that’s when that area became lively.

And in addition to that the huge aspect of Bosnian arrival was that enterpreneurial spirit that they arrived with that resulted in, you know, right now having over 2,000 Bosnian owned businesses throughout the St. Louis, from small mom-and-pop type of businesses to businesses that have several hundred employees. And that all started from that small Bevo Mill area, with cafes really, as a social and focal point of Bosnian American community, Bosnian community, first of all, and then it spreads to the stores, the import-export type of businesses, through which the Bosnians were importing goods from the former Yugoslavia and from Europe here. And they were expanding later on, and more so service-oriented businesses, such as cleaning companies and stuff like that, to now primarily being in transportation and other businesses. So over the years, it was just expanding. And we’re estimating that the Bosnians really added a significant value to the city, county as well as the state in terms of the tax base.

The value the Bosnian community brought in with them, it’s visible now, it will remain so, being visible for a really long time to come. And I think what we built here, it’s quite unique. And it could be really used as a blueprint of how other refugee groups throughout the world could be welcomed in the United States, particularly nowadays, when the political dynamic around refugees and immigrants is very polarized. There is a blueprint, it’s in St. Louis, it’s in South City, it’s in South County. It just needs to be applied throughout the United States for the benefit of all.

PETER KORCHNAK: St. Louis Bosnians maintain ties with their home country.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: One of the ways that the book is connected to Sarajevo, we dedicated it to a little girl, Nina Žeković, who was killed at the very end of the war in Sarajevo in August of 1995. We say the last child who was killed in the Siege, it was right before the second Markale massacre, and then the NATO response to that. But Nina’s parents came to St. Louis with their other daughter, Belma, and lived here for a period of time, there was a documentary film made about their story called Exile in Sarajevo. But they decided there were just too many important memories in Sarajevo, that they wanted to honor their daughter—Nina was a nickname, her real name was Nirvana—and to maintain a presence for their family there. So they were among a relatively small number of people who decided to return.

However, there is a dynamic relationship in terms of remittances that people send to their families. Estimates are, really that it’s a significant infusion of financial support for the country. People are obviously concerned about the political status of Bosnia and Herzegovina and see opportunities for the diaspora to contribute in positive ways.

AKIF COGO: Bosnians from diaspora sent over 3 billion marks, that’s over $1.6 billion from all across the globe to Bosnia on an annual basis. That’s right about entire Bosnian state budget.

So that tells you the level of the financial dependency in Bosnia on the funds from the diaspora. And a large part in that Bosnians from St. Louis play as well be it through the direct sending the money, or what often also happens, some folks do have properties over there. So there’s that influx of almost us living dual lives, basically. What would happen if it happens, basically, that’s how I call it, that a lot of people have either someone in Bosnia, that they are very much so connected to that they are almost in a daily contact with, they may have some property over there that they are visiting, and they going and they’re spending some time over there.

And even in terms of returning, we do have as the time progresses, we have a large influx of those Bosnians that are returning back. Most of those that are returning or at very least splitting them times between Bosnia and St. Louis are those that are of retirement age, and are retired. So they would spent half a year even longer in Bosnia and then return for a little bit to St. Louis primarily because their kids or grandkids are here. So they don’t want to lose that connection. But they are spending a lot of times there.

And what I’ve personally noticed over the last two years or so is that there is a number of even younger families that are returning over there, or at least very least splitting their time. Primarily, this is a benefit of remote work that allowed them to work and have stable income while they’re in Bosnia. Simultaneously enjoying the benefits that Bosnia offers them that they find valuable.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: People still feel a strong connection to their homeland, people travel often in the summers to go back to their hometowns and cities and villages. So there is an ongoing, dynamic relationship between the community here and the well being and security and prosperity of the homeland to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It would be a real shame if people lost their connection to the very best of Bosnian culture, which I always think of as a place of tremendous respect, tremendous achievement, both in terms of artistic achievement, intellectual achievement. It’s a shame that people only are really aware of Bosnia because of the war. It was so much more than that, and is so much more than that.

My hope for the younger people within the Bosnian community here is that they deepen their understanding and appreciation for the very rich and very deep culture of which they are a part by virtue of being Bosnian.

AKIF COGO: Some 20 plus years ago, 2001 or so, when a lot of Bosnian refugees were arriving, connecting with Bosnia was primarily through the letters or phone cards. Nowadays, it’s through FaceTime and instant messaging, where the information is really on our fingertips. So that also plays into that dynamic of how connected we are here in St. Louis with Bosnia.

One interesting aspect is, for example, that most of the Bosnian households here have the cable channels that are offered in Bosnia, where they can watch the TV channel offerings that are offered in Bosnia, so they have news channels, they have entertainment channels, they have number of different things that they are watching. And it’s in real time, so whatever they’re seeing down there, we’re seeing it here. So that also plays into a narrative of the effect that the current political situation or even social standings in Bosnia have on the on the people in St. Louis.

PETER KORCHNAK: Now, of course, this podcast is about Yugoslavia, so I have to ask about Yugoslavia. What, if any role does that former country whose dissolution was already effects over the way this all was the reason why Bosnians are in St. Louis in the first place, but what role if any, does that country play in general life? Maybe stories, narratives?

AKIF COGO: As Bosnians, we often measure time in before the war and after the war increments. And this is quite profound. And considering that historically, before the measurement of time, actual dates started people were quite literally keeping track of time based on the events. We live in the time in which we also keep a track of our dates and events in terms of before and after the war.

And feelings are mixed. Feelings are really mixed depending on individuals, depending on their background, and depending on who they were before the war. Oftentimes, there’s a feeling of longing people, correlate those times with the good things, were the things when they had a jobs, when the families were together, when those that are no longer with us were present. But also there is that notion that those that talk a lot more about that time were a lot younger at that time, so they were much more able than they are today and from that perspective, oftentimes, when you are younger, those times are much better than when you were maybe a little bit older.

We also have prospects of those that were prosecuted during that particular time, if they were religious, or if they have different political associations or social associations. They may have different view of that time from the former Yugoslavia than someone that was enjoying the benefits of being within the system, regardless if they were part of the Communist Party, or in some other shape or form. So it’s very much so a divisive notion depending on what your life was like prior to the war.

And there’s no doubt that a lot of people are blaming the failures of that particular system on the outcomes of the of the later years, outcomes of the 1991, 1992 when the country erupted into a war. And that is also one connotation.

But it usually is measured in terms of before the war, everything was better, we had good salaries, we had homes, we were able to go on vacation multiple times a year, we were going skiing in the winter, to the coast during the summer. Heck, we were so well off that we went shopping to countries such as Hungary, Italy, and we were able to afford it. To others that were just hey, I was prosecuted during that time, I couldn’t really go to a mosque or church and pray and hold the position that was equal to my education and experience.

But those that did not live there, they’re really thinking about that period through the lenses of their parents. So it the parents were talking about in a positive light, they’re talking about it in positive light, they are researching in a positive light, they are quoting that period in terms of the positive aspects of it, while those parents that were prosecuted, and they were talking about it in those terms, their kids tend to have that same opinion of that former Yugoslavia and life in former Yugoslavia.

PATRICK MCCARTHY: I think the question of how Yugoslavia is viewed is essentially a question of memory. People’s memory of Yugoslavia in its ideal form was a time when people didn’t think as much about ethnic and religious division. And to use as an example, a place like Sarajevo, where is as you know, literally within sight of each other you have the main mosque, you have the Catholic Cathedral, you have an important Orthodox Church, you have one of the Jewish synagogues. And the Bosnian ideal was a shared life of mutuality and respect, not just toleration. The people celebrated holidays together, they lived a common life, in the big cities, they married each other from different backgrounds.

I always thought, as an outsider, because that idea of living together was so deeply rooted in Bosnian culture was the reason the war had to be, quote unquote, had to be so vicious and brutal, rising to the level of genocide, because that idea had been so implanted in people that it had to be violently uprooted and people had to be so terrorized, that they’d never want to return or if they did return, it would be with very ambivalent feelings about it.

So in that sense of memory of Yugoslavia itself, in that ideal, there was a life in Bosnia and Herzegovina that reflected that ideal. And because people experienced such trauma as it was torn apart and the fabric of that society was so thoroughly shredded, it’s a very mixed memory now for people.

And I think there is a tendency somewhat to idealize the past, but it was a real past. It was people’s lived experience of not only Sarajevo, but certainly in Sarajevo and other places, throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in the former Yugoslavia in general.

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[SOUNDBITE – “Sarajevo” by Kultur Shock]

PETER KORCHNAK: That was Kultur Shock, with “Sarajevo,” off their 2006 album We Came to Take Your Jobs Away. Which by the way was released on a recent guest’s label, Bill Gould’s Koolarrow Records. Buy Kultur Shock’s music on Bandcamp!

Kultur Shock is based out of Seattle and comprises an eclectic mix of musicians from various parts of the world. Its founder, Gino Srdjan Jevdjević, has described Kultur Shock as “a live band of blue-collar immigrants.”

Jevdjević is from Sarajevo where he was born in 1960 and where he started his musical career at the age of 16. He played with a number of bands and reached the pinnacle as the frontman of Gino Banana, releasing three pop albums in the final five years of Yugoslavia’s existence. In Sarajevo he also got a law degree but he never practiced the profession.

He stayed in Sarajevo during the Siege. He adapted and directed the musical Hair, which was performed almost daily there under bombardment.

Gino moved to the US in 1995 to work as a writer on a movie that never materialized.

Most Bosnians, most people from Sarajevo, came to the U.S. as refugees. But your path was different. You stayed in Sarajevo during the war, came to the US afterward and you stayed? So what was that journey like? Put us in your shoes.

GINO SRDJAN JEVDJEVIĆ: You know, if you asked me that in 1993, I would say I made a horrible mistake of my life, right?

People say that experiences make life but you know, some experiences, you can just live without. Yeah, war is one of those experiences.

However, right now, I can tell you that whatever I am experiencing right now in my life, I experience because of in many ways, because of those three years that I was there.

There’s something that we discovered, it’s called Post Traumatic Stress Growth, PTSG. It’s not me, it’s Dan Tomasulo. He is professor of positive psychology from Columbia University in New York, we became friends like 10 plus years ago. With my interest in psychology, he actually researched a lot of post traumatic stress disorders, and figured out that of course, there are other negative stress consequences, but more most of them, but there is also one part of you, that becomes better. I think that happened to me.

By running through those bullets and by jumping around, you know, trying to stay alive, I realized life is too short to waste it on stuff that is that is marginal, such as like, you know, material wealth, success, for some kinds to prove yourself to the others. And in I grew. And since then I decided never to do commercial music ever in my life again, because I think life’s too short, I mean, I can die in five minutes.

That is where the PTSG comes from, post traumatic stress growth, you become definitely better. I wouldn’t say even better, I would say you don’t really care about the consequences that we all care every single day because you understand shortness of life. And that is what happened to me.

And that’s what I came to United States, I just realized that, you know, who knows how long am I going to live. So I do need to focus on something that is making me happy, rather than what makes others think that I would be happy, or what I think that others would like, so I can sell it so I can live comfortably. That comfort itself is actually a very deceiving component in our life.

When I came to United States, I was all like, charged. And then I realized very, very soon like that I am facing some different opportunities over here. And started like with eating better, living better, no shooting around you, started like thinking again, like how can I sell this thing? So those are the moments you know, if I’m younger, that I probably would go the same path. But I wasn’t. So I figured I remembered. So it isn’t what I want to say it’s an ongoing struggle. I still care what people think about me. But I understand that that’s my weakness. And I’m fighting it every day.

PETER KORCHNAK: I spoke with Jevdjević last December. The full interview is available exclusively to the contributors of Remembering Yugoslavia. Join and get access at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate.

Jevdjević formed Kultur Shock in 1996, in Seattle. The band has released 7 studio albums (the first three on Bill Gould’s Koolarrow Records label), three live albums, and a number of EPs, remixes, singles, and videos; they’ve played 1,500 plus shows over a quarter century. I saw one in Portland, Oregon, maybe 10 years ago, and in Zagreb, last April. Jevdjević is currently at work on a movie about the band and on a book of essays.

He is active in the Seattle theater scene as a music director and composer. In his theater Instinct he puts on plays with actors with developmental disabilities. His theory is, IQ and talent have nothing in common.

Jevdjević also has a master’s in psychology and is involved in the mental health field in various capacities.

You’ve been here for almost 30 years. You ended up settling in that cradle of alternative music that is Seattle. And of course you do other things but let’s just take your being an artist as a foundation. So what is it like to live there as a as an artist, or at least to be based there? How did the place itself influence your work and life?

GINO SRDJAN JEVDJEVIĆ: You know, it’s great, and it also has its challenges. I mean, you know, maybe sometimes the same things that are great are actually affecting or challenging.

I talked to my best friend the other day about the differences in the United States and differences like in the mentality of people.

You know, we talked about kind of funny, grotesque funny habits of my Balkan brothers and sisters, where everybody wants to tell you what they think about everything, regardless if you want to know it or not. Conversations are starting, like, hey, you know what’s wrong with you? Or, or hey, can I tell you something honestly?

Or, it’s a specialty of my people, we play all around the world. And let’s say playing Frankfurt, great place where, you know, all the Germans come and all the Balkan people come to from all around from from, from Turkey all the way up to Slovenia. And only my people say, hey, it’s great but why why did to play this? Or that, like, there’s always has to be some kind of a comment, you know, on something that you could have done better to satisfy them regardless that have like, 12 albums times 14 songs, there’s no way you can play more than 20 for a show, especially our songs are long. Somebody’s going to be disappointed, but it doesn’t stop them telling them your opinion.

Well, that same telling you your opinion that I am not missing at all opportunity in United States, and I am making fun of when I go over there is keeping you this kind of honesty, and closeness that I’m missing so much here. This Northwest is so cold. You know, and I’d like to have the best of both worlds. And like, No, I can’t have it all I got to choose. That’s why I travel a lot. And honestly, I think that there’s a part of me that is hoping that if I am fast enough, I can be both places at the same time.

PETER KORCHNAK: When I first invited you to talk about to speak with me to invited you on the show, and to talk about being a diaspora and you told me that you’re not the best person for that conversation. You aren’t an immigrant. You’re not a member of the diaspora. You’re a touring musician, you’re everywhere all the time. Can you elaborate on that?

GINO SRDJAN JEVDJEVIĆ: At the same time, I am trying to be available for the US war everywhere in the world, because I know how it is. At the same time, I am not at all ever saying that there is a good or bad, but there are two cultures. And I don’t feel I belong to any of them, or any one of them.

But I stayed here, I stayed here to, to do what I do, but not to live here. So I usually said that that’s why I’m three months, four months, sometimes in Balkans a year and the rest of the time I tour, and rest of the time I have family over here. That’s why I said that, you know, I basically, this is how I see it. I still live there. I never left Sarajevo. But I work outside of it. I cannot work there. Everything that I do would not be possible over there to be done. Nor nor the world wants you to come from there and work and do what I’m doing. And that’s a whole another story.

I live there and I work here. And my commute is a little too long sometimes. More often I sleep at work.

My family is divided my part of my family is here. Part of my family is there my mother’s there, my dearest sisters cousins are there and people that I want to believe and share my life with are there not just in Sarajevo, in Split in Belgrade, in Novi Sad, in Zagreb, you know, everywhere, in Ljubljana, in Skopje.

It is not fair. It’s not fair that we don’t have teleportation.If we just listened to Nikola Tesla, we could be teleporting right now. And I could have spent morning over there and afternoon over here. It is not fair, it’s definitely not fair that you know that you have to choose just because the world does not recognize your place under heaven as the human place under heaven.

It’s a home of amazingly talented people. But also the world is holding it under its thumb.

There are places in the world that are ironically, beautiful places that nothing can come out of it. Nothing happens there. It’s sabotaged by the rest of the world by some forces that I’m not really even sure where they’re coming from. But those beautiful places like Bosnia, like Ireland, like Greece, are beautiful for everybody to come and see. But if something comes from there, people are nothing is inside. Nothing happens inside. But when people from there come out into the world, they make miracles. Irish people, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Nikola Tesla[s] of the world. You know, it’s amazing how capable we are and how nothing can happen there.

And we also have a Balkan and complex everything from the outside’s better, and I am neither. I’m kind of from here but I’m not from here as much as Bono is, he’s more from he’s more from the West than I am, right. But I’m more from the west than the people that are living in Sarajevo.

PETER KORCHNAK: Because this is a podcast about about Yugoslavia. I also have to ask you, what does Yugoslavia mean to you? You were born there. You had some early musical successes there. The country doesn’t exist anymore. But what does that place, that time that country, former country that no longer exists mean to you?

GINO SRDJAN JEVDJEVIĆ: They once asked where you’re coming from. And I said, Yugoslavia. I don’t even know why it said that, that was probably right after the war. And then they said, Is there such country? And I said, No, but it’s still where I’m coming from.

So what does it mean to me? They ask old Nana, or old grandma in Bosnia, you know, you’ll live through all of this life, you know, you lived through the Turkish Empire, you lived through the, you know, she was 100 years old, you know, in former Yugoslavia, you lived through Austro Hungarian empire. You know, one Yugoslavia, the Yugoslavia today? Which Which time do you like the most? Like, what was the best? You know, what, what was the best country to live? And she said, Well, I guess the Turkish Empire. And then they asked, like, really milling people and like, really like, Turkish Empire? Or she said, Well, I was 16 then, you know, it. That’s when she was 16. And that is the best time of her life. That was the best time of my life. And it’s not about me, it’s about everything. When you’re young, when you are youth, Ivo Andrić said, that I’m trying to put it in my song. The yoke is an amazing time. Young age is amazing. Time is the time when you start trusting yourself. And you still didn’t lose the trust to the others. You know, as it’s a beautiful, beautiful time. And wherever you are, at that time, that is your home for the rest of your life. That’s your place under heaven.

What’s now meaning to me everything to I mean, I go to I cross the border of Slovenia from Austria and I feel home. Why? I don’t know. But I feel oh, you know, I I feel home in Croatia. I feel home in Serbia. I feel home in Macedonia.

I started crying once when we were entering from Bulgaria to Macedonia. I twisted my ankle, I guess I almost broke it in Bulgaria, I played Turkey on that broken foot. So we’re crossing that border and I’m seeing all of these holes. Macedonia is such a beautiful country, with the beautiful people that really didn’t do much evil in that war. But they’re still fucked up, they’re like Bosnia, they’re still not in any, you know, accepted by anybody. I see all those holes, that were there when I was in the 80s over there. You know, in the last, you know, started kind of crying I put my sunglasses on so nobody can see me because I’m a tough guy. Yeah, it’s very emotional for me, it’s extremely emotional for me to think about it. That’s why I cannot understand. Why are they dividing us? And I’m not saying why are we divided very divided that I don’t give a fuck. You know, I went to Kosovo, we played in Kosovo. And I thought the other day like not a couple of years ago, and I thought oh my god, you know, I can not speak Serbocroatian over there, or Serbian or Croatian and Bosnia [SPEAKS SERBOCROATIAN]

Humans are humans everywhere. That’s all my country including coastal. Better divided in depth that I understand. But if you already divided us, why don’t you give us all the same rights? Why are you picking and choosing between some and don’t tell me because Serbs have this guy and Croats have this guy, you know, there is enough human rights violations from everybody to bend them. And there’s enough good people from everywhere to accept them. What’s wrong with Bosnia? Why can it be in the European Union?

You know, average person can not leave not hating others for having more. It’s like in my story you hate people for what you do not have and you think that what you have is lesser? And in this case it is, it really is. That’s what I think about Yugoslavia. It’s my, it’s my home, I just want it to be equal with each other,. They still believe that we divided are better than united.

There is no reason why we have holes in our— why there’s reminders of war all around Sarajevo and holes into buildings and buildings are still not in the middle of town like repaired. There’s no reason for that. There’s absolutely no reason for that. The only reason for that is capitalism. It’s not worth it for somebody to repair it. So you know, there’s nobody wants, nobody wants to do it. And the government doesn’t have much money. I was born 16 years after World War Two, I do not remember anything that reminded me of war. When I was walking streets of Sarajevo, after that. Everything that was built, was built, then nothing was built in last 30 years. Nothing.

The regime had its flaws. You know, there was some political prisoners, some crimes done. Yes. But for us, the public standard was 10,000 times better. We were thinking about each other more. Yes, I’m nostalgic for that. I’m nostalgic for somebody taking the fucking charge and developing that thing. There’s nothing that has been done in last 30 years. Everything that was built was built from 1945 until the 1990. That was it.

PETER KORCHNAK: Jevdjević tells more in the full interview that is this episode’s bonus. Music in the former Yugoslavia, current political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, life in the U.S. and between the continents, nostalgia, sources of inspiration and energy…

The bonus is available to contributors, patrons, and supporters via Patreon, PayPal, or podcast subscription a few days after this episode’s release. Go to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate to get access.

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[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]

PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:

SUSAN WOODWARD: The only thing Tito did was when he thought there was a real threat to the breakup of Yugoslavia, he would intervene to stop the quarreling among the top political leaders. Tito’s almost entire role for Yugoslavia was managing and creating this magnificent international position that gave them far more resources then they buy to their own resource domestic resources should have had and a stature that was truly genuine.

PETER KORCHNAK: Why did Yugoslavia fall apart? Find one answer (and mine) in the next episode of Remembering Yugoslavia.

Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts, follow to make sure you don’t miss out, and subscribe to support us.

[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 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 and get exclusive access to the bonus episode featuring my full interview with Gino (as well as all other bonus and extended episodes). Navigate to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate today.

Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić.

Additional music by Kultur Shock courtesy of Gino Srdjan Jevdjević, Bill Gould, and Koolarrow Records. Buy Kultur Shock’s music on Bandcamp. The links are at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.

The track “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić licensed under Creative Commons.

I am Peter Korchňak.

Ćao!